Glamis Castle Fur Nations weekend

Last weekend was very spontaneous, after few chats with friends, I have decided to sign for Fur Nations races at Glamis Castle as it wasn’t really far away from home. Oh boy! It was one of the best weekends.

Weekend away

We love the weekends away with dogs and even better with couple friends and their dogs too! Have a look at our post how to prepare for your camping with dogs: http://dogxplorescotland.com/camping/

Luckily for us the weather was just amazing! We now have much bigger tent, so there is a lot of space for everything really. Although dogs discovered how to escape from it!

Surroundings

Glamis Castle is a living, breathing monument to Scottish heritage, hospitality and enjoyment for all. The family home of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne, Glamis Castle is the legendary setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the childhood home of HM Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother and the birthplace of Princess Margaret.

Glamis Castle has evolved over the years to create a stunning architectural treasure that is full of vitality to this day. Once inside, every room has its own story and the evolution of the castle and its legendary tales and secrets are brought to life by your own enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guides.

Every painting, every piece of furniture, every little detail along the way is a sharp reminder that this is not a museum but an incredible family home that has witnessed everything from Royal births to being the setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

The gardens surrounding Glamis Castle are beautiful all year round. Walks have been created to take in a mixture of habitats ranging from park land and policies in the immediate vicinity of the castle to the formal Italian Garden, mixed woodland and Pinetum to the North East.

Unfortunately I couldn’t take any photos of inside while we did our tour around the castle. However the staff was lovely saying hi to my dogs asking their stories.

Races

So we had two days of races, it was Laferra turn as Roger still building up for running in the harness. The trails were 5.2km and the start was at the small incline and then via water to then through the woods. Absolutely lovely soft and nice trails.

A lot of overtaking and being overtaken as the categories started in mass start and we were in 4th wave. Laferra loved the mass start and all the dogs around. We worked well together finishing 7th overall in our category (out of 42 runners). 9 weeks training with Ben Robinson proves it works, it made me stronger runner in head but also physically! Ben also supported me with preparation prior to the races (nutrition). We loved it so much I have decided we are going for English leg to Cannock chase in two weeks time!

I know Roger would have loved a run and he is very good with his commands, so he ran with our friend’s little girl (6) and loved it. I think she loved it too.

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Amazing time to be out with our dogs and friends. Chilling all days outside. Absolutely lovely atmosphere and zero politics. That what racing should be all about… fun with dogs 🙂 Looking forward to Cannock Chase!

 

 

Why am I so motivated to start my day so early in the morning?

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As you may know, I am not a big fan of running and in past, I really used to hate it. However recently things changed and I am more into it, even train every day. A few folks asked me how do I do it that I am so motivated to wake up early and just go out there in the dark and do my training. So here are my thoughts on that:

Why early morning

I am an individual that likes to be on her own, a lot of people make me tired 🙂 Recently also a lot of people started asking me how I trained my dogs that they are so well behaved. During training I don’t have time for chatting, I like to go out there and smash my training in 30min! Early morning it is usually me and the dogs, which means I can totally focus on training and don’t need to shout after Laferra to not approach other dogs and of course no people keen for chat. Easy life for everyone: I can run, dogs can run!

Stunning morning

Usually, in the morning I can see the sunrise, which in Scotland is just stunning.

Food fuel

In the morning I can also feel I can go quickly do the training without worrying about food, I can just fuel my body straight after the run and during the day at work. I am always worried to get a stitch if I run after work due to that when I finish work I am hungry for light dinner already. The only minus of this is that if you work hard (most of the time for me) you will get a headache after a good training session and you feel like you can eat the whole fridge 😀

Consistent morning and increases discipline

I am always up early in the morning even at the weekends, so keeping the consistency in waking up makes it easy for the whole week. Also, it means training is done and nothing interrupted it as it the is always the same time. If I decided to do it in the afternoon, my workout time frequently ends up at the bottom of my to-do list and by day’s end, I might not even do it. So I rather hit the trails first thing in the morning and I am able to enjoy it and be fully focused on training. This also means I have a free evening and can spend it on catching up on tv shows or reading books.

Metabolism

I have noticed that morning start helps keep metabolism elevated for hours. Why not get your engines running as soon as possible- the earliest the better hehe?! In this way, my increased metabolism will be working — and burning more calories — while I am, instead of when my body is at rest. If you are like many people who sit at a desk all day, you know that this is reason enough to train in the morning.

Clears your mind

We all know that training really helps clear our head and put us in a healthy mindset. According to literature training before your day officially begins allows you to start each day with a fresh perspective as you destroy the stresses of the previous day with a run on the trails. It would help you to decrease the chance to become stressed or upset during the day. Of course, it also depends on individuals but it defo works for me.

Energy for the day

Early morning… yes it is hard to move from nice and cozy bed when it rains outside. The weather and accumulated fatigue can make you feel a bit lazy, however, if I go out and do the training first thing in the morning I am buzzing for the day. Doing so will release endorphins and other hormones to give you a much-appreciated boost that often lasts all day. In other words, it’ll give you the required energy to work all day and party all night if you desire.

