We adopted Nera in December 2019 when she was 5 months old. She was born in Greece in a refuge. Her mother got rescued to the refuge and Nera was born on the 20th June 2019 under I imagine a very hot Greek summer’s day. After a short transit to Vienna in Austria where she was first taken; she arrived in Switzerland on the 13th December.
Nera is a Border Collie mix. We don’t quite know with what. Some say Flat Coat, some say Labrador. She is black, hence the name Nera, with brown highlights and white patches. She has the most beautiful look with her brown eyes. She is very sweet and friendly with our daughters and she immediately became part of the family.
Before starting running with her we went for lots of walks around where we live so she can discover and remember the different paths and roads. She loves smelling everything! She will spend a whole walk sniffing around which can be sometimes frustrating! We went for walks also where we would eventually run, so she feels that she knows where she is. I usually walk her 3 times a day, between 30min and 1h at times.
Our first run was on the 6th of January; a 5km run done in about 30 minutes. She loved it. Me too! However, I didn’t have the right material. She had her usual collar and I used a short leash. Even though it went well she wasn’t running freely and if she pulled it would pull on her neck. I consequently did some research online and found amazing products.
Here is a little list of what I have when running with Nera
- Running harness (for Nera)
- Bungee leash
- Running belt (for me)
I also bring snacks and poop bags (I will tell a funny story later!)
When doing my research, I came across a sport called “canicross”. Basically, it’s running with your dog on trails. Wow I watched several video on YouTube and even found some races in Switzerland. I was getting a little ahead of myself (as usual). I found a company called Non-Stop Dogwear, a Norwegian company specialized in dog accessories. Norway has huge experience in dog sledging and they used that experience to create amazing products for running and cross-country skiing, also called Skijöring. All of a sudden, a new world opened up: canicross, skijöring and bikejöring!
Where to buy?
First of all I want to say that I am NOT sponsored by this brand and that this post is NOT a paid partnership. I am simply a very satisfied customer and want to share my tips with you !
You can buy directly on the Non-Stop Dogwear at www.nonstopdogwear.com
I cannot recommend enough their products ! Non-Stop Dogwear also has a very cool podcast and brilliant videos on YouTube
Creating a program
As an endurance sports coach I had to treat Nera not only as an athlete, but as a junior. Of course, I have plans of taking her in the mountains on my long 4-hour trail runs but not until she’s an adult. As mentioned above, first we went for walks. I walked with her 3 times a day for 3 weeks before our first run. During those walks I started to add short bursts of running for about 50 to 100m.
As a junior she needs to learn how to run properly and not get any injuries so we favor running on soft surfaces and avoid tarmac if possible. We have a brilliant loop in Founex where we live that brings us to the Céligny cemetery where Richard Burton is resting in peace, and around the Château de Bossey where the Pope visited in 2018. All on trails!
The two things I am very much aware of when Nera is running are: Firstly, avoid injuries so I limit the runs to 5-6km which takes about 30min. I will gradually increase until she is an adult at around 2 years old. Secondly is that she must enjoy herself! There are times she wants to sniff something so I have to allow her little breaks. If we cross another dog I stop to say hello. Dogs don’t know that we’re “running a 5km”; they are just having fun with their master but if they see another dog they just want to play. Her goals are totally different than mine and we have to accept that and allow space. Patience is key.
We also had several failed runs! Despite all my encouragements a couple of times Nera categorically refused to run and just sat back. It is frustrating because we changed and put on all the equipment but you should not force a dog to run. So, we either went for a walk, or I brought her home and went for my job without her. Again, patience is key!
When running I always encourage Nera throughout the whole run. I use specific words such as “Bravo” in an enthusiastic way. She knows that she is doing well by hearing my voice. I also need to push her a little bit so here are my key words. We speak German with her.
- GO = keep going (this is the word I will say the most!)
- GERADE = go straight
- RECHT = turn right
- LINKS = turn left
- HOP = jump! (I used benches or wood logs for agility training)
- BRAVO = well done
These are basically the 6 words I used during the run. Dogs are very clever and they understand very well. It will take time for her to obey properly but patience again is key. Consistency is also key. I have used these words so now I have to stick to them!