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Reactive dogs Q&A

by Jane J

Q. What is a reactive dog?
A. ALL dogs are reactive, just by the very nature of being alive & responding to the environment around them. However the term ‘reactive’ is usually applied to dogs who’s reactions to their environment are deemed undesirable, inappropriate or antisocial by us humans, for example lunging, barking or snapping.

Q. Why is a dog ‘reactive’?
A. ‘Reactive’ responses such as lunging, barking or snapping tend to occur when a dog is stressed by something. Dogs can become stressed when -

  • they are scared e.g. of another dog who is too close for comfort, of an unfamiliar person or noise, of a novel situation or environment, of a painful sensation
  • they are frustrated/overstimulated e.g. by waiting for a run to start, by the proximity of other dogs they’d like to play with, by the proximity of other animals they’d like to chase

Individual dogs all vary in what makes them scared or frustrated, down to a combination of genetics/breed-characteristics & previous experiences. It’s important to realise that ‘reactive’ dogs are not ‘bad dogs’, nor are they usually a reflection of ‘bad owners’.

Q. What should I do if my dog is ‘reactive’?
A. Don’t feel alone – lots of dogs, both within CSE, & in general, are classified as ‘reactive’, don’t blame your dog, & don’t blame yourself.

Try to Identify what is causing your dog to feel stressed, & hence ‘react’. You may need the help of a professional behaviourist to establish this. Once you know what is the cause, you can help reduce your dog’s stress by -

  • preventing stressful encounters by being mindful of your dog’s needs & communicating them well to others (e.g. by using a yellow ribbon, bandana or vest if your dog needs space) and preventing injury by using a muzzle if appropriate
  • avoiding/minimising their exposure to the thing they find stressful (including giving them space from it) e.g. you might try to avoid placing your dog right in the middle of a large group of other dogs who are all excited about the start of a run
  • desensitising them to the thing they find stressful (getting them used to it very gradually, usually starting at a distance)
  • changing their mind about the thing they find stressful (‘counter conditioning’ them to associate it with positive things e.g. treats)
  • pre-empting reactivity by noticing early warning signs of stress e.g. panting, head turns, blinking and escaping from/reducing the intensity of the stressor before your dog has a full blown reaction
  • praising & rewarding for appropriate (non-reactive) behaviour around the stressor

space etiquettes for dogs
Some useful resources for reactive dog owners:

A few lines from Oscar and Kali

by Aga

Oscar and Kali 1

Oscar says…

“When I was a little pup my dad Dalmatian took me to the side and said “Boy, you’ve got to be happy; smile and wag your tail a lot!”. My mum Husky added promptly “Boy, you’ve got to run!!” I said “I will try dad” and “OK mum” and off I went to make them proud.

I lived in a few places. I remember well a lovely spot called Borders Pet Rescue where I made lots of friends and where lady and man hoomans visited me for the first time. They became my friends too and I soon moved in with them. I was happy and I smiled and my tail wagged a lot.

They took me to school and showed me new interesting places and took bicycle out so I could run fast and free next to them. I gave them some serious frights though as often I would just run and run and run…and while I thought this is so much fun and I can do that for days they didn’t find it so amusing. Especially when I decided to play some epic chasing games…

Thats when lady hooman found out about canicross. One Saturday she took me to a place called Vogrie Park where we met with other dogs and people waiting for the run to start. She thought she will surprise me -silly hooman – did not know I’ve been canicrossing before! You see I had a friend in Borders Pet Rescue called Andrew. He was a hooman too and I think you could have met him before. He was and is taking dogs out for runs and it is just so so good.

So there we were lady hooman planning to take things slow and me kitted out, strong and…well…in front! I managed to pull her all the way through – god was she slow. Man hooman is better in running so I rather run with him thank you very much. And best is when my furry sister Kali gets to join us and we pull him along together!