 Sleep better and increase mental awareness

I have noticed that I feel more alert and ready to take on whatever challenge or curveball life throws my way after a good workout. I am ready for the day. As my body learns the pattern I started to sleep very well too. My sleeping patterns are consistent and I feel like I am resting/recovering much better and quicker.

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So stay focused and disciplined yourself! Get your “ass” out of bed early morning and enjoy the rest of the day. Happy training.

 

 

 

Hiking with dogs

Summer approaches (well maybe not here in the UK). This is the time of the year that we all go more often hiking with our dogs. Here are some rules and information you should remember before planning your hiking.

Right trails

Make sure you look at nice trails that are suitable for your doggies such as soft and not with many cliffs around, so dogs can be off lead all the time. Depending on how fit you and your dogs are, check how steep and how many drops there are on the route. If it is nice sunny day check if there are any water stops for dogs to cool down.

You and your dog

Make sure if you choose the trails that are suitable for both of you! Check if your dog is fit to actually go for a long adventure. Your vet will be able to advise you. Also, don’t feed a massive meal before hiking too.

Check rules and regulations

Check your local rules and regulations, as for example in Scotland dogs must be always on a lead during lambing.

  • During the breeding season (usually April-July) keep your dog on a short lead or close at heel in areas such as moorland, forests, grasslands, loch shores and the sea shore to avoid disturbing birds that nest on or near the ground.

After hiking check your dog

  • Eyes – check for grass seeds.
  • Ears – check for mites and other foreign objects.
  • Paws – check for cuts on the pads, also grass seeds and ticks.
  • Tail – foreign objects caught in fur.
  • “Armpits” – check here for burrs and twigs getting caught as your dog will love to charge through the undergrowth. If these are left to bed in they will be incredibly uncomfortable and more difficult to spot later and could result in a costly trip to the vets to have them removed.
  • Mouth – check for abrasions around the mouth, and cuts on gums etc. Try not the play “fetch” with pieces of fallen branches as they can cause untold damage to the throat and/or mouth.
  • Body-  check overall for ticks.

Items to take along with you

So it is important you pack everything for your hiking adventure, I put a list together what I always have with me:

  • treats- high quality treats to reward and encourage good behavior.
  • favorite toy- we always find time to play and have some fun.
  • doggies first aid kit- cuts and strains could happen so be prepared.
  • spare collars and leads
  • poo bags- always clean waste
  • whistle- to call them back
  • animal-friendly wipes
  • water bottle and collapsible drinking bowl

 

Enjoy your adventures with dogs and stay safe.

 

Parkrunning

What is it?

Parkrun is free organized 5km timed run around the world. They are very popular in the UK and are open to everyone, allow kids and runners with dogs. However they are known in other coutnries too, around 18 countries over 5 continents at the moment have parkruns running. It is great as the route has marshalls around so people know which way to run and also it is safe and really for everyone. The events try to encourage people to run and also welcome anyone (even if you are just starting with running). You can even walk it if you struggle with distance. The parkruns in the UK are at 9.30am every Saturday.

Falkirk Parkrun

I never thought I will say it but I think this one is my favoruite parkrun so far. Although I haven’t been too many, it is challenging ever time I go there.

The trails have a bit of tarmac in two places, but it can be easily avoided. The course is in Callendar park and run on mixed surfaces, including forest paths. Some sections of the course may accumulate mud, leaves and puddles after rain.

The Falkirk parkrun course is an undulating, picturesque route within Callendar Park. The course starts on gravel at Callendar House, then moves to trail paths through woods, then on to tarmac through a golf course, finally coming back onto trail paths, up a wee hill and through the woods back to the gravel and the start. It is always a great way to start Saturday with that heartbreak hill! 🙂

I must say it is very dog-friendly parkrun as if you ask the Race Director and you have proven they will allow you to start to the front, which I think is safer rather than me passing all the people. If you are around and can join go and try it! So worth it.

Vogrie Country Park

Another great parkrun, there is only tiny 100-150m of tarmac at the start. The rest is just nice soft trails. This parkrun is more sceptic about runners with dogs, but I always ask if I can run and start in front and they are fine with it. They know we are kind of fast.

The course comprises of a start section and two laps, run anti-clockwise.
Runners will head down the main access road towards Vogrie House, and take the ‘blue’ route past the pond and play park. They will follow this trail and take the pathway highlighted for the car park, they will continue along this path, crossing over the small concrete bridge. Runners will continue on this path until they reach the main car park. At this point they will turn left and follow the path parallel to the events field. At the end of the path they will turn left then immediately right along a short path and enter the events field at the top end. Keeping to the field perimeter on your left follow it to the second field until directed right to the BBQ area 1. Past the BBQ hut turn left on to the path and then right along the pond to Vogrie House. They will then complete a second loop of the above route and at the end of the second loop, they will finish just beyond the pond on the left.

Dog walker or home boarding? Why do I feel like I want to become a stalker!

