If you like running with your dog, you will love Canicross. It is a very fun sport that has become fashionable in recent times. Running with your dog will strengthen your bond with him while also providing physical exercise.
Canicross is here to stay. Whether as a hobby, for the simple pleasure of running, or as a competitive sport, it is an excellent activity for your dog and for you.
What is Canicross?
Canicross is a cross-country running sport with dogs (usually one or two). The dog is attached to the runner by means of an elastic leash. The runner wears a belt to attach the leash, and the dog wears a special harness to run safely.
The idea is that the dog runs in front, carrying its load (which is the runner, i.e. you) to the finish line. From behind, you will have to direct the dog with voice commands. Along the way, you have to make left and right turns, as well as increase and decrease speed.
It is an excellent sport for both of you since, in addition to the physical exercise, it works the dog's mental stimulation and allows him to use his brain in a working mode. In your case, you will have a lot of fun and reinforce your status as the alpha of the pack.
Whether it is simply for fun, exercise, training, or competition, it is a very enjoyable activity.
Canicross was born in Europe as a form of physical training for sled dogs or those engaged in mushing (sled racing) during the summer, when there is no snow. It became very popular in the United Kingdom and later throughout Europe. Eventually, it became a regulated sport.
Some variants of the sport are Bikejoring (with bicycles) and Skijoring (with skis).
The first Canicross event took place in 2000. It is, therefore, a very young sport, but it enjoys great acceptance and has spread throughout Europe at great speed. This sport can be enjoyed at all levels, from beginner to elite.
What are the benefits of Canicross?
Canicross has many benefits for both you and your dog:
- Bones, ligaments, and joints. To run with your dog, it is important that you both get in shape progressively. Soft grounds reduce the impact on bones, ligaments, and joints. It is very important to train intelligently in order to be in perfect physical shape and avoid injuries.
- Cardiovascular system. Canicross stimulates the cardiovascular system, so your heart, lungs, and circulatory system will work better.
- You will sleep better. Both you and your dog will come back tired and very happy. Your dog will be less nervous and you will both sleep soundly. So it is the ideal sport for hyperactive dogs.
- Better bonding with your dog. Your dog will learn to listen to you. Dogs like to have something to do, be rewarded, and feel they have a role in the pack. They are made to work. With Canicross, you will satisfy this need and strengthen the relationship you have with your dog.
- Mood. With exercise, your mood, your confidence, and your ability to concentrate will improve. Your dog will also feel better and happier. A good physical condition is essential for a long and healthy life.
- An alternative to walking. Canicross can be an alternative to daily walks. Of course, it is also necessary to take a leisurely walk and relax. But once in a while, it's good to break the routine. A 20-minute session of Canicross and you and your dogs will go home tired and satisfied.
Having said this, it is necessary to make a recommendation: if you have never done much physical exercise or gone running with your dog, the first thing you should do is a medical check-up. Consult your doctor and veterinarian in case there is any reason that would advise against this activity. This is something that should always be done before undergoing intense physical exercise. Both you and your dog should do this activity safely.
To achieve proper fitness, you will need time and perseverance. It is important to exercise progressively, increasing the time and intensity as your bodies respond. Within a year of training, you will have great results and both you and your dog will be eager to go for a run to release energy and have a fun and healthy time together.
Can any dog do Canicross?
In principle, Canicross can be done with any dog, whatever its breed or size. As long as your dog is fit, healthy, of the right age, and able to run, you can do Canicross with him.
However, there are some breeds especially gifted to practice Canicross, such as:
- Sled dogs, such as Malamutes or Huskies.
- Large hunting dogs, such as the Braco.
- Border Collie
- German Shepherd
- Belgian Shepherd
- Labrador Retriever
- Airedale Terrier
- Jack Russell Terrier
Although the participation of any breed is not forbidden, you must be careful with brachycephalic dogs. If you have one of these dogs (Pug, French Bulldog, Bulldog ...), Canicross is not the most suitable sport for him, since due to its morphology, the brachycephalic dog has great respiratory difficulties.
The recommended age of the dog to start Canicross is between 12 and 18 months. Small breeds can reach adulthood at around 9 months and large breeds at up to 18 months. It is important that the dog is well developed.
In the meantime, you can introduce the concept of Canicross gradually. For example, you can go hiking by leading the dog in front and teaching him the directional commands.
What equipment do I need to do Canicross?
The basic equipment for Canicross consists of a belt for you, a padded harness for the dog and a 2 meter bungee cord to connect you and the dog and cushion the effect of jerks or sudden changes.
