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Canicross – the sport of champions! Is it for you?  Here’s what you need to know to get started!

People running in a Canicross competition.

What is Canicross?  Canicross is cross-country running with your dog.  It is a popular sport in Europe and the U.K.  It was originally intended to provide sledding dogs with summer exercise and training but has turned into a global sport with world championship titles.  The word Canicross comes from the combination of ‘canine’ and ‘cross-country’ running. It has also been called urban mushing.  

Canicross is a very unique sport.  Instead of just running with your dog, you run with your dog tethered to you by a special bungee type leash and harness that allows them to get full range of motion in their shoulders. The idea is that instead of pulling a sled, your dog pulls you. It is a great sport for those that love running, trails and the great outdoors.  Sound interesting?  Read on!

This video gives you a little overview of the sport:

 

Canicross can be done on all terrains – forests, trails, mountains, and beaches.  In fact, the more varied the terrain, the better equipped your dog will be to handle any trail you take them to.  This video captures some amazing beach Canicross footage:

Interestingly enough, running with a dog makes you a faster runner.  Even though they are tethered to you, in order to keep the right balance between you, you have to find a pace that suits you both.  As we all know, dogs run fast so running with them means you move faster.  Check out this video showing a man timing his run with his dog and without his dog.  There is a real difference in speed!

The key to getting a good pace going and running successfully together is getting your dog to push into the harness and run in front of you.  That way they actually move you along a little faster.  Check out this video of a champion Canicrosser:

You can do Canicross with any size or breed of dog.  The key is making sure that you both like running!  Puppies should not participate until they are over 1.5 years old.  If you are curious which dogs are considered the best running partners, here’s our top 10 round up:

  • Weimaraner
  • Dalmatian
  • Viszla
  • German Shorthaired Pointer
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • English Springer Spaniel
  • American Foxhound
  • Saluki
  • Belgian Malinois

Once you have your running buddy picked out, you should get the Vet to check that your dog is healthy and has an open airway.  Then, you can get the equipment.  There are essentially 3 pieces of equipment that you need for Canicross:

  • Running harness for your dog
  • Bungee leash
  • Waist/hip belt for yourself to attach the bungee to

You should ensure that the harness allows the dog comfortable and full range of motion. You want to make sure that the harness does not push on their chest or rib cage and that it is shorter so that the dog doesn’t get pulled up when running with you.  The bungee leash is designed to absorb shock when you and your pup start running.  You want to make sure that the leash is not too long or too short. The standard length is 2 meter fully stretched.  Finally, your waist belt should allow for expansion for when you wear more layers.  A hip belt is usually used by stronger runners. 

Once you have your equipment, you can start incorporating short bursts of running into your daily walks and after a while, move to longer distance running. 

One critical skill to teach your dog is to listen to commands.  There are standard commands that are used, which are similar to those used by mushers.  You don’t have to use these commands.  Basically, you want to make sure your dog understands commands for directions, slow down, speed up, and stand still.  To get a sense of how to teach the commands, check out this video:

If Canicross sounds interesting to you, you may also want to check out Bikejor and Skijor.  Bikejor is based on the same concept - a cyclist is tethered to their dog who runs in front of them.  Skijor is similar.  It involves a skier who is tethered to their dog who runs in front of them.  Canicross is unique in that the runner cannot rely on a bike or skis to propel them and help them keep up with the dog.

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