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Trail Etiquette For Harness Dog Sports

Etiquette…a term that might bring back memories of tea time with your grandmother - Yes Grandma, harness dog sports are REAL sports! SEE:

The Queen of England, ready for canicross training

In the world of harness dog sports, trail etiquette equates with good sportsmanship. Most of these tips might seem like common sense, but it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with them and to keep them in mind next time you hit the trail with your furry friend, whether it's a training run or at a race event. These tips apply to all forms of harness dog sports: canicross, bikejoring, skijoring, kicksledding, or scooter.

Respect the Trail

The most important rule of thumb is to use trails that are dog-friendly. All parks in the Greater Moncton area are shared community spaces that require your dog to be leashed at all times. This should be easy enough since we practice harness dog sports; your dog is literally attached to you!

Our Beautiful Moncton Trails!

Always Carry Bags!

Either keep poop bags in your pocket or attach some directly to your belt or leash. A good way to avoid the unpleasantness of carrying a warm, stinky poop bag while running is to make sure your dog does its business prior to starting your run.

Food & Water

You also want to avoid feeding before heading out. Hitting the trail after gorging yourself at Skipper Jack’s is never a good idea and the same applies to your dog!

Pro Tip: Don't feed your dog within an hour before or after physical activity.

Research has shown that dogs have a more focused athletic performance when they've fasted, but more importantly these guidelines will decrease the likelihood of bloat, which is a very serious medical condition.

Don’t forget to bring water and a bowl with you to hydrate your dog after the run!

Hydration is key!

Pro-Tip: Be sure to monitor water intake so your dog doesn't over-indulge after a run.

Respect Other Trail Users

When possible, stay to the right of the trail and try to pass on the left. When coming up behind other trail users, it’s a good idea to alert them of your presence by indicating which side of the trail you want to pass on. Do not pass if they are not aware of you. When running towards trail users, they will see you coming and will sometimes move to one side of the trail, which is very much appreciated.

Sarah & Chester passing a couple walking on the trails in the opposite direction

Some trail users fail to adhere to local leash laws and you may come across dogs off-leash. If another dog is coming towards you, it might be a good idea to stop and advise the owner to leash their dog. This will help to avoid any altercations or entanglement which might cause injury to you, your dog, or the other animal. Your dog is trained to avoid distractions on the trail while working in harness, but the other dog likely has no idea what to do in that situation, so it’s important to exercise caution.

Use a Bell

A good way to announce your presence when bikejoring is to use a bike bell. Also, using a bear bell or a cowbell on your dog’s collar is not only a good way to ward off wild animals, but it can also serve as an excellent way to grab people’s attention on the trail! It’s like honking your car horn so people can get out of the way!

Pro Tip: When taking your dog for hikes in the snow, bear bells are rendered useless because the bell fills with snow. In this case, a cowbell is much more effective.

Respect Other Harness Dog Teams

While all of the above tips should be taken into consideration, the Maritime Association of Harness Dog Sports Participant Rules also apply at group runs and races with respect to passing other teams. These rules state that the team approaching from behind must call out “TRACK” or “TRAIL” so that the other team is aware and can allow them to pass. The team being passed must allow the passing team to go by without interference of any kind. This promotes good sportsmanship and safety for all involved.

A focused Group Run with lots of safe passing!

Reactivity

If your dog is reactive in any way, simply decrease the length of your line when passing or being passed by reeling it in so your dog is in closer proximity to you.

Keeping a good distance

Extra Space & Group Training

Even when you’re not on the race course, it’s important to keep your dog on-leash at all times in a group harness setting. At club events and training, we ask you to keep your dog close for two reasons: (1) it ensures that you are more engaged with your dog and (2) it also maintains a respectful attitude towards others using the public space. If your dog requires extra space from other dogs, please use a yellow ribbon to help communicate this.

Panda needs extra space, so a yellow ribbon is attached to her bungee

As a general rule, dogs in harness are working. Always ask before you allow your dog to approach another. For safety, do not allow your dog to play when in harness. When you’re not moving on the trail, keep the distance between yourself and your dog as close as possible. This is a good habit to get into since you’ll be required to start a race holding your dog’s collar or harness.

The Bottom Line

These trail etiquette guidelines are important for a few reasons. First, we want to ensure that every training run, group run, or race event will be a positive experience for you and your dog. Bad experiences can set you back as a team. Secondly, we need to lead by example. We are ambassadors for harness dog sports and it’s important to give the sport the respect it deserves. Being conscientious dog owners and respectful trail users is a GREAT way to showcase our sport in the community! Mostly, it’s just about being respectful of the environment, other trail users, and our fellow harness dog athletes.

Happy trails!

Moncton Dog Runners

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