The harness should fit comfortably. You should be able to insert your fingers around the neck, chest, and waist. The comfort and, above all, the safety of your dog should be your first concern. A cheap or ill-fitting harness can cause chafing, restrict shoulder movement, or compress the airway. Make sure it does not hinder your dog's breathing or compress his rib cage.
The point of connection to the leash is very important. In mushing, it is a little above the dog's tail. In Canicross, the connection to the runner is slightly higher, so it needs to be a slightly shorter harness than typical sled harnesses.
Give it a try and go for a run with your dog. If he wheezes, it means something is compressing his breathing. Watch his movement. If he is off-balance or the harness is sagging, perhaps the fit between the harness and the leash is not right.
A good quality leash is key to absorbing bumps and tangles well. It is important that you use a shock-absorbing lanyard to absorb shock in the case of sudden jerks or strong pulls. The elasticity of the rope has to absorb them so that you and your dog do not feel the impact.
The standard length for Canicross is 2 meters. If it is too long, it can cause you to trip or allow the dog to run off the path. If it is too short, it will pull the dog's back and you will collide.
A strong, secure sash or hip belt is essential to be able to run hands-free and absorb the dog's pull comfortably. This belt must fit properly so that the dog's pull is distributed around the hips, protecting your lower back. These belts are secured to the legs with a leash. In this way, the runner's body is kept upright and the pull is distributed between the hips and buttocks, which are the strongest parts of your body.
Trail running shoes, such as those used in Spartan or mountain running, are very suitable when running off-road, as they adapt well to unstable or muddy terrain, preventing you from slipping, and also allow you to go up and down hills or run on uneven terrain without injury. Good footwear, suitable for the sport you are doing, is always very important.
Wear comfortable running clothes. During the winter, wear layers that you can put on and take off easily, including a raincoat. In the summer, clothing should be lighter. Don't forget sunscreen and a hat with a visor to protect your head. It's a good idea to carry a change of clothes in the car, including socks and shoes, so you can be dry and comfortable at the end of the race.
How can I train my dog for Canicross?
- If you are not used to running together, both you and your dog need to improve your fitness. Don't try to run long distances the first few days.
- Start with a light workout and teach him the commands. Increase the intensity gradually, taking care not to overwork them, especially when their joints and bones are forming.
- Consult your veterinarian before practicing this sport and follow his recommendations.
- The main risk for your dog in a race is dehydration, so make sure you have water and a container to carry it during the race.
- Avoid running in high temperatures.
The commands my dog must learn to do Canicross and how to teach them to him
Many Canicross runners use mushers (sled runners) terms to guide their dog. However, you can use any term as long as your dog understands it and knows what you want him to do. Practice these commands regularly so that the dog will obey you during the run.
The basic directions your dog should learn are listed below, with the corresponding "musher" command:
- Go right: Gee
- Go left: Haw
- Forward: Forward
- Ignore go forward: On by
- Use more pulling force to pull: Hike on
- Accelerate or start: Let's go
- Slow down: Steady/Easy
- Stand still looking ahead: Stand /Line Out/Whoa
As we said at the beginning, the commands you are going to use are your choice. But when training commands with your dog, you should train calmly and use praise when he does well, in the same way that you teach him basic obedience.
It is best if you do not use treats, so that the dog concentrates on the lead in front of him and does not turn to look at you. Your dog should eventually run forward and obey your commands without turning his head.
You can use your body to help speed or slow down. If you speed up, your dog should do the same. If you slow down, too. To slow down, use your body weight by leaning back on the belt and lengthen your stride to help slow down without getting tangled in the leash.
When the training session is over, give your dog fresh water, reward him with a treat, remove his harness, and praise his work with lots of praise. It is important that he knows he did well at the end of each session. The more positive the endings are, the harder the dog will work to make you happy.
And above all, enjoy running with your dog. This is the most important thing.
What is a Canicross race like?
There are many different categories in Canicross, depending on several factors, such as:
- Age of the runners.
- Sex of the runners.
- Size of the dogs.
- Distance of the race.
A typical full-distance race usually covers more than 10 kilometers, but there are shorter competitions of 5 or 2 kilometers.
Because dogs do not sweat and have difficulty losing body heat when running, official events are held only when the temperature does not exceed 20ºC (68ºF).
- Canicross is a cross-country race with dogs.
- It is an excellent way to get physical exercise.
- It also provides your dog with mental stimulation.
- Canicross has many benefits for your dog and for you.
- It is advisable to have a medical check-up and take your dog to the vet before starting to compete.
- Canicross can be done with any dog, although some breeds are more suitable than others.
- It is not recommended for brachycephalic dogs.
- It is important that you use a belt that distributes the load, a leash with cushioning, and a specific harness for Canicross.
- Start training gently and gradually increase the time and intensity.
- Teach your dog the directional commands before starting to compete.