Do you feel sometimes like you wish to stalk your dog walker?! Unfortunately, my trust towards people that I pay a lot of money to look after has been broken some time ago. Since then I have a very low level of trust to folks when they look after my dogs. Ok. I know strange as I have a dog walker and home Home boarding while I am away, but….

Beginning…

Let’s me start from the beginning. To make myself a bit calmer and more secure, before signing any contracts I do a detailed research but also interview with the person, if they are really capable of looking after my two dogs. I am also honest with them, that my trust was broken before and this is very hard for me.

Another important factor for me is what Roger thinks and shows me. The longer I have him the longer I believe he is right about people. I know funny right, but seriously if Roger likes someone it always ends as being a good person. He also proved to me that not liking someone was right, as I ended up realizing it wasn’t best of choice. Yes, Roger is the main factor when I choose people to look after them, Laferra will just follow him.

The Dogwalker

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When the dog walker walked into my flat… I knew straight away Roger loves Kris, I didn’t even properly introduce us to Kris and Roger started bringing him toys and everything what possible so he would notice him and totally focus on him rather than have a chat with me. That time Laferra was still too young for joining the group walks.

It has been a year now that Kris is walking dogs! I am super happy and love getting updates on how they were today. I am happy!

Home Boarding

Home boarding…. Another tough decision and I have been unlucky. It took me some time to finally find somewhere to be their second home. So this is how we chose it or Roger did. Roger is taught to bring balls to me, not to strangers. Walking around playing the ball and chatting with boarders I could see Roger looks towards me for assurance. I allow him to play ball with them. He chose Jenni. Happy boy.

I know silly right, but I trust Roger, in both cases if he is happy. Later on, we chatted, we talked and I told everything that I would expect from them. I like to keep my dogs routine with walks, meals and so on. Yes, all good for home boarding. Next questions is about the house where they will have access, are they allowed on the sofa, where they will be fed. Unfortunately, I have a bad experience when Laferra, as she was separated daycare are for feeding… why?! No idea, but she came back home and didn’t want to eat and showed signs of stress during meal. I found out later on that place was separating them almost like to crate for feeding, which in case of Laferra was the worst scenario as she doesn’t like crate at all.

Vet

On the other side, recently I discovered that dog walker and home boarding is very important with your trust, but also the vet. Yes, you go to the vet with your dog, however recently I needed to leave Roger for few hours there for some tests. I was nervous as I know how much stress it would bring to Roger. I got brilliant reassurance from the vet, as he talked me through what will happen to Roger and afterward how great he is as they spent time with him. I have never been so excited to go there and pick him up. He was a very sleepy boy who just wanted to cuddle in. Laferra was super excited to see him.

 

Questions to ask

So here are a couple of questions to ask anyone who you leave your dog with (my dear friend shared them with me some time ago):

  • Are they insured? For how many dogs? What are the terms of the policy regarding injury to your dog while in their care? Who pays vet bill? Are they covered for public liability should your dog be involved in an incident?
  • Are they registered with their local council’s dog walkers scheme? While many of these are voluntary codes of conduct, a responsible dog walker will adhere to these regulations.
  • Do they have Scottish Disclosure? A dog walker will usually have keys to your house and be alone while there. It is important you know you can trust them. Will you be able to meet them while they are out walking dogs to see how they operate and interact with their dogs?
  • What type of transport they use for their work…Ideally, dogs should have separate cages which are securely fixed. Failing that, if the dogs are transported in a car, each dog should be “harnessed” in on a seat belt or other acceptable way to ensure a dog’s safety. It is NOT acceptable to secure a dog by a collar…and it is extremely dangerous to have dogs loose in a car or van.
  • How long are dogs in the van? Is it ventilated? Heated for winter?
  • How long do they walk for? If your dog walker says they get an hr, then they should have that hour out of the van and actually be walking.
  • What would they do in an emergency?
  • Are they First Aid certified?
  • Do they know how to break up a dog fight..and more importantly, do they know how to avoid getting dogs into these situations?
  • PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE ask them about their experience with dogs. While many dog walkers have vast experience and know-how, the ease with which anyone can become a dog walker makes it a precarious business trying to find a good one.
  • Do they reward dogs for good behavior (treats, praise, playing with them) This is the ideal
  • Are they able to walk your dog on his own until he is ready to join a group?
  • Are they totally aware of canine body language?

Important! Watch your dog

WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN YOUR DOG GOES OUT WITH HIS WALKER Your dog should be relaxed and eager to go out on his walk. If he is reluctant, hides, shows signs of distress he is obviously not happy about going out with the walker. On return, he should be happy and relaxed. If your dog comes back and looks stressed, overly tired or shows any deterioration in his behavior, check what is happening on walks Is he being bullied by the other dogs? Is he okay in transit? Has your dog walker taken the time to integrate him with her group and get him used to the transport?

 

A good dog walker/Home boarding is worth their weight in gold.

Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller. Croatian story.

I feel very lucky with my job, as it allows me to travel around the world. It has been a long time since my last post as I was away to Croatia for two weeks.

