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How to prepare your dog for an obstacle race

How to prepare your dog for an obstacle race

Working through an obstacle course together can be a great teambuilding experience for both you and your dog! Preparation is key to a successful race, according to multiple Hard Dog Race-winner Bogdan Karpovič.

- The most important thing is to have fun!

The more you invest in building confidence and endurance in advance, the more fun you will have at the race.

- Obstacle races are way more challenging than a regular canicross race. The track is very different - you have dirt, mud, grass, water and obstacles.

Look at videos

Bogdan suggests you watch as many videos of previous races as possible.

- Study the obstacles and then train with your dog on similar obstacles. In our first Hard Dog Race, my dog Invi did not want to go into an agility tunnel or under low-hanging tires. Before our 2019 races, we trained for these two obstacles, and his performance was perfect because he was already familiar with them. During the race, I suggest watching the track and listening to the volunteers that are usually positioned by the obstacles. They explain how to go through the obstacle properly.

Bogdan and Invi competing at Hard Dog Race.

If there are any obstacles you don't want to do, you can skip it and do a penalty task instead - 30 squats, for example.

You are allowed to assist your dog. During the race, you work closely. Bogdan recommends you to train this so that your dog is comfortable at all times.

Get the right gear

Regarding equipment for obstacle racing with dogs, you need a functional harness, a bungee leash and a running belt.

Invi is using the Freemotion harness 5.0 as he is pulling hard. If your dog is pulling moderately, the Rock harness long is an ideal choice. This harness aids with pulling and is particularly suited for obstacle racing because of the solid handle. The harness also provides good support and comfort when assisting or lifting your dog over obstacles.

Rock Harness Long Setting 3

If your dog is not pulling, you can use the ergonomic Line harness grip or the highly adjustable Rock harness. Both harnesses are equipped with a handle, allowing you to assist your dog if needed.

Bogdan runs with the lightweight and breathable CaniX belt. He and Invi are connected with the fully elastic Bungee leash. You can also use the Touring bungee, which is partly elastic and available in various lengths and widths.

For yourself, a good pair of running shoes is essential.

- I suggest you also tape your ankles using water-resistant tape or wear running braces to prevent sprain.

At the competition

Bogdan prefers to arrive early to avoid stress.

- We usually arrive one or two days before the race. We used to walk the track the day before the race, but the organizers do not allow that anymore - they want it to be a surprise!

When registering, he advises you to choose the earliest starting time possible.

- This way, you will avoid crowds on the track and by the obstacles.

Adjust your pace

When running, it is important to keep a steady pace.

- Distribute your energy throughout the track wisely; otherwise, you might get exhausted too early.

Obstacle races are more demanding than running only. Also, there can be many hills and turns at these races.

- I suggest you do some uphill/downhill training sessions before you go to a race like this.


Competitions often take place during the summer months. When training or competing, it is crucial to make sure your dog does not overheat.

Read more: Can I train my dog in warm weather?

- The start corridor can be quite long. I suggest spending as much time in the shade as possible before the start and make sure you and your dog is hydrated.

After the race

After the race, it is important to let the dog cool down with a jog or a walk.

- I also give water to my dog, stretch his muscles, and give him a good massage.

Bogdan has been doing canicross for years and is a part of the Non-stop dogwear International CaniX Team. He and Invi did their first obstacle race in Poland two years ago. They finished second.

- It caught my eye from the very first time I saw information about Hard Dog Race on Facebook. This was something I had never done before. I was only running, and this looked like a lot of fun! I know my dog - he is extremely eager to do everything you offer him and highly competitive. I imagined him going through all the obstacles and getting together into the water, which he loves. I decided to give it a try.

In 2019 the duo won the HDR BASE in Poland and Germany. In the Czech Republic, they won 2nd place in men's class and became 3rd overall. They also won HDR WILD in Hungary.

Read more about Bogdan here!

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