I tell you pups canicross joins all the best bits into one. You get to run and be happy and you also get to belong. As we run together with other dogs and hoomans we all get to be a part of a team and we have to pay great attention to one another. It helped me to connect better with my hoomans and listen to them…a tiny tiny bit more and of course only when I want to. I learned very useful commands especially for dogs like me -who like to walk in front – which I now get to do most of the time! It also helps me to sleep better and I even stopped eating pillows from the couch when lady and man hooman go to work. To be honest with you I really like my day now. I run than I rest before I eat then I get some peace and quiet. What more can you wish for?!”

Oscar and Kali 2

Kali says…

“OK. There are few bits you need to know about me first. I like to pull. A lot. I like to run. A lot. I don’t like many other dogs. A lot. I just never know which ones are the scary ones so I bark at all of them just in case. Now that doesn’t really make me the easiest dog in the world, does it? That also doesn’t make me very unusual or different from many others. We are often nervous, loud and strong on a lead. What makes me special is this: I wear a harness. I get to run with my furry brother
and lady and man hooman that live with us. And I get to be in front and lead the way. And I like it. A lot.

There is more. When we go for a club run we run within many other dogs and hoomans that I would normally be really afraid off. Sure I bark a lot but only as I can’t wait for the run to start. Once we start moving I can run past other dogs with no bother at all. And to tell you the truth it makes me feel very good about myself so I wag my tail and stamp my feet and off we go again.

After a club run hoomans and dogs often stay for a bit of a catch up (and to catch their breaths). I see other dogs that were running and they seem to be tired and happy. I managed to make few friends there. I still bark at few dogs that I always barked at but lady and man hooman tell me to keep close and tell me lovely things about myself and how hard did I work and they are happy with me so I soon forget I got upset in the first place.

I saved the best bit for last. I went to my first canicross race in Foxlake in November. I walked past the stalls and past many dogs and hoomans and I looked at all of them. We did run together: Oscar, man hooman and me and we did splendidly well. But can you imagine that I only barked at the starting line when I couldn’t control my excitement any longer?! And then I walked past the stalls and past many happy dogs and laughing hoomans and I looked at all of them. And I felt too tired to pull. And I thought about this lovely run that I just shared with all of them. And in that moment I didn’t feel afraid. At all.”

Oscar and Kali 3

Foxlake Race Review – Maya McKinnon

I was woken up really early which can only mean one thing – we are going running.  After I wolf my breakfast down I go for a quick power nap to save my energy.

Mum told us this was an extra special race.  Not only was it our one year Cani-cross anniversary, Kima and me were going to be running with her for the first time together.

After almost pulling her down the hill to the start line – we love to get excited and could see Ruby and Buddy doing the same thing to Paul – we lined up behind our husky friends Meeko and Suki.  I normally get to run with Storm chasing me so I was a little bit sad she wasn’t able to run.

Finally it was our turn at the start line and we were off.  We ran past all the people cheering us on and into the woods.  Kima and me love running through woodland trails and were storming on.

We got to the top of the hill and got a bit confused but soon found the right path down the hill and onto the grass.  At that point Leon (our brother) ran past us and we got super excited and started to run really fast trying to chase him.  It was brilliant fun we loved it.

I almost got to run into the water at the bridge – mum was screaming NO at us for some reason!!

The course was fantastic, I loved all the trails and the twists and turns.   There was a massive puddle right at the end which me and Kima had fun running through and getting super dirty.

I had a really good day and got to speak to all my doggy friends and make some new ones.  I got introduced to a puppy called BB who although was really cute I definitely do not want another brother or sister!!

My favourite part of the day was the sausage treat from the goody bag – yum yum

See you all at the next race – Husky Hugs Maya xxHayley

Latest canicross addict!