Croatia

Croatia is an Eastern European country with a long coastline on the Adriatic Sea. Encompassing more than a thousand islands, it’s also crossed by the Dinaric Alps. Its inland capital, Zagreb, is distinguished by its medieval Gornji Grad (Upper Town) and diverse museums. The major coastal city Dubrovnik has massive 16th-century walls encircling an Old Town with Gothic and Renaissance buildings. I was lucky and I stayed in downtown of Zagreb, so close to see almost anything within walking distance (or running).

I was very surprised that the temps were so below 0 degrees, as I always had that idea that Croatia is always warm. Nevermind I was wrong. Even tho a business trip I have a lot of time over the weekend to check and feel a bit like a tourist. I tried to explore Zagreb as a dog-friendly city.

Dog-friendly

To my surprise, Zagreb has a lot of shops for dogs (pets). Just around the corner from where I stayed there was a shop called Hov-Hov Zagreb in English: Woof-Woof Zagreb. It is a pets bakery doing homemade treats and cakes. Just lovely place to bring your dog in. On the other hand, I was very shocked when I was doing shopping in H&M when the dog passed me with his owner. I didn’t expect dog inside, but it seems in a shopping center that is just normal casual thing to have your dog. Great idea.

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In the morning I liked to go for a short run so parks were my choice. I didn’t see many dogs but when I saw it looks like a lot of rescues and different crossbreeds out there. Around every corner, there were tiny grassy place to actually walk your dogs with a lot of bins! I haven’t seen many “pick up poo after your dog” signs, but also I didn’t manage to step into any poo, so it must mean they clean after their dogs.

A lot of restaurants were allowing dogs too. Almost every single one that I have been to had a sign that it is dog-friendly. I haven’t seen any dogs with their owners but a lot of places were really empty. Croatia faced first time in 15 years such an awful winter with a lot of snow and very cold temperature. Also, a note that signs on the doors for dog-friendly were similar to ours here in the UK. The staff is very nice in Croatian restaurants and there is always meal of the day too. The menu is always full of traditional meals and it really reminded me about being home or holidays with my family when I was a child.

 

Adventure

I always thought Zagreb is bigger than it actually feels. I was able to run outside it and I am not a long distances runner. There were defo two places I would recommend to visit: Medvedgrad Castle and Jarun lake (although that Lake was a bit disappointed in snow).

The castle is a medieval fortified town located on the south slopes of Medvednica mountain, approximately halfway from the Croatian capital Zagreb to the mountain top Sljeme. I didn’t expect such a heavy winter with so many snow around. Ohh, how much I missed it. I met so many walkers with dogs around there.

I only explored a route to the castle, but it looks like in the summer there would be a lot of trails to canicross with dogs. Such a peaceful place.

Another longer run, I did via city to the Jarun Lake, which looked amazing on photos in the Internet (see below). Jarun is a neighborhood in the southwestern part of Zagreb, Croatia. It was named after Lake Jarun, formed by the Sava River, now located on the southern edge of the neighborhood.

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I was super excited about running there. Unfortunately, in a snow it looks totally like a wee pond (see photo below). Maybe I should have ran to the other side of it?!

Anyways near the lake, there are few restaurants and very nice trails to run. Once again I met few dog walkers around as there was a tiny forest nearby too.

Holidays

Zagreb is the place to go for sure. I would say 2-3days would be enough and then just move to the coast with a lot of beaches and charming villages. Everyone is so friendly and helpful. Surprisingly a lot of people speak good English although I have learned that I speak fluent Croatian. If you plan to go with dog, great enjoy this dog-friendly place!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Busy is a choice, stress is a choice, joy is a choice, choose well.

Weekends are meant to be full of fun and running, right? We were back to Callendar Country Park and Vogrie Country Park.

Saturday

I always look forward to the weekend, actually I live with the thought that soon there will be the weekend. I have always my weekends free so it means a lot of adventures. Saturday weather wasn’t nice, and my dogs aren’t a big fan of rain. Not the greatest choice of the country to live in.

Falkirk Parkrun is great and quite challenging with hills. People say only one heartbreak hill, but the whole route is up and down. Dog-friendly and when asking if we can start to the front they always allow us as they know it is for the best. I like that a lot, which means we can just fire away from everyone and then pace ourselves nicely with only a few overtaking us.

Laferra loves the starts, she is buzzing to go and really run clean. After not training much I thought this will be a massive challenge, but she ran really well, and not many could overtake us on the first mile. We have finished 12th overall, which means we are progressing and our time is more consistent now. It seems last few weeks we keep 5km easily under 21 min. Time to push a bit more now.

It is great to see photos after the event, as you can really see how much she enjoys it (me not so much!).

