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How to Prepare for a Dog Race

How to Prepare for a Dog Race


Renowned 18th century America Benjamin Franklin said: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

For any event from canicross to dog sled racing, preparation is half the battle. I suppose we all know people who arrive in the nick of time and seem totally unorganised and yet breeze to victory. But they are the exception.

Read the rules

Why do we only read the rules for a competition when something goes wrong or when there is a dispute? I suppose it’s like reading the instructions for assembling a wardrobe. Some people just know best.

Seasoned racers know that most events have similar rules. Oh dear. That’s when it all goes wrong. But it’s always a 9.30am start. Not this time. Read the rules.

What about passing? Do you have right of way just by shouting “trail”? Does the team being passed have to slow down or stop? How soon can you re-pass? If you don’t understand something, ask beforehand.

Make a list

How about making a permanent pre-race list on your computer which you can print off before each event? It can evolve over the years as you gain experience. It’s a scientific fact that having things written down helps to unclutter our minds and means we sleep better. And that is vital before an event.

Having everything ready and packed the day before and only a few last-minute things to gather together on the day is the key to good organisation. Some things, of course, will need doing days beforehand.

You may need a different list for each sport. A day’s canicrossing requires different equipment to a dog sled race. Don’t just have a list on your mobile phone. Have a piece of paper so that you can actually tick things off.

Everything in its place

‘A place for everything and everything in its place’ goes the old mantra. But it all makes sense if you are standing in a cold, wet field in the early hours of a winter morning desperately trying to find the fourth harness for your team of Siberian Huskies who are champing at the bit to get moving.

You know it’s in the boot of the car or stored in the van somewhere. More stress. Do yourself a favour. Pack everything in the same place for every trip.

Where are we going?

All right, sat-nav may make this requirement redundant. But it’s always a good idea to know where the event is. Have you been there before? If not, allow extra time.


Most sports, if not all, use visualisation. Penalty takers in football visualise running up to the spot and watching the ball go into the bottom left corner, Olympic hurdlers visualise the stride patterns. If it works for them, it can work for us.

If you’ve raced the trail before, visualise the turns and the slopes. It helps to give our brains a mental picture. If it’s a new trail for you, there may be a video on the internet or you might have the opportunity to walk the trail before racing starts.

Stick with the same routine

New equipment is for training, not for actual events. That applies to you and your dogs. Exercise at the same time and eat at the same time before a race.

Changing anything on or just before race day can stress a dog by upsetting its routine.

SnowPaw Store supplies equipment for all dog racing sports.

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