In canicross, bikejoring and skijoring you want your dog to be calm and focused on the start line. In this way, no unnecessary energy is wasted, and the whole start routine is more pleasant for both of you.
Ideally, your dog should stand still in front of you on a tense line, leaning into the harness without taking off.
- I recommend to start teaching a line out before your dog knows how to pull. Once your dog knows how fun pulling is, it is more difficult to teach him/her how to line out, says canicross and bikejoring athlete Henna Lappi.
You don’t even need a harness to start line out training.
- Play a game with your dog where he/she should stay still and wait for you to say "go" or whatever your command is. You can use a reward on the ground so that your dog knows where to run.
A similar game can be played when your dog is wearing a harness.
- Wait for your dog to stand still in the start, take a step back to get the line straight, and give your command to start running.
Focus on you
To Sanna Näslund, World champion in canicross, maintaining eye contact with the dog is important.
- At the start line I want my dog to look at me and focus on my command to go. He should not care about the organizers counting down. Since we are doing this race together, a strong connection is essential to perform well. That is why I also like warming up together with my dog. You have to know each other well and listen to each other’s My dog will make eye contact with me even when harnessed, and while racing he will still focus on me and my commands even though he is facing forwards. A strong connection outside the trails leads to a better teamwork at races.
Sanna started training eye contact when her dog, Zigge, was a puppy.
- When I gave him food, he had to look at me and get his release command before he could start eating. We used the same principle when going for a walk. We did not start walking until he sought eye contact with me. As soon as he looked at me, I praised him. That is important.
When Zigge got older and started training in a harness he got very excited and wanted to run. Instead of allowing Zigge to run off while being excited, Sanna was patient and consistent from the very start.
- In the beginning we had to go back to the car, and if Zigge did not seek eye contact, he was not allowed to run at all. When he understood that the same rules applied when training and racing, I praised him and let him run. Now it is obvious to him that he should focus on me no matter what happens around him.
In competitions the organizers will usually count down the last seconds before your start time; "5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go!".
- Dogs quickly learn this means they will get to run and goes crazy when they hear the countdown. You can train your dog to wait for the right command by saying random words in the start. You can also use the numbers in a random order, so it becomes less obvious for your dog, says Henna.