Cake and coffee time

Afterwards, we went for a nice walk with friends to Canada Woods, which I know quite well from MTB riding there. Canada Wood is a five-minute drive from the town centre situated in the rural countryside of Falkirk and boasts beautiful panoramic views towards the Ochil hills. Nice surroundings with woody paths, dogs just love it. You can do a short loop or longer loop. Therefore there are many paths to explore and you pass a lot of farmland, so if your dogs are like Roger The Chaser, I would keep them on leads. Luckily the sun came out so it was great to enjoy it. After a good walk, all the “humans” deserved the coffee right?! Canada Woods Kitchen serves anything you would want from nice breakfast up to great cakes and coffee. The great thing about this place is that it is dog-friendly so you can have furry baby with you inside. As it was sunny, we have decided to sit outside. Nice staff brought us our orders outside, which I like too as some places expect you to wait inside for taking your own order outside. I have checked the website and it doesn’t say it is dog-friendly, but it defo is. I think I had the best fruit scone ever.

Sunday fun

We were back to Vogrie Country Park. There are 11.5 miles of signed countryside paths through woodlands and the Tyne Valley.

After rainy and sunny Saturday, I didn’t expect a snow at all. We arrived there and there was at least an inch of snow. I had a great walk with Roger.

I think his feet were freezing as he was running around me on a lead. He is a funny boy!

Celebration

Two years ago I went to Vogrie Country Park and had a blast at my first canicross with Cani-Sports Edinburgh with Roger. I have decided to be back in February and celebrate my 2 years in the sport by running. Being a part of the Akobe TAM Marathon community, Laferra and I ran her first 6 miles, her longest run at only 19months old. Oh, Laferra pulled all the way around. We had a blast stopping talking to walkers, stopping for cuddles and talking to other runners. I had a blast on this sunny frozen Sunday! Great 1-2-1 with my girl to have just fun canicrossing, no pressure of racing (we did want she wanted and whenever she wanted)! We have collected our Titch medal  

Weekend

During one weekend we had any kind of weather, what a great fun! Love that kind of weekends, when we can do whatever we want. It is great to live in Edinburgh as within only 20-30min drive you get to very pretty places. After all that I had two very happy and tired dogs. In four days we are heading to Thetford Forest for 2nd round British National Championship. I am super excited.

 

 

 

Storm Challenge- Team AKobE Marathon Community- my wee story

I have no idea, what I have thought but I have signed for Storm Challenge that was organised by AKobe Tam Marathon boss David Parry.

About the challenge

Quote from Team AKobe Marathon community:

To earn yours then run or walk 5k a day for 7 consecutive days within 6 months of receipt of your medal. You can do this solo or by canicross. No bikes allowed for this challenge.

The only target is to complete the distance each day & to try your best to improve your time each day. There are no time targets just move forward raise your heart rate & sweat a bit & enjoy a wee bit o pain x

So I signed for this in September, so it took me some time to finally start it. Now I know why it took me so long. 5km every sounds like an easy idea?! It wasn’t that easy. Here are my 7 days challenges.

Day 1

Day 1 was very easy, training time with Laferra so we went to our local training area and did two loops in total of 22:25 minute. She was a star and very keen to go. It was very muddy and wet, so I am super chuffed with what we have done.

Day 2

Well Friday is usually my day off any activities, so we took the walking part on board and there I had a thought. Roger hasnt been canicrossing for some time due to harness rubbing his belly. I have decided to try and give Roger a chance to run with Laferra and I off lead (he has zero recall), so literally brilliant idea to exercise and do some training with cheeky monkey. I decided on power walk. 52:13min of total freedom for dogs. I didn’t have a “heart attack” as Roger stayed with us all the time. I like that Laferra always looks after him. It seems to be successful power walk and off lead training for Rogerowski. I was delighted and had hope.

 

Day 3

Our usual training on Saturday is attending a parkrun with Laferra and try our best. Recently my princess became more anxious and started looking behind her when canicrossing. We went to Vogrie Parkrun, as it is very dog-friendly and there is almost zero tarmac. I didn’t get 100% of Laferra, so I needed to push a bit myself on those hills. Even tho it wasn’t really bad time of 20:53. Not superb and I am still desperate for our first sub 20 on non-flat course, but I am glad we do mistakes during training, so I can adjust our training. I want to make sure she feels confident when racing. We will get there.

Day 4

It was very wet and rainy day, but nothing will stop me from having fun with my dogs. Early start and I am super excited to try Roger off lead again. Today decided we will all run. It was going well until going into woods and I see Roger running away and dropping his ball. I stand and wait what happens. Laferra follows Roger, but I use my whistle and she comes back straight away. No sign of Roger so I whistle again and there he is coming back super excited. Well is this Roger’s recall now? I decided we continue our running as I wanted to discover new trails for our training. Oh, wait! Dogs are gone again. I stand and starting to feel frustrating as we were going nowhere with that speed. I call Laferra and decide we go back to car to drop off naughty Roger. Oh, wait Laferra runs back super happy and I see she brings Roger back too. Is that her looking after him and telling him let’s go back?! Anyways I decided I had enough and it was girls time now. She is just amazing off lead, even if I don’t see her for a bit usually max a minute she always comes back. Oh how much fun we had and we discovered amazing trails for bikejor! Hopefully we will try them next week.

