Running for the pies

Running for the pies

Monday, 3 February 2014

2nd February: Dogging ;)

Now I wonder how many hits I’ll get on this blog for that title?

Today saw my first ever attempt at ‘dogging’ with my willing accomplice Heidi. The ‘dogging’ in question is CaniX - Cani-Cross, or to put it in simpler terms: cross country running with a dog.

Ever since I’ve been running the Brutal10 races I’ve been aware of CaniX and the growing popularity of people running with their canine companions. Each time I’m at a Brutal event there seem to be more of them lined up and I love the sight of hounds all raring to go at the start, all barking in anticipation of a good run… The enthusiasm of the dogs is contagious and acts as a great spur to the other runners present as you wait to go run in the normal 10k race.

The CaniX explosion doesn’t seem to be confined to the Brutal races as I’ve been soundly beaten in various marathons by people running with their dogs and Endurancelife have now ensured that all their races are dog-friendly with water bowls for the hounds at all the aid-stations.

At the marathons, the dogs I have seen have been for the most part collies and their crosses, german shepherds, huskies or larger spaniels - in other words larger dogs that have the energy and stamina to keep on going over such a long distance. With the distance at the Brutal’s being considerably shorter, the cast of canines is more diverse - I’ve seen all sorts from lumbering overweight rottweillers to sprightly jack russells, so having a dog at home that is suitable for the Brutal distance of 10k is far easier… Which is where Heidi comes-in.

My two dogs are both Cavalier King Charles Spaniels - a dog that was bred for sitting on your lap and keeping you warm, that and that alone! They’re low maintenance, with a fantastic temperament very affectionate and love to give you cuddles. Exercise wise, they’re happy just to hang-around the house sleeping, but once you get them out they enjoy being able to have a gallop - especially when off the leash.

Ruby, the older of the two was definitely not an option for running with - she is too small and certainly not inclined to anything remotely athletic. Heidi on the other hand…

Heidi is a throwback. The Cavaliers were bred from crossing Springer Spaniels with Pugs - hence a lot of the Cavaliers having pretty squashed faces. Not Heidi. Heidi looks like a miniature Springer - and has the mentality of one, loving to be outside and running. She is taller than most of her breed and a lot sleeker by build and when out on walks she doesn’t seem to stop running, probably covering twice the linear distance on a walk.

Over the Christmas period I ordered a CaniX running harness that has been sitting at home waiting to be used and today the opportunity finally arose.

The 'Trixie' CaniX harness.
I’ve been nursing my calf muscle back to health over the last 2 weeks which means an enforced rest period from running and cycling but with the Coastal Trail Series South Devon Marathon next Saturday I needed to be sure that there is enough of a positive change in it to be worthwhile going down to compete so here was a chance to kill two birds with one stone as I could test my calf with no time-pressure or training goal.

After a good 6 mile walk with LSS and the dogs this morning - taking advantage of the first clear rain-free Sunday of the year, I saddled up Heidi in the afternoon for her first running experience. I chose to take an easy 2.5 mile route that was fairly flat, but for a good mile of it, it was pure puddles and mud - something Heidi will need to cope with if she is ever going to be able to complete a Brutal run with me.

The 'before' shot having just got out the front door.
Leaving the house, all excited to be going out again Heidi was very eager to keep-up with my pace, running alongside me, ears flapping in the slipstream. The problem with Heidi is she’s a little ‘special’ - I swear if she had a brain cell it would have died of loneliness by now - so you could describer her as being to the dog world what Paddington Bear is to the ursine world: A dog of limited intelligence... So after trying to veer of to ‘shout’ at other dogs or sniff smells she was soon wrapped-around me.
And we're off!
Not wanting to stop or to try yanking her round to the opposite site which would mean trying to get her to go across me as we ran, I realised the simplest method to untangling was for me to do a 360 and carry-on! To be fair to her it was her first time doing this, so rather than doing something to discourage her it is easier for me to bend to her needs.

mud hound
Soon we were heading across the mud and puddles of the common. Heidi was very game; blithely scampering over and through everything before us, stopping only because she had to for me to recover my trainer from the mud twice! After completing our lap - and Heidi running past the ponies grazing without trying to say ‘hello’ for a change, we were on our way back to the house, with Heidi starting to pull-out in front the closer we got back to the house - I think it was the thought of a good lie down, a snooze and some dinner that drove her onwards.

On returning she looked like this:

Soggy doggy!
So off she went in to the bath for a good hose-down.

Reflecting on the run, I think Heidi coped very well with this first attempt, especially considering she had already walked for a good 10k a couple of hours before hand. I now know that she’s capable of getting out and running with me without being dragged along, so a few more practices - especially over a 10k distance and I reckon she’ll be fine with going out and doing a Brutal with the other CaniX hounds.

Here’s a tired Heidi on the sofa snuggling looking all sorry for herself  surrounded by a furry blanket and cushions as she dries off:

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