Guest Blogger Donna Dunne talks about Canicross in Ireland

I’d like to thank Donna for taking the time to write this post on Canicross in Ireland

I first seen Juneau in the background of a photo of a dog that was looking to be adopted.

Myself and my husband were considering getting a northern breed dog. We have a little cavalier and wanted a ‘big’ dog too, we just didn’t know whether or not to get a pup or rescue.
When Karen of  Irish Sled Dog Rescue posted a picture of a dog that was looking for a forever home on a forum, all I noticed was one of the dogs sitting on his own in the background, with big floppy ears and lost eyes.
Sometimes you just know when you have found what it was you were looking for!
A few exchanges of emails later we discovered that Juneau, who was only after arriving with Karen was of unknown age (estimated at about 8 months) he wasn’t quite a husky either but its hard to put a finger on what he is!
He was very skinny and didn’t know how to chew food.
Juneau

At the end of August 2009 Juneau came to live with us.  Juneau had very little muscle, so we knew we’d have to take things easy, we walked  about 2 miles every second day to begin with. As he began to bulk up I knew that a walk would never be good enough, and being a husky (or part off) we could never let him off lead. I also knew that to keep with Juneau I’d have to stop smoking 20 a day, and do something about the extra few stone I gained and never lost after my second baby! I had read about canicross on different websites, I thought it was really interesting, it was somethign I’d love to do but i never thought I’d be able to run.

Training
As Juneau continued to get stronger, I knew we were getting to the stage where I’d have to introduce other forms of exercise- we began bikejoring- but he kept trying to get back to run beside me.I thought at first it was just a matter of training him to run out in front but on his walks he had no problem with pulling ahead. We tried everything, it was then we realised that he was just a little insecure and just wanted to be close to us humans.
So we began running- we started off by running from one lamp post to the next then walking to the next lamp post and repeated this for about a mile of our usual walking route. Juneau loved doing this, he would run out in front no problem as he was still closeto me. After a few weeks of this we got a harness, bungee lead and a belt, we also began a more structured couch to 5k training plan.
We were also still walking, we used this time to teach commands. Luckily Juneau was a natural puller- I would keep him at my side and when we began to run I would let him run out in front, when he ran out enough that we could feel the ‘pull’ on the lead I would say ‘out’and tell him that he was the best dog in the whole wide world (I think because Juneau was so insecure he really cherished and excelled on a positive tone of voice) the first few times he would get so excited at the praise he would stop and bound back to me!
Wherever we went I was like his personal sat-nav dictating the journey to get him following directions- ‘right’ ‘left’ and stop were easy it just took a lot of repetition.
As we began to run further I found that our understanding of each other grew as did our bond, we found it easy to fall into pace with each other.
The first race
In May 2010 myself and Juneau along with three other canicrossers- Ursula and Max, Laura and Suki, Trevor and Ole, ran (and walked!) our first 10k race. I never felt pain like I did after that race, I couldn’t sleep for two days after and was injured more often than not for the rest of that summer, whereas Juneau, being made of stronger stuff got stronger and healthier!
Over the following winter and into 2011 running became a lot easier for us and I seemed to have overcome my injuries (thanks to a lot of physio!)
In May 2011 I ran a local 10k on my own (and I ran it completely without walking!) but I missed my training partner. Over that summer we continued running early in the morning and late in the evening- I often wondered would we try go further, so for the next few weeks we increased our distance by a mile a week until we were running 10 miles.
Come a long way
One particular Sunday morning we went for our usual long run- this week we were up to 10 mile and as I watched Juneau run in front of me, totally focused on what was ahead and I looked at his tail sway from side to side in pure happiness, his muscles toned and strong I knew canicross had changed us both- made us happier and healthier, it dawned on me that it was two years since Juneau had come to live with us we had come a long way from the skinny dog and flabby owner of two years before!
From that August I knew my target for the following running season was to run races with Juneau- hopefully we could promote the benefits of canicross to other dog owners this way. You can join Canicross in Ireland on Facebook and see what we are up to, whether it is something you are interested in starting with your dog and looking for tips or looking for runs that accept canicrossers, we have a great group of people  from all walks of life there, so join in.
Donna Dunne
Please LIKE this post if you enjoyed it or found it interesting, even better leave a comment below.
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