By AmberAmber and SamprasI first went to canicross at Dalkeith country park a few months before my pup Sampras’s first birthday. (Dogs must be at least a year to run). I went along to watch and find out all about canicross and exactly what it involved. I was greeted and welcomed by very friendly and enthusiastic organisers, runners and committee members. I was really impressed with how organised things were, the variety of dogs running and amount of cheery people all geared up and ready to go!

In August 2014 the first week after Sampras’s birthday and he had turned one we started going to canicross. I absolutely loved it straight off, gallivanting through the woods in the dark guided by my fellow runners, head torches and fabulously laid mini lights to mark the route! Running with Cani-sport Edinburgh is so much fun, you really need to experience it to feel that “buzz”. Everyone is so friendly, welcoming and there is always a positive and upbeat vibe! I’m not the best runner but I love canicrossing and meeting up with like minded people who are just as crazy about their pooches as I am!

A few months in and Sampras and I entered our very first race at Foxlake in Dunbar. One of the most amazing experiences. I thoroughly enjoyed it and couldn’t have been prouder giving Sampras his medal! He was one happy boy! We have most defiantly caught “the bug” and look forward to much more canicrossing and competitions!

Changes Afoot at CSE

Given the ever increasing size of the Cani-Sports Edinburgh and it’s expanding popularity, a slight change to the current procedure for the regular runs is due to be introduced.

Firstly please note that the terms “official run” and “unofficial run” have been substituted for “club” and “non-club”, please see here for the distinction between these.

Secondly a Cani-Sports Edinburgh facebook PAGE has been set up. All “Club Runs” will be posted up on the club facebook page, they will NOT be posted in the group. The group will continue to be used as it is to allow all members to interact and chat. Furthermore the group can be used for club members and non-members to arrange their own meetups (non club runs & meetups).

Please “like” the facebook page and follow it. Please look out for the Monday and Saturday club runs and continue to comment on these posts if you intend to come along.

Many thanks and Happy Canicrossing!

Your faithful CSE Committee


Canicross: Starting Out

by Louise

I am a natural couch potato with no athletic ability whatsoever! I have dipped in and out of various sports over the years – hockey, running, cycling, swimming, yoga and triathlons but never stuck at anything for a sustained period. And, training was always pretty inconsistent!! As I am getting quite close to a fairly major mile stone in my life, I decided sometime in winter 2013 that it was time to start looking after myself and attempt to get fit. So, I started running again. It was really hard at first but I gradually built it up week by week. I entered loads of races so I would stay focused and motivated to run.

I had read about cani cross and actually spotted the group at a dog show in 2013. I thought it looked like fun! After a bit of research, I made contact with the club (many months later!!) and picked up the courage to go along to my first run. It can be quite daunting to go along to a club where you don’t know a soul but the group are a super friendly bunch. And, don’t be put off if you are not a runner (YET!) as there are always run – walk options to begin with.

I started off running with 1 dog and now I run with both of my dogs – a weimaraner and a vizsla. It really is great fun and they definitely help me go faster! I haven’t participated in any cani cross races yet but look forward to running a few later this year. The dogs love it, anytime I pick up their harnesses they get all excited! We haven’t been running over the summer but it won’t be long until we are back at Vogrie on a Saturday morning. :o)


What I didn’t expect when I came along to the club, was that I would get so much more out of it than just Cani Cross. Superb hill runs, various workshops, ultra marathons (whaaatt??!!), weekly sessions at Arthurs seat, loads of encouragement, good chat and best of all I am hanging out with people who clearly love their dogs as much as I do. My general fitness and running has improved over the course of the year – I can’t foresee not sticking to it this time as I am having oodles of fun as well as getting fit. I am sure the club is going to go from strength to strength and I look forward to sharing many more experiences with you all.

Running with Rescues

by Andrew

In 2012 I began volunteering at Borders Pet Rescue I had little idea of the journey I was beginning. I’d previously run with my late Lakeland cross Polly, so when asked to run a young energetic Dalmatian/ Husky cross called Oscar I was delighted. Over the next few months I ran with a variety of wonderful dogs. They were teaching me more than I them but we had fun learning.