Day 5

Unfortunately I have no dog walk today so I decided I will try 5km walk on lead with the dogs, as Laferra doesn’t really know how to walk on a lead, she could easily walk on the street if she could (she has no clue that cars can hit her). Brilliant idea! We walked and walked and walked. OMG I have never thought walking 5km is such a long distance! Do I really run that far?!Oh and how far I need to go around my neighbourhood to really do the 5km! I feel shattered now and hopefully manage those two rascals to be tired too. It was great start to the day and I might continue in future (usual routine is: go to park, let them off lead and I just stand and watch-not much walking for me). I did let them off lead but I kept walking around. The conclusion of the day: Laferra is brilliant off lead, but wow she has no clue about differences between pavement and street.

Day 6

Today was time to discover new trails again. I love to make it excited for my dogs so we go to different locations. It was time for Dechmont Law in West Lothian. What a great run with princess, it supposed to be speed, recover and speed again. However if you train with Louise Mitchell it turns to speed, hills reps and speed run. Totally flat out at the end. We did just over 3 miles, and Laferra was superb. I discovered that when I am flat out she starts to keep looking, so maybe it isn’t really being nervous it is more the kind of look: come on mama let’s go faster?! Oh well who knows. She didn’t look as much so looking forward to see how she behaves at the parkrun on Saturday. Total of 26:24 minutes done.

Day 7

Time for last day of the challenge. It has been long 7 days and very challenging! However we did it! I was super busy all day with organising stuff for our team and maanged a half day off. I never thought it will be so hard to find an hour to actually do full 5km. We did it eventually and used it to check the trails for potential bikejor rides.

Amazing finish to the day and this challenge. I don’t think pups are so keen on the medal tho, but I am super excited one!

 

 

 

Well done Pups.

Love for sled dog sport? Planning new dog?

I presume most of you watch the Dog Power Movie? If not, please watch it. It is only 25 minutes and it is defo worth if you are looking for a dog for the sport.

My story

I have been reading a lot around and hearing a lot of questions from people regarding hounds or greyster which are great breeds and dogs for the sport. I have followed a lot of groups and forums to get to know the breed but let me tell you my story first.

As you may know I started my adventure with canicross in February 2016 with Roger. Great pullying dog. I thought this will be an additional fun hobby we can do together. How wrong I was?! I was so hooked after my first run that I went home and signed for my first race in April 2016. Despite I hated running. Roger loved it and he was very tired that afternoon. Our first race was with CSS in Plean Country Park. It was very challenging and hilly route, but I loved it even more. That time I discovered that it isn’t just canicross that’s there but there are more to this whole crazy thing. Yes, I was hooked and excited. Literally, I was buzzing after talking to so many folks and meet very good athletes. I started doing my research into the sport.

First proper season

I have decided to compete around UK with Roger and see how things look like and where we stand. I discover that a lot of folks have pointers in the sport, but also dogs specially breed for the sport called eurohound or greyster. I always dreamed about having two dogs so I started to think maybe I could get a pointer and be a bit more speedy than just 22 minutes per 5k with Roger.

I started looking for another dog, that I thought could make me faster. I have trained every day so hard to improve my running. In September 2016 I have enquired about pointer puppy in Greece. To make whole story short Laferra arrived to Scotland in October 2016. This was my first experience with a pointer breed. I read a lot about that they are energetic and full beans, but later on I learnt what that really means. As I am qualified behaviorist I was very confident that I will manage no problem. Laferra was only 4.5 months old and not really house-trained. Personally, it was my first puppy that I needed to teach what is the world.

Basic training started from day one, as I really wanted her to be spot on with everything to make my life easier, as Roger being an older rescue is very high demanding (separation anxiety, behavioral problems and reactive). I always knew staffies don’t understand your personal space, but later I have learnt that pointers are even worst. So house-training became and it was smooth, she was one clever girl. On the other hand, she was a nightmare to be left alone or in Roger’s companion. Laferra was loving to chew two things: socks and plastic things. Constantly something was chewed and I started to worry that something might happen to her. I don’t believe in crates and unfortunately, that wasn’t an option (Roger hates crate so he has access to the whole house, so I couldn’t just close Lafie).

Back to basics

I have started saying to myself she is only a puppy so I presume she will grew up from this stupid chewing. Later on I discover others pointers’ owners had the same issues, but dogs grew up from it. Ok she is only a baby. Laferra learnt quickly to do her “business” outside (very quick actually) and her recall was brilliant! I trusted her everywhere and she wasn’t even bothered when she met a horse on our walk one day. I thought fantastic I have a brilliant pet that I can trust being let off lead!

She was growing super fast and Roger loved her more and more. I could see that he liked to have her around. However, every day coming back home there was evidence that she found something and chewed. I gave up on “5min per month” rule and started really making her tired on walks but also playing games like I do with Roger. You can read a bit more here. It started to work, she finally stopped most of the time, but she was growing and being tall she could reach to the places she shouldn’t be even interested in. The kitchen counter got hoovered so many time and I knew Roger was delighted with her being able to reach there as she shared everything with him. I still kept saying to myself she is only a puppy.

