I mean, look at the joyful expression on Laird's face as we hurtled towards the brave photographer, and my sheer determination to not fall over!
Actually this blog is in answer to a question on the Canicross Yorkshire page.
Canicross for dummies question!
I've been running for a very first time. Strong n fast dog. She wanted go so I did let her, it was an uphill.
Things were starting getting very fast and fun and then there was the tree root I managed to get over but as I'm not used to that pulling force my other foot got twisted at ankle by landing...
how do you learn to cope with challenging environment and also how do you stop your dog in an emergency (or at all) 😂🙈
Oh how I feel your pain. Literally. Last December I slipped in the mud while attached to a fast excited dog, and the resultant fall tore muscles in my ankle.
So it's something I've been thinking a lot about, and testing answers for the last 6 months too.
Here's what I've come up with so far, but I'd love to hear your tips and hints too!
1. Look at your equipment
Over the years I've found that different line types and lengths can make a big difference with a strong or powerful puller (and with the more delicate souls too).
While the fully elasticated Non-Stop bungee line takes a lot of the sudden jolts out of the system to make acceleration a smoother experience, it can feel a bit like a never ending stretch to the dog.... and that is a problem because if your big, strong dog never feels like they've hit the end of the line, they might just not stop pulling!
So, I deliberately use a shorter, less elasticated line for some of our runs, especially where I might need more control or there's steeper descents. I'll also switch lines mid-run if needed.
2. Train a reliable "slow down" or pace change cue
Come running with us, and you'll hear slow sing-song commands like "stea-dy" in distinctive tones (high-low). Keeping your voice calm helps calm the dog down (screaming STEADY!!! rarely helps), and we use the cues just before we move from a run to jog, or jog to walk.
We also practice them when we're out walking (easier to reward with food then), and if your dog really is built like a tank, there's no shame in handing him/her over to a bigger stronger friend just while they get the idea.
3. Tweak your running style
I'm definitely not saying that you just need to learn to run faster, but if your running style isn't very efficient that will definitely not be helping the situation.
Working on your proprioception and balance makes it easier to cope on rough ground, and learning to adapt to a faster cadence will help with a pace change too. This helps you to make the most of the help the dog can give without dying yourself!
I've been learning to sprint which in turn makes it easier for Laird to listen to my slow down cue afterwards. After all, running at my speed must be super frustrating for him.
4. Choose the terrain and trails that help you focus on your key goals
I have a special hatred of races that start with steep descents, or a steep uphill with a crowded field so no one can stretch their legs. For me, the ideal start is a gentle incline with a curve in the track.
But sadly I don't control the course designers. So what that tells me is exactly what I need to train for!
If my goal for today's run is slow and steady, I make sure to choose a route that has gentle gradient changes, minimal exciting livestock and try to avoid the hunting hours of dusk.
Able to let your dog safely off lead? Then do that on the steep sections rather than risk injury. Or run with a friend who can help out!
5. Have an emergency option just in case
For example I've been training Laird to be happy wearing a headcollar (which gives me more control) in case of any really serious steep descents, or if I'm injured and someone else has to get him off the hill. While Freya will generally walk sensibly if asked, I don't trust the Big Yin to be sensible with a stranger...
I'm also experimenting with a short grab handle that stays attached to Laird's collar (velcroed to the harness for storage) which lets me go for extra control in a short term situation.
The only one of the above ideas that could give you an "instant" fix is likely to be trying different lines, but I promise it is so worth the effort to choose at least one other option to train too.
Feeling over-dogged is both exhilarating, and terrifying. And long term it definitely contributes to running injuries so don't wait too long.
Morag and Laura
Canicross - it's more than just running with your dog!
Introduction to Canicross (1/2 day workshop)
WHAT: A 3 hour introduction to canicross (running with your dog as a team) covering choosing kit, teaching basic commands and putting it into practice. Refreshments provided. Kit fitting in a warm indoor hall. Training and running outside no matter the weather!
WHEN: Sunday 22nd September
WHERE: Sand Hutton Village Hall, just outside York YO41 1LL
Book online now!
WHEN: Sunday 15th September
WHERE: Yorkshire Cycle Hub, Fryup Dale, North York Moors YO21 2AP
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