Taiga participated in her first canicross race this weekend – Baltic Cup 3rd Event in Palivere, Estonia. To be honest, I personally don’t like running, prefer bikejoring, but at 13 months Taiga is still 5 months too young to compete in bikejoring.
The fun started with the weather – it was -5°C that morning. Also, coming to the first race you might expect to meet a lot of likeminded dog owners and sport hobbyists, but no – most of the contestants actually are professional athletes, who sometimes are hired by the owners to run with their dogs. Nonetheless, there were a lot of sled dog lovers, who had the same passion to run as their four legged friends.
Our first race start was great, Taiga saw her training buddy (Husky named Joris) at the start and was eager to run along. But out start was 4 minutes later, so after 1 km of great run she lost the hope (and probably the scent) to catch up. The running stopped after she saw my wife with the camera at the track – I had to literally pull her for the rest 3 km, until she understood that she’ll reach the car faster by running forward. Finished 11th, made 4,25 km in 21 minutes, averaging at 12 km/h. Slow. But not last.
Second day was more promising – already knew what lies ahead at the track, it was sunny and more positive in general. Yet, we had a ‘no go’ situation at the start, as Taiga went into a play-protest mode. Playing around and jumping on me continued for almost 2 km, so we lost quite a lot of time again. But at that point something happened: I think our Malamute has finally understood the point of what the heck we should be doing in a canicross track and started pulling! She even helped me to ascend a few steep hills, which were very challenging even for the professionals. As a result, this time we finished 10th, making 4.25 km in 19 minutes, averaging at almost 14 km/h. Yeah, still slow, considering that the average speed of the winner was 20 km/h. But at least we saw that we can run much faster if there are no hiccups.
Notes for future training:
- When training with friends we need to follow the official canicross (as well as any other mushing typerace) start rules – one start every minute. This way the dogs will get used to running even if they don’t see the other dog in front anymore.
- We need to do a better job at praising and raising Taiga’s motivation during the training, when she’s pulling at full speed.
- And more work should be done on restricting commands, such as ‘leave’, ‘ignore’ or whatever else would work to make the dog run past the observers or photographers, as Taiga tried to play with almost all human encounters close to the race track.