Waking up on a wet Sunday morning in winter… Of all the things you’d like to do that day, strapping yourself to a dog and letting it drag you through the mud is probably way down your list! That was certainly the case for me on a Sunday in late February this year as we got up at six am and bundled the dogs, together with all our canicross kit, into the van and headed up to the spectacular Culzean Castle for our first ever Ruff Dugger event.
Having only ever run canicross with our two dogs on our own, in our local area, we were a bit worried about how they would behave at such a large event; two strong, over friendly labs who love to say hello to every person and every dog can be a recipe for getting towed around. A lot! We were delighted (and astounded) to find that our two were some of the calmest dogs there. (We still got towed a bit even so!)
The canicross community is very warm and inclusive and both ourselves and our dogs were soon making friends on the start line. (We even met a canicross group from our local area who we could meet up with from home.) The sheer adrenaline and excitement of the start is infectious and by the time it was our turn to be counted down for the off, we were raring to go.
My main worry about the actual race was the down-hill parts of the trail. Even though I was running with our slightly smaller lab he has plenty of pull in him and I was a teeny bit worried about falling. (I had even been googling lots of articles and YouTube videos the previous night in order to reassure myself that this would not happen!) I needn’t have worried though, as I found if I just leaned back slightly on the downhills this took the speed off my dog which is fine as a technique until I’m confident enough to really go for it. There are specific training techniques that can be followed to get your dog to run behind you on the downhills but I haven’t quite mastered that yet (I didn’t see anyone else who had either!!)
The scenery from Culzean Castle is dramatic and stunning, particularly from the first part of the Ruff Dugger which takes participants along the cliffs overlooking the sea.
It did get quite a bit messier later on which was great fun, especially when the dogs were jumping sections and we were ending up in the muddy puddles! All in all a great day out and if you’re thinking about taking part in an event and feel slightly nervous about it for either you or your dog, then do a bit of research around your own particular situation (e.g. reactive dog etc.) or even better, attend a canicross intro lesson to get all the basic techniques and information you need to get you and your dog into the sport in the right way. There was a wave dedicated just to walkers in the race too so that would be a really good way to start if you’re not sure about running it at first.
We first started out in the sport with a personal session from Cani-Fit’s Lindsay Johnson in Eglington Park. It was a bit of a drive but really worth it to start off on the right foot (or paw!) and was very reasonably priced. Wherever you are based, there are classes all over the country where you will get lots of advice on running and directional techniques as well as the best canicross kit to choose and how to fit it too. (We have the Non-Stop harnesses for ourselves and our dogs and we find these work really well).
We’ve signed up for our next race so watch this space. I have to admit that I need to work on my fitness so that I can keep up with my other half and my dogs but having done my first race, I definitely don’t want to miss out on the fun!
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