• Battersea Dogs and Cats Home is holding Muddy Dog Challenges across the UK
  • They're fun for dogs and a great way to raise money to help needy animals
  • Keeping your dog fit can help you both stay healthy all summer

We've all heard of humans taking part in muddy obstacle races, but now our four-legged friends are getting in on the action in a series of Muddy Dog Challenges arranged by Battersea Dogs and Cats Home (@BDCH). 

Rachel Spencer (@rachspenwrites) and her dog Daisy took on the course, and chatted with pet experts at the event. Here are their top tips.

Reinforcing relationships

'We wanted to create something that people could take part in with their dogs,' explained event manager Emma Lovesey. 'Obstacle races are popular, so we had the idea to bring this together with something dogs love too: mud.

'It's about reinforcing the loving relationship we have with our dogs and the feedback has been brilliant,' Emma continues. 'You can see from the dogs' faces they're having so much fun, while raising money to help other animals too.'

A dog and it's owner crossing the finish line

Rachel and Daisy: Muddy Dog challengers

Along with my rescue dog Daisy, I joined 700 owners at Woollaton Hall in Nottingham. We did the 2.5km course which is a total of six hurdles, ranging from tunnels to trampolines, but there is a 5km option with more obstacles if you're feeling adventurous.

By far the worst were the Muddy Tunnels – six inches of sludge which had me sinking up to my elbows! Daisy, wisely perhaps, teetered around the side, barely dirtying her paws, while I emerged caked in mud.

When we ran through the finish line we were greeted by a medal held by one of the friendly team members organising the event.

Watch some of Rachel and Daisy’s best moments from the challenge in the video below.

Making sure your dog is prepared

'Ahead of the event, make sure your dog is fit enough to take part, and of a healthy weight,' says vet Natalie Scroggie from Priory Vets in Beeston, who helped care for dogs at the Nottingham event. 'Feed them a small meal at least four hours before, then a couple of hours after the race they can have their normal food.'

Natalie urges owners to familiarise their pets with obstacles and water in advance. However, volunteers are on hand to care for dogs (like Daisy) who didn't want to tackle all of them.

'Remember, it's a fun event to raise money for a very good cause,' Natalie adds. 'Don't make your dogs do anything they don't want to do.'

Natalie's tips are also useful as general advice when it comes to exercising pets. 

'The most important thing to remember when running with your dog in the summer is to make sure they don't overheat,' Natalie said. 'Make sure you have water for your dog and something for them to cool down in and an area where there is shade. If you get muddy, wash your dog when you get home and dry them off.'

Read my article on keeping cool in summer for more pet tips.

A close up image of a dog getting checked by a vet

Rewarding your dog after

Daisy was shivering at the end after a hosing down, as it was a chilly May morning, so I wrapped her up in a towel to keep her warm and gave her a thorough bath at home.

'It's nice for them to have a bit of a pamper afterwards,' says Laura Redstone, a grooming expert from For All Dogkind (@foralldogkind), who make 97% natural pet shampoo.

I revealed to Laura my dog Daisy's love of rolling in the most horrid things imaginable.

'Our dog Betty does the same,' she says. 'If you have a dog that loves getting filthy, it's best to bath them regularly or each time they get mucky. Choose a shampoo that's made of natural ingredients and sulphate free, as this will clean their fur and skin without stripping oils from their coat.

'Give them a nice warm bath then, once they're dry, give their coat a brush and check for lumps, bumps, fleas, bugs and ticks, and also in their paws too,' she adds

Ten things you'll need on the day

As well as preparing your dog, you will need a few things for the Muddy Dog Challenge too:

  1. Poo bags – make sure the course is kept as clean as can be.
  2. Treats – use titbits to encourage them over the obstacles. 
  3. Water – have a fresh bowl and bottle for your dog, and a bottle for you.
  4. An old collar and lead – your pooch will be caked in muck, so don't put on their best, fashionable number. 
  5. Old sportswear and trainers – jewellery or a fitness tracker may get lost.
  6. Food – give your dog a light breakfast a few hours before so they have time to digest.
  7. Safety pins –to fix your number to your top.
  8. Baby wipes – there's no showers, so these are best for cleaning up.
  9. Change of clothes – you will be covered in mud after.
  10. Bum bag – ideal for carrying your phone, camera, treats and keys.

Finally, make sure you have the right pet insurance for your dog, so you know you will be covered if anything should happen.

These tips should see you and your dog through the Muddy Dog Challenge, and even come in handy all year round, but the main takeaway is, when you're outdoors, whatever the weather, let your dog be a dog and have fun.