Monday, June 25, 2012

Canicross for Dummies, Part 2

Welcome to the second installment of teaching your dog to Canicross!

In Part 1, I talked about teaching your dog the basics of running ahead of you on a long line. By now you should have an enthusiastic dog that likes to pull! The next order of business is to give yourself some brakes.

This lesson's commands:

Slow down = "Easy"
Stop = "Stop"
Walk = "Walk"
Left = "Haw"
Right = "Gee"

As I mentioned before, pick commands you will be comfortable using. Commonly used command are "easy" for slow down and "whoa" for stopping. Consistency is the key, chose your words and stick with them.

To teach your dog to slow down, tug on the line and say "easy", slowing your pace at the same time. Unless your dog outweighs you, your body weight on the line should be enough to slow your dog down. this is very useful going down hill, I know my dogs seem to naturally pick up the pace on the downgrade!

"Stop", they turn to look at me for their next command.
To get ready for a stop, it is helpful to slow your dog down first before coming to a complete stop. Begin by using the "easy" command, then once he or she has slowed their pace a bit, say "whoa" and tug harder on the line until your dog comes to a complete stop. Ideally your dog should let the line slacken a bit and stand to wait for the next command so you aren't having to hold the dog in a stopped position. This can take some time, so be patient.

I also use an additional command with my dogs when I want them to slow right down to a walk. This is handy when finishing up a run for a cool-down period. When I say "walk", it means we are going to slow down to a walk for an extended period of time. He isn't looking for the next "let's go" to speed up again, and we can comfortably finish up a cool-down at the end of our run without him pulling me along.

The accepted commands for turning are "haw" for left and "gee" for right. There are a couple ways you can do this, I like a combination of them. Take your dog to a large open area and with him or her on a short line to the collar, say the command for the direction you want to go, then pull gently on the line to turn. Work with one direction at a time. The second method is to take your dog out on a run on a familiar trail and use the commands for your turns as you would normally. This is a bit easier when your dog is already familiar with the turns you typically make on the trail. Be sure to give the command when you want him to turn, not after your dog is already turning. Left and right can be the commands some dogs take the longest to learn. If you are using the latter method, you will need to take your dog on an unfamiliar trail to test out your dog's knowledge of the commands.

These commands take practice to perfect. The more often you use them, the faster your dog will learn them. Its important not to get frustrated with your pooch, you want him to look forward to his runs! A little persistence in the beginning will give you years of enjoyment with your running pal!

Stay tuned for for more Canicross training in Part 3 next week!

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