So you hear quite a lot that canicross training shouldn’t start till a dog is a year old because a dog needs time to grow, they need time to be a dog. Though we agree with this in part, a dog does need to have finished most if not all their growing before being ran in harness, there is plenty you can do with a puppy. Some of the stuff is simple puppy stuff but as we got Mozi to be a canicross and bikejor dog, we want to make sure we can do what we can so that we give him the best start at enjoying the sport. If he decides he doesn’t want to be a canicross dog, then that’s fine, he is already showing amazing natural aptitude to gundog work!
We were incredibly lucky with Mozi, his breeder was amazing. He had plenty of chances to explore new things, walk on different surfaces and balance on various toys and objects. This means that the puppy we picked up at 8 weeks had already done a lot that will then help him with his sporting career. Thanks to his breeder we have a wonderful well rounded pup who really is a delight to have around – he is so well behaved!
Harness & Pulling
Canicross training for puppies – first off, pup needs to be able to wear a harness and pull in it. You hear a lot of advice about not letting dogs pull in harness till they are of a certain age but with most dogs, stick them in a harness, don’t teach them anything and they are likely to pull. We want our pup to pull and so he walks in a harness where he is allowed to pull. At 13 weeks he will happily pull after our other dogs or something he wants so we know he will be happy to pull in harness. Does this mean we let him do it for very long? Nope. In fact he probably does it for less then a minute before he is let off lead, which is fine because he knows he can pull but we don’t make him. Mozi has already learnt it’s okay to pull in harness. Now does this affect his loose lead walking? No because we teach that with the lead connected to his collar, this gives him a really clear difference between when he is allowed to pull and when he isn’t. This is how we trained Dill, he has amazing heelwork, better offlead then on but to us loose lead walking isn’t the biggest thing so we don’t spend a lot of time working on it. If it is something that you find important then spend more time on it 😉
Mozi went to his first canicross race the weekend after he came home. We missed the start on purpose so at that age he didn’t have to hear all the dogs getting wound up at the start but he witnessed the dogs canicrossing, heard a tannoy and met a few people. Since then he has been to a few agility shows, some have been busier than others but at each one he is getting used to that type of environment and it hasn’t phased him at all. He has also been to Parkrun, which he really enjoyed because he realised that there was sheep poo everywhere and it tastes good! So success, he really isn’t bothered about big events. He will get to come to all our races for next season before he will start competing so should be well used to them!
Rain & Puddles!
This might seem a little odd… but Mozi is a spring puppy, so he hasn’t had to deal with winter yet and we have until recently had a really dry spring and summer. He is also a short haired breed who does feel the cold rain, he clearly isn’t very keen on it. Rain and puddles are going to be part of his life, we need him to be comfortable outside in the rain, he will have to toilet out there, run and walk in it and we want him to be happy doing so. To do this we have been out and got him a rain coat. It keeps him dry and warm, saying that he isn’t keen still and when it really chucked it down we did have some more accidents, which we haven’t had in quite a long time now! So we took him out on a walk, once to just let him run around with the other dogs, they were a great distraction and he appeared to forget it was raining and one to play recall games through large puddles! He really enjoyed running through the puddles and getting him to realise that it’s fun and not horrible now, means when he has to run through puddles when he is older he probably won’t even think about it!
This is also something you can start young and is something that is quite common in agility. We aren’t doing much with Mozi, as he is still very young. As with all conditioning stuff there is a lot of really cool fancy equipment out there that costs a lot of money. However you do not need to use any of that, especially with a puppy when starting out. So a lot of the stuff we are doing with him is simple puppy training, sits, downs and the thing he is finding hardest at the moment, to stand still! He has taken himself swimming a couple of times which will also help and we have other ‘tricks’ that will help with his conditioning too, all of which will eventually help him when he is old enough to start proper harness training.
So as you see there are things you can do with a puppy if you intend to put them in harness. It isn’t much, in fact it is mostly just normal puppy socialisation and training but you can see how it will help within different areas of the sport. As he grows physically and can do more, longer walks etc, then he will be able to start other training that will all then help him get ready for when we first put him in a canicross harness. We just want to give him a helping hand to get him going in the right direction. As with everything, you know your own puppy and the most important thing is to enjoy this time. They are puppies for a very short time so just enjoy every minute of it!