In October 2013 I learnt of a cani cross race in Jedburgh. With the backing of BPR I decided to enter and raise some funds. A quick search online brought CSE to my attention. The support and advice I received was superb. Maisie and I started training regularly and we both loved every minute of it.


Race day arrived any nerves soon disappeared due to the warm welcome I received and Maisies impeccable behaviour . Once safely round the muddy course we were rewarded with a medal and rosette which Maisie took proudly back to BPR. We were hooked!

Over the winter Maisie remained at the centre. A bout of kennel cough led toquarantine and lots of frustration for all the dogs. Once clear I had 3 dogs to run with. Maisie didn’t like this at all! I got sad looks every time it was Dot or Santi’s turn.

Rescue dogs can’t get off lead in public, so Cani ross is a great way to enhance their time in kennels. They’ll assess the fitness and temperament of dogs in their care so why not call and see if you can help.


Maisies been in her forever home for 6 months now and is very happy there. I am awaiting the cooler weather so I can get back to my newest passion running with rescues.


CSE Races at Dunbar

We are delighted to have secured a fabulous venue for CSE’s first ever very own canicross races, which will be held at Foxlake near Dunbar on Sunday 16th November. The day will comprise not only of races for all age groups, both 2.5K & 5K courses, and 1 & 2 dog classes, but will be a fun day out for all the dog-oriented family with many doggy businesses & charities in attendance with stalls. We have some fantastic sponsors, who will be providing both class & spot prizes & filling all our runners’ goody bags. Hot & cold food & drink will be available too.  Entries are via Entry Central, with race numbers limited to 150, so be sure & enter nice & early so you & your dogs don’t miss out!


If you would like to print a poster & help spread the word about our event you can download one here.

Click here to enter —->    entrycentrallogo


Chat to others who are attending & ask any questions you may have about the event on the Facebook Event Page.

Summer with Cani-Sports Edinburgh

The hot weather means that there hasn’t been much in the way of canicrossing for the last couple of months as it has been too hot and humid for dogs and some humans!  However that hasn’t stopped us having a great programme of fitness events to keep us in condition till the canicrossing starts again in the autumn.

First up was Gavin’s running workshops.  Gavin is an ex GP and now a sports massage therapist.  He specializes in working with runners, cyclists, triathletes and now canicrossers!   It was a really interesting workshop with lots of information to take away, with tests to see what shape our various muscles are in and discussion about running form and stretching.  It was so popular we had to put it on twice.

Next on our busy calendar, Leszek Stelmachowski of Edinburgh’s only Kettlebell Club kindly put together a two hour kettlebell workshop.  This gave us a basic grounding in technique in case we ever wanted to attend classes or pick up those neglected bells at home that so many of us seem to have.   Kettlebells are a great way to build strength, particularly core strength, without bulk and work on our posture and flexibility.  It fits very nicely with many of the things Gavin was talking about such as activating our glutes.  Les was very patient with us and gave clear and helpful explanations of all the technique while being thoroughly fun.  Again it was so popular, a second one had to be put on.

Kettlebell Workshop

Kettlebell Workshop

Also on the theme of running injury free, more efficiently and enhancing running performance, a Chi Running Workshop with Nick Constantine was organised for CSE.  Chi Running is both a running form and a philosophy,

We’ve also had Keith Bremner organise a series of three speed sessions for us.  The third one is on Saturday August the 30th.  Following a similar format to the previous two there will be a warm-up, canicross racing drills, a hill session, core work and a cool-down.   As it’s the last one of the season and to celebrate the end of August and a new season of canicrossing, we will be off to a nearby food and drink establishment afterwards for breakfast.  Hope to see you there, click here for more detail and say you’re coming.

With all these stronger and injury free muscles and extra efficiency, Cani-Sports Edinburgh should storm the upcoming season of canicross!