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are using blinkers on dogs a good idea?

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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
i started my dog in training to pull a bike, and built up muscle and strength up for 1 1/2 years to get her fit enough to pull comfortably. She really enjoys pulling and running, yet she is easily distracted by things behind her. I was wondering if a set of blinkers, like used in horses, would be beneficial to her? she already wears a headcollar like a muzzle around her face, so adjusting them would be no problem. does anyone have experience with blinkers, used in greyhound racing?
 

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I know greyhounds sometimes use blinkers but please tell me you are training her to pull the bike using a harness, and not the head collar?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I know greyhounds sometimes use blinkers but please tell me you are training her to pull the bike using a harness, and not the head collar?
yes she does use a harness, the head collar is used as like an emergency brake if she gets unfocused or too excited
 

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I bikejore, skijore and canicross with my 100 pound dog (recreationally, not competitively). Like your dog, he loves to run and pull, and when we started training, he was reactive and distractible, so my experience might be relevant for you. Personally, I've opted not to use blinkers for my dog, but I think they can be useful in certain situations. I'll try to answer your question first, and then I'll add my experience, in case it's useful.

Blinkers can help dogs to focus, especially on the trail in front of them, so if your main concern is your dog getting distracted by things behind her, as you stated in your original post, they might be helpful. If you decide to use them, I suggest you take the time to desensitize properly, it can be a bit of a learning curve for some dogs to suddenly only have tunnel vision, they can get confused and disoriented for a little while.

However, if your dog is distractible in general (like my Rexi was), the solution is clear, consistent and motivational training. Equipment is not a replacement for proper training, it is simply too dangerous to bike with a big dog that might run after a squirrel or keeps checking what's behind him. If your dog can't safely run with just a harness (no blinkers, no halter), she's not ready for bike rides yet (except, perhaps, for short training rides, where the focus is on practicing commands, learning to stay connected and focused in a distracting environment, learning the rules of the game and building motivation and joy for pulling sports). In my experience, the only way to do pulling sports safely is to train the dog to run with enough tension on the line, to slow down, speed up, stop, and to reliably pass distractions (ideally, they'd also know directional commands). I train all my commands through canicross (slower pace and more control), and switch to bike and skis only when my dog is pretty fluent in basic commands. Some of my friends simply train commands on daily walks. Especially passing distractions while pulling ("on by!") is non negotiable. I add distractions slowly, start with easy ones and build up. In my experience, it's better to keep the dog focused and successful than it is to make runs long and physically tiring. I want my dog in work mode throughout the run, no sniffing, no sudden stops, no pulling towards distractions etc. My dog gets a lot of time to sniff, mark, just be a dog, but he understands that pulling time is work mode time. The best way to achieve that with my distractible dog has been to keep runs short, fun, positive, the best game ever! - and slowly (very slowly...) it became a habit.

Pulling sports have done so much for my dog's confidence and our bond. We've learned to work together, pay attention to each other, focus. Looking back, most of these benefits came from the training part of it, even more than from physical activity itself. It's much more fun for both of us, now that he is solid and reliable.
 
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