Have you ever thought about starting Canicross or Bikejor with your dog? Read Pompassador Becky´s introduction about this fascinating and fast-paced sport.
“Our dogs are very much multipurpose dogs. First and foremost, they are our pets and family, but they are also working breeds and they need to work. When our oldest Large Munsterlander was a puppy, he was very driven and very energetic. He needed an outlet for that energy before he was able to focus on other training. He used to love running but he didn’t always have the best recall and so once he was old enough, we got him in to canicross.
WHAT IS CANICROSS AND BIKEJOR?
Canicross is the sport of running with your dog pulling you a long. It derived from how the long-distance sled teams would train their dogs in the off season, but it has become a very large and popular sport in its own right.
With Dill it was an outlet that took the edge off so we could then do his gundog training, however, it soon became apparent that he didn’t enjoy doing the gundog training as much as he enjoyed running in harness. We stopped doing the gundog work with him and concentrated on the canicross. Our eldest dog, a little springer x setter, had already been racing in canicross when we got Dill and soon after we got him, she also competed in a novice bikejor class.
Bikejor is the sport of off-road biking with your dog pulling you. Personally, we would never attach a dog to a bike before they have learnt everything they need to learn about the sport whilst canicrossing. This is just because you have more control when you are running compared to when you are on the bike.
TEACHING THE DOG TO RUN
A lot of people think you can attach a dog, in a harness to you and they will just run. Not all dogs will just run in front of you. Two of ours we had to teach to run in front. Lily, our eldest, thought it was more fun to jump and bite at your arm if you ran and Mozi, who is a greyster, and purpose bred for these sports, didn’t see the point in running when he could look for squirrels instead! For Lily we used to reward her with a ball for staying out front, for Mozi we just kept his runs very short and be super encouraging. With all the dogs we always stopped running before they got tired, so they were left wanting to go again.
The dogs also need to learn their directions and we start this on walks before we even put them in harness. It is really good to start this with puppies! When we are out on walks, we would keep them on lead and every time we would turn, we would say either “left” or “right” depending on which way we turned. Some people use the mushing commands “gee” and “haw”, but we find it hard enough remembering left and right, let alone other words too! So, we kept it simple for us, but you can use whatever words you want.
Only once the dogs understand pulling, they know their commands (also includes easy = to slow down, close = if they need to be next to us, on the left/right = to keep to one side when over taking, and go!) and are consistent, then we will put them on the bike. The dogs love bikejoring, they love the speed they can get up to. Though you do need to watch their hydration before and after racing, they exert a lot of energy when they are pulling you hard. It is also really important to warm your dog up before running and to keep them warm before you start (Pomppa coats come in useful for that!) and to then cool them down correctly too, all this helps prevent injury.
Once your dog knows canicross and bikejoring, you can train to have fun, or you can compete in races! Dill has been very successful racing in bikejor, at a local and national level. He even raced at the Europeans one year, which was a great experience for everyone. Now our favourite race is TriDog, which is a triathlon: swimming, cycling, and running with your dog. Dill loves it! He barks his way across the swim and yips as he starts off on the bike. Check out the video below for a small compilation of the race. Once you get into these sports with dogs that love it, you never know quite what you will end up doing next!”
– Becky / @mallingdowndogs