Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Canicross for Dummies, Part 3

At last! Lesson three! Now that you've been out on the trails with your dog, here are some helpful commands that will make your outings more enjoyable. 

This lesson's commands:

Passing by a distraction = "On by" or "straight ahead"

Other handy commands your dog may already know:

Stopping or slowing what he or she is doing to wait for the next command = "Wait"
Not sniffing or heading towards a distraction = "Leave it"

"On by!" Romeo is looking at a deer off
to the side that Mia hasn't seen yet.
One of the most helpful commands is 'on by'. In a skijor or dog sledding context, 'on by' or 'straight ahead' is used to pass other skiers or sledders. When you come up on a distraction (i.e. another dog or runner, cyclist, deer, etc), reel your dog's line in so you have more control over the direction your dog is going. Say 'on by' as you come to and pass the distraction, encouraging the dog with 'let's go'! and 'on by'! several times until you have passed and your dog is focused on the run again. Lots of praise here also helps reinforce a good job staying on the task. Where we live, there are hundreds (they seem to be everywhere!) of deer living in residential neighbourhoods, downtown, and in business areas. Its not uncommon for us to open our front door and find 2-3 does on our front lawn. It has taken months of persistence to keep Romeo on the task of passing them. He is very good now, but Mia still has a lot to learn when it comes to passing the deer. If you can recruit a friend with a well mannered dog to walk or run ahead of you on the trail, this can expedite the training a bit. When you know the dog you are passing isn't going to lunge out sideways at your dog, it is much easier to focus on your dog's training.

Remember it is also important to teach the opposite when you are being passed by other runners, dogs or cyclists. This is where the 'leave it' command comes in handy. In the same way you would use the 'on by' command, as you see the passer coming up on you, tell your dog to 'leave it' firmly, giving little tugs on the line to keep his or her attention. 'Leave it' can also be used when your dog is sniffing at an inappropriate time or has his or her attention focused on something other than you when you need them to keep heading on down the trail.

The 'wait' command can be handy in a variety of situations. I will often run in town with my dogs in the mornings before work. I use 'wait' as we approach intersections so that he will slow down and wait for me to tell him when it is safe to cross. I have used this for regular walks for so long that it was natural for him to do the same when we are running. 'Wait' is also helpful when we are all geared up and waiting for my GPS to find the satellite. Sometimes its sooo slow! When I say 'wait' Romeo knows he needs to watch for the next command. He usually stops or slows and faces me.

These commands and the others in the previous two lessons are the core of the commands I use on my runs. There are lots of other tips and techniques to Canicross that I am continuing to learn as I spend more time on the trails. For future posts on Canicross training, I will title them appropriately and label them with Canicross Tips so they will show up in a search of my blog.

I hope these three lessons have spurned on some of you to try Canicross with your dogs. I'd love to hear your stories so email me! If you give me enough info and a photo, I'll include your story in a blog post!

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