We have been so lucky to follow local Ambassador Becs Morris on her trail dog journey over the past few years. Find out how her puppy Breagh, the Working Cocker Spaniel went from puppy paws to traildog paws in the last year. There is only one thing better than a trusty trail dog, and that’s two trusty trail dogs! Those of you who shred with your four-legged friends will fully understand the pure joy of blasting through your favourite forest with your trail pups charging along behind. Fergus was my first trail dog. He came to us, quite unexpectedly, as a rescue dog in March 2019. Over the last two and a half years bikes have changed Fergus’s life. He has gone from a hyped-up, stressed-out, nervous bag of skin and bones to trail dog extraordinaire and the happiest little chap on the planet. It was a lot of work getting Fergus ready for the trails, we learned a ton training him and every bit of knowledge gleaned on the journey has helped with getting Breagha, our next generation of trail paws, ready for a safe and happy trail dog life.
It has been a while in the making, but today little Breagha made her trail pup debut! It was perfect. The sun shone, the trails flowed, tails wagged, muddy puddles were rolled in and there was even celebratory mince for dinner.
She is one amazing little trail pup in the making; however, “it wasn’t just a case of grab the bike, grab the puppy and head for the hills. Lots of hard work and training went into making sure she was absolutely, positively, definitely, without a doubt ready for her big day. Trail dogs make the best biking buddies in the world, but it is up to us to make sure that they, us and other trail users have a fun, safe time full of trail pup stoke”
So, what have we been doing to make sure we got it right for the inaugural day of Bree’s biking career?
The biggest thing was training. Lots and lots of training. This allowed us to build a solid foundation of unwavering obedience. Right from the word go we played training games; short, fun games designed to build her confidence, teach her to respond to voice and visual commands, develop self-control and to get her completely, utterly focused on us. The aim was to become the most exciting aspect of her life, so when she has to choose between me and the super-sonic squirrel heading up a pine tree, she chooses me. When we take this to the trail, it means that she goes where I go. I don’t need to worry about her heading off into the boonies at Mach 3 after bunnies while I disappear off down the trail by myself. We integrated the bike into everything we did to ensure she was comfortable with it, but also that she learned a healthy respect for the front wheel!
The most useful trail dog command I use is ‘behind’. It is the command that keeps us safe; the dogs learn to follow me and never overtake, if they are ‘behind’ they cannot get hit, they cannot get hurt and they aren’t creating a hazard for other trail users. Fergus is so good at it that no matter what I do, how fast or slow I go, he sticks to the back wheel. I can even tell him if I want him to change trail position to the left or the right so we can pass other trail users or obstacles safely. If there is one trail dog tip I can give, it is to teach your dog ‘behind’ as a priority.
Once Breagha had the skills and training, the next big question was when? She is a strong, fit little girl, but she is tiny, gets cold quickly and doesn’t have much in reserve. She is such a clever, biddable little thing that it would have been easy to take her out before she was physically ready. My vet always advises me that pups under 2 years old should not be doing long, hard hill days. During this time in their lives they are growing and developing, and we need to give them a chance to mature properly without putting excess strain on their bodies. It might not be noticeable when they are young, but too much too soon can cause a lot of problems and pain in later life. For a long time, I wasn’t certain if she was ready or not, so I waited, knowing that the day would come when I was completely sure. She was one year and seven months on her first outing and although I was totally happy that it was the right time for her, I still took it super easy, didn’t go far and won’t take her regularly for quite some time yet.
Trail choice was something I thought about a lot. Although she is fit and strong, I really wasn’t sure how much she would cope with. I chose a quiet, short loop on a soft, shallow single track that I knew really well. Nothing too technical and nothing too fast. I wanted to make sure that if her ‘behind’ went out the window due to excitement then I could stop or get off the trail without putting either of us in any danger. The route had a nice single-track climb which let us practice ‘behind’ at a slow pace. Fergus knows his trade well and did an exemplary job of showing her exactly what was expected. It was all looking good. We got to the top and feeling very pleased with ourselves and headed off down the trail. Just I was congratulating myself on having the best trail pups ever, I caught a glimpse of something out the corner of my eye. A small black buddle of fluff appeared at shoulder height, disappeared, reappeared, bounced off an unsuspecting Fergus, rebounded off an obliging tree and went careering off down the trail outstripping the speed of light and with the biggest grin of any puppy ever plastered across her face. Yip, Bree lost it. Utter over-stoke.
After a few minutes of bouncing about like an exuberant box of electrified frogs, she slowly returned to land of civility. Composure regained, we pushed back up to the top of trail for round two. With cry of “behind’ we were off….
10m, 20m, 30m…… no streak of black lightning overtaking, she was doing it, she was a trial dog! We got back home safe and sound with a love of biking firmly instilled in a very tired, but utterly delighted little puppy.
_____AMAZING STORY BECS! WE HAVE LOVED WATCHING YOU GUYS TRAIN AND GROW TOGETHER_____
What did you take with you as an aid to help with your first training ride? I always ensure I have some traildog training treats; Bree absolutely loves the Salmon + Potato kind which we can get from our local bike shop down the road, and a trusted tennis ball for Fergus which both fit perfectly inside my Poochi Pouch Top Tube Bag. Such a game-changer!
It really is an amazing feeling when all the training and work pays off. Riding safely with your dogs adds a whole different dimension to your biking. It is an amazing thing to be able to do but keeping them and you safe is vital.
Bree still has a long way to go, this was only the first shot and it will be good time yet before I attempt anything more technical with her. But for the meantime, here’s to the next generation of Trail Paws! Keep them safe, keep them happy, keep them shredding!
TRAIL DOG TRAINING IS SUPER IMPORTANT, WE’RE CURRENTLY WORKING ON OUR AMAZING NEW TRAILDOG TRAINING PROGRAM LAUNCHING IN THE COMING MONTHS…
TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE RIGHT INFORMATION FROM A TRUSTED SOURCE, JOIN THE FACEBOOK GROUP THE BARK + RIDE CLUB WHERE INFORMATION ON OUR TRAINING PROGRAM WILL BE LAUNCHING SOON
Keep them safe, keep them happy, keep them shredding!