However, being a puppy and being a pointer puppy was a bit different. For Laferra one day of me being lazy (meaning not playing a game or proper long-running off lead walk), she literally destroyed things mainly my clothes: lines, necks, zips and so on. She was bored where I was hoping she would sleep.

Old enough for more running

In 2017 I have discovered bikejor so I started training that with Roger, but to get skills I started riding bike on my own. I thought brilliant as Laferra is great off lead I can take her with me and she could get the activities that she needed. She was old enough to start doing it and be my trail dog.

I was learning myself and building up my fitness but Laferra had the best time ever and she could go for a long time. Our rides were minimum of 10 miles every time we went out. I was gutted that Roger couldn’t join us, but tough life if you have a zero recall. Anyways finally princess stopped all the chewing and she was tired sleeping when left alone. You probably want to ask how do I know this? I watched my dogs on camera while at work, just to make sure they are not stressed. The only problem was that I couldn’t ride a bike everyday I needed to do something with Roger too.

Running around

Laferra learnt canicross, being a bikejor dog and pull the scooter around. I always thought Roger was high demanding, but he was tired after 20 minutes training, where Laferra could go again and always tried to play with him at home. I thought she is young so she must have a lot of energy, but at 19 months old now she has even more energy.

My life changed a lot having her, I wake up 4.30-5am to make sure I go out there let them off lead and let them run around before I head to work. Usually, they have a dog walker during the day who takes them for an hour walk which is usually off lead walk and finally in the evening we drive outside Edinburgh to train: canicross, bikejor or scooter, or just me running with Laferra being off lead. Only Friday is my day that I don’t do anything with the dogs in the evenings (well we clean the house, which is great fun with two barking dogs). If one day I am being lazy and ruin the routine I come back to chewed things! And Laferra isn’t a puppy anymore.

Note: Laferra doesn’t understand personal space at all as per below photo ( you wake up to this).

Sled dog sport

I started my story to show you that a pointer changed so much my life as she has so much more energy than Roger or any other dog really. She also made me super busy with making sure she gets rid of this crazy energy.

Now being in the sport for 2 years, I started looking and learning about those “special breeds” for the sport. There are a lot of folks out there with those dogs, a lot of forums and groups on facebook that talks about them. However, I felt it was just talks and people opinions, I wanted to know the truth. As you know I had a brilliant opportunity and qualified to go to the IFSS World Championship in Poland (you can read here about it). I met with so many breeders but also athletes who own those dogs. This trip allowed me to watch the dogs at home (I stayed with few in the same accommodation) but also I could watch them during the big event racing or just sitting at the stake out.

IFSS World Championship gave me the chance to meet so many those pretty puppies but also see those adult dogs in action. They all were fantastic, strong and very keen to run, no matter if it was canicross or four dog team. Fantastic to watch but I thought there must be something more to it. I started talking around and surprisingly people were happy to share their experience. I discovered that those breeds can vary in mix of the breeds they have already and this mix was changing the way dogs behaved. All those breeds are full of energy, and I knew this kind of dog means more than Laferra herself.

On forums and groups you can read how much they destroy and how difficult they are to be left alone in crate. I know different dogs are different, but people told me it is a tough life to own one of those dogs, they really need attention. In case of the greyster they also need some attention as they love being around people. After few discussion I can easily say that those dogs cant be just pet, you need to train them every day. Canicross isn’t enough for them, and also they are that strong that running in a harness isn’t an option for every day training, so you need to do a lot bikejor and scooter- be brave enough as the speed you can go is crazy. Couple athletes in Poland told me that if I ever decided on that kind of dog I will need to make sure I am prepared for life to change (and there was me thinking, Laferra changed my life enough), otherwise this dog will ruin my house no matter if it is greyster or eurohound. A few of those dogs are only one person dogs, so not really a family dogs either. A lot to take on board before you decided about them.

I am not trying to put you off! I just want that people realize that those dogs are pretty and amazing runners, but there is more to just looking pretty athletes! In my case, how would my dog walker cop with having a greyster on a group walk pullying him?! This is just an example. Do your research, it took me a year to collect all the facts until now and I am still learning every day about them. I use the opportunity to go to different events to spend time with those dogs and their owners. I love to get to know them and see how really different they are.

One more thing before you get bored reading this. Those dogs breed for the sport and there are a lot of wonderful breeders with a long waiting list, but to have a confident and super athlete you need to put a lot of effort and train it correctly! What’s the recipe? Noone knows and you can only try and do as I tried with Laferra (I am still learning that recipe!).

I hope you enjoyed this post and have a better idea! I would defo recommend doing your own homework. Laferra is only pointer, no more crazy breeds in there and one day I was thinking Roger is high demanding right?! There are a lot of things to take into consideration when willing to buy a sled dog and bring it to your house.

For now I just focus on Laferra and Roger, They are both great for the sport and I feel it is great progress for me. Starting canicross at 30min with Roger and going down to 22min and with Laferra down to around 19:30min. I think I am on the right track, slow progress and improvment. I have learnt a lot about other breeds for the sport and still have plenty to learn.

