Are you an active person? Does your dog have a lot of energy? Perhaps you’ve run out of ways to keep them occupied. Canicross might be the perfect dog sport for both of you.
What is Canicross? Canicross is a dog sport that mixes cross country running with dog mushing. A person is attached to a dog. The dog runs out in the front and helps pull the person along with them. In back, the person gives the dog commands on where to turn and when to go straight.
Canicross is a bit more difficult than just running with your dog with a rope connecting you together. You need the proper equipment and training in order to be successful and safe. Read on to determine just what you need in order to get started with this adventurous dog sport.
Canicross Background and History
Canicross is an offshoot of traditional dogsledding. It originated in Europe as a way to keep dogs fit and to train them for sledding. Because gravel and hard surfaces can tear up the paws of dogs, Canicross is never done on these surfaces. Instead, they are either held on stretches of lawn or on hiking trails.
This dog sport has gained popularity due to its demand for both dog and owner to be fit. Running together is always more enjoyable than running alone, especially when your canine best friend is there with you. For dogs, it gives them the exercise that they need. However, it also keeps their minds active. They have to listen to commands, obey those commands, remember what they mean, and watch out for obstacles or challenges on the trail ahead. Canicross is a great way to bolster your dog’s fitness and to keep them mentally stimulated.
Owners receive just as much of a benefit from Canicross. Their fitness levels are also pushed to the limit. It keeps their mind just as sharp, too, since they have to be able to command their dog at the perfect time in order to turn, slow, pass, and complete other obstacles or challenges perfectly. Finally, it allows the pet and owner to bond further. Accomplishments are performed together. It also means that they spend a lot of time together. Obedience training is enhanced when coupled with a dog sport like Canicross. This can make life at home a lot smoother and less prone to doggie bad behavior, too.
Getting Started with Canicross
Dogs are not able to race in Canicross events until they are 12-18 months old. That doesn’t mean you can’t start training them before that though. In fact, puppies can learn a lot through Canicross training. It can be coupled with obedience training to ensure that their energy is released while learning how to behave.
You also need to make sure that you are at the required fitness level to compete. Your dog may be hauling you but you need to be able to keep up with them. Training should begin with walking. Your puppy should be acclimated to the outdoors and all of the distractions that they offer. You should teach them how to ignore other people and dogs. It’s best to ensure that they know to ignore squirrels and other animals, too. Otherwise, if your dog spots one during a Canicross, you might end up being hauled off of the trail and after the animal instead.
Teach them commands that they’ll need to know during a race. Commands like go, stop, turn left, turn right, slow down, and speed up are essential. As they learn these, you can offer other advanced commands that they can benefit from during the race.
Once they are familiar with the commands, you can start running together. It’s not a bad idea just to go for a simple run to work up both of your endurance levels. Then it’s time to train with the harness. Take frequent breaks and be sure not to overwork your dog–or yourself.
The Canicross Setup – What Equipment Is Needed?
You’ll only need a few pieces of equipment to be ready for a Canicross race. The first is a harness. This should fit your dog perfectly, so it’s not a bad idea to get them fitted specifically for your dog. Make sure the harness is for running and not mushing with a sled.
You’ll also need a line to connect the hardness to yourself. The best kind of line for Canicross has a bungee integration to allow some give. This line will attach to a belt which is another piece of equipment that you need. The belt should latch to your hips securely.
For yourself, ensure you have good running shoes and hiking clothes.
Canicross Gear Checklist
- Dog Harness (specific for running)
- Line with a bungee portion
- Belt for the runner
- Running Shoes
Best Canicross Dog Breeds
The best breeds for Canicross are those that just love to run. Any dog can be used for a Canicross but working dogs are the most popular. So, Shepherds, Huskies, Dalmatians, Golden Retrievers, and Pointers are all great options.
That being said, even smaller dogs can perform well in Canicross. As long as your dog is healthy, enjoys running, and can keep up a good pace, then they’re an excellent fit for Canicross. Even if you don’t win, at least both you and your dog are staying fit and having a great time.
What to Expect with a Canicross Race
Canicross races are the best places to talk with fellow dog lovers. You can expect a lot of love for man’s best friend. Depending on each individual race, there are a few rules and regulations that you are expected to follow. Your dog must at least be a one-year-old in order to race. Race organizers will shut down a race if it becomes too hot.
This is because dogs can overheat easily in hot temperatures. While they may still allow you to run the course, at the very least, the competition itself will be postponed or canceled. In addition, there are regular water breaks throughout the course. The longer the distance is, the more water breaks there are. These water breaks are for both the owners and for the dogs. There are usually also pools or cool towels that can be used to help keep dogs cool at the start and finish of a race.
A Canicross race can be a huge affair. Vendors may show up to sell their wares, food trucks and other catering services may be called in to offer food to the runners and spectators, and the excitement will be running high.
Depending on the race, you might be released one-at-a-time or all at once. If you’re released one-at-a-time, then it’s usually because the trail itself is quite tight. You’ll be timed from when you start to when you finish. The person with the shortest time is the winner. For those that have a direct race and everyone is released together, the first one to the finish line is the winner.
It’s not uncommon for other dog sport activities to occur alongside Canicross. So, you might see Bikejorers and other athletes joining the event, too.
Once you receive your number, you’ll wait to be called to the starting point. Then you’ll run with your dog taking the lead until you’ve come to the finish.
What are the most important Canicross dog commands?
Most runners use mush commands to direct their dog. As such, the most important commands that your dog needs to know are Go Gee (to go right), Go Haw (to go left), Forward, On By (to pass or ignore something), Hike On (to pull harder), Let’s Go (to speed up or start), Steady (to slow down), and Stand (to stand still).
Is Canicross good for dogs?
No one wants to introduce a sport or activity to their dog that might hurt them. Luckily, Canicross is great for your dog. It keeps them fit, keeps their mind sharp since they need to respond to commands, and it bolsters the bond between owner and pet. It’s also a great way for dog owners to stay in shape, too.