In my previous post I covered 'What is Canicross'. So check that out if you haven't, today my blog post will run over some of the basics.
The basics in canicross can be a broad and as in depth as you like. In my mind canicross should be open and accessible to anyone with a dog, and a sense of adventure.
Essentially you have two types of canicross. Competitive, and non competitive. My sole focus is on non competitive canicross, removing the pressure alleviates a lot of the stress and allows those to join groups and feel involved from the beginning. It also eliminates some of the elitism and prejudices you can experience in some groups.
One of the best things about canicross is the like minded people you meet along your way and the friendships you build up. I have run with people I never thought I would be able to keep up with, and discovered that actually they had the same anxiety about me! So it goes to show that whatever you are feeling about your new run buddy, they might be feeling too.
Things you need to take into consideration for your dog to be able to run with you, some of these might be obvious, however it is all worth taking into consideration.
Age, so how old is your dog? If your dog is too young the pressure will be too much and can cause lasting damage, similarly if they are too old. So it pays to think about what breed or breed style your dog is, and their eventual size in regards to their bone growth. Equally if you have a more mature dog, it is worth thinking over their physical health and consulting with your vet to get their professional opinions. So make a note for when you next visit the vets, have a chat with them regarding your dogs over all health to make sure they will enjoy their runs with you.
Many competitive canicrossers will run with big 'Euro Hounds', greysters, (greyhound/pointer mixes), pointers or other other mixes including labs, spaniels etc. Just because your dog is small, doesn't mean it won't be a 'pocket rocket', equally just because you have a large dog, doesn't mean your dog will be a good puller.
Be aware of any hereditary/physical conditions that might flag up, so dogs with short noses for example you will need to be very very aware of their breathing and even more so aware of the weather conditions. Another example of physical conditions would be dogs such as husky types, those dogs are bred to work, however in the warm weather months it would be incredibly cruel to run them with those thick coats.
Factor in your dogs personality in your decisions to run. You must be aware of your dog when you are running, you are working as a team together. The majority of dogs, even the most fearful will love running, and even more so in a group. As all the other dogs are in harness and focused on their task it allows fearful dogs the ability to be in a group of dogs and not be bothered by them. However it does take a little bit of time to build up this positive association. Start out by running with one other more experienced canicrosser and build up from there. Be aware that the more dogs you run with, the more exciting it is for your dog, and the more the tend to pull. So be prepared for that.
You will also have to be aware of your surroundings, be considerate to others in the area, pass slowly and wide of walkers, cyclists, horse riders etc. Wear bright colored clothing so that you are visible from a distance especially at night, if you are night running, head torches, and reflective clothing are also a must.
Preparation for you as a runner or for starting to run:
I will preface this by saying that I am not a PT, I do have a qualification in sports, but that is from a very very long time ago and if I am honest I can't remember a huge amount.
Things I have learnt that have proved invaluable.
Core strength, say it with me everyone, CORE STRENGTH this will be one of the most valuable tools you have for running with your dog. The most amazing part is, it will not take you long to work on building this up, and it really will help you, especially if you are running with a large dog.
Flexibility, pilates and yoga. One of my friends is a fantastic canicrosser, actually she was the one who got me into it. The amount of times she would nag, nag and nag me to stretch out post run and on off days, to do yoga etc was absolutely unbelievable, and yes A...you were right, there I said it, in writing.
So work on your flexibility, you can do it with online classes, youtube, ''yoga with Adriene'' is one of my favorites, or if you have a local pilates/yoga class, treat yourself to them once a week.
This will help to improve your run dramatically.