 

 

The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare.

This post will be all about training how when and why from my own experience and my own opinion what I would have done differently and why.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The beginning

Let’s say it loud there is no one right recipe for how to teach the dog  how to canicross. There are a lot of  knowledgeable folks there who are happy to share their experience, but there is no right or wrong way. You need to find the way that will work for your dog.

Roger and his start was the easiest job ever! He is a natural puller, harness on, bungee attached and he is off! He is smart cookie so knows the commands very well. Yes, 2 years old dog and he knew very quickly what to do. Roger was just getting better with every training. I knew I could trust him 100% when running.

On the other hand, Laferra was a puppy when she landed on my doorstep. I had no clue what to do and why. I have search internet, talk to folks and really couldn’t find the perfect recipe for training the dog from zero. It was a really good lesson for her. Let’s start from the beginning then.

Puppy training

You look around on youtube, Instagram and facebook and a lot of top athletes from sled dog sport are starting training their puppies at age of 7-8 months. They run them for 0.5-1mile canicross or even bikejor. I felt for Lafie it is too early and I wanted her to be a puppy for as long as possible. Usually, the start time for dogs according to race rules is they need to be 12 months old for canicross and 18months for bikejor and scooter. I have decided to just make her familiar with a harness so she was running off lead with harness on. I also focused my training on 100% recall of lead as I knew I would train her off lead on bike for her fitness and take her up the mountains when I was out with my MTB pals. We did well there, she has 100% recall! I know you think: not a chance. Well, I have tested it with having fox, horse and deer on the way!

Older puppy

I was super excited to finally start working with her, but I haven’t rushed to anything. At 10months old, we started doing power walk with canicross equipment. She was all over the place. Comparing to Roger she was just daft. We continue that even tho it was very frustrating at times as she wasn’t really good at focusing and listening what I tell her. She just wanted to say hi and be best friends with every single dog. I have never tried her with Roger either, and I know some did. It worked for them, pro-dog teaching new dog. In my case, I wanted to make her confident on her own as she is very shy and submissive dog. We just continue the training, she was more interested in birds and stops when she could cuddle with me. It was frustrating every single time. Now I only laugh at it as she is such a baby.

My teenage dog

She turned 12 months and we started doing more during the run, which was much easier than power walking due to that there was less time for her to get distracted. Finally, she started to understand what is this all about. Training was going really great until our first race! Our first race (first race report is here), Laferra thought we will do exactly what we did at training and we will stop for cuddles. Oh! Princess, we need to run to the finish line! Not successful but we finished our first race.

Racing

Although training was going well I discover that she didn’t understand the 5km distance and stop at the finish line (not when she felt like it). I realized all this few months I did it wrong. I didn’t build her for distance. Don’t take me wrong, she was fit to run it or even longer. It was just her head not ready for 22 minutes constant run or even other dogs on the trails. She was 15 months already so I really felt like I wasted time. It was time for changing the game, or at least I thought I did. Another race and unfortunately another fail (you can read here). We didn’t finish the race and I never give up. I was devastated and very upset that I really tried to prepare her.

I had two months to make sure she is ready as I already committed to going to IFSS World Championship (you can read about it here). After few days having a break from all the running, I sat and wrote a plan.

The new plan which changed the game

I knew that my dogs don’t care about winning or loosing, they just want to run with me. I just couldn’t disappoint them myself. Laferra and I started building up the speed and the distance at that speed. We ran 1 mile! Next week we did 2 miles and so on. I started doing more of 1-2miles with her on scooter or bike. She was loving it. Eventually after few years saying I will never go to parkrun, we went to parkrun and ran it. It was amazing to see how she cops with all the people, noise and distraction.

She was just amazing and I could see all these worked for her, which showed at the World Championship that it was all worth the patient. The time we spent together also build fantastic bonding between us. I have learnt one thing, if one training doesn’t work try something different. Dogs are different. She loves running and her harness.

Reward

Yes, I had an easy life with Roger, but the most rewarding with Laferra. I feel very emotional when we go out there and race. She just loves it. It isn’t always perfect, as you always learn something new right?! Sometimes we go back to basic or a small thing makes her distracted. However, at only 19months coming all the way from Greek streets, she really grew up to a fantastic “sled dog”. I am looking forward to our future and more competition. We both have fun and that what’s matter most.

What I would do different?

I think this time I would make sure Laferra is more familiar with wheels from early stages of her life. Even just putting it near her feeding place. She is brilliant MTB and with scooter, but she isn’t 100% sure about bike. Probably also would make her more familiar with hydration after training as she hates drinking water after training or race (no clue why). Finally, I would defo allow her runnning free when I did training with Roger on wheels or just canicross. She would have watched the wee pro doing it perfectly. Maybe this would help me to have less time being frustrated.

I probably wouldn’t attach her to bike or just run with both of them, but would defo want her to see more of Roger in action. Maybe two dog scooter one day! I presume she would love to have Roger with her during training now.

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Note: here are other posts which has some tips on training.