What is canicross?
This is a fairly common question, so, what is canicross and why is it different to just 'running' with your dog?
Canicross, simply put is running with your dog. The aim of the game is to have your dog out directly in front of you, in a specific pulling harness, attached to you via a bungee line whilst you wear a running harness.
So unlike just going for a walk, you do need special equipment to enable you to run safely in a more controlled manner. The bonus with this is that if your dog really enjoys canicross, and you get some 'pull power' from your dog. This makes hill work easier, but you do need to work on training your dog, and yourself to work together as a team!
I know at first glance it does sound complicated, but actually the basics of it aren't so difficult to put into place once you have someone break it down for you.
Running, canicross style with your dog is fun for you, as well as your dog. Great for bonding, training as well as getting excess energy out in a controlled environment. More importantly it gives dogs a 'job' to do, and for those working breeds this is fantastic! Not only do they get to learn something new on each run, they get to exercise, have fun and also have that work drive gap filled.
This also means that dogs with poor recall, high prey drive or those that can be a little unpredictable normally excel at canicross. As they are physically attached to you at all times whilst running your stress levels are lower and you enjoy the time you spend with your dog more.
So do to this safely there are a few basics you MUST check off first.
1). Your dog must be of a suitable age, and of good sound health for you to run with them.
2)You must have a well fitted harness for yourself and your dog to avoid unnecessary injury on either part.
3). You need to use a correct style of line/lead, these vary from canicrosser to canicrosser, some prefer something shorter, others like the length. But it MUST have a bungee section in it, this is a safety feature, that looks small, but has a huge and very important job.
Finally, you need a sense of adventure, willingness to get muddy and a good sense of humor.
Puppies! It is very easy to want to get carried away and run your dog too early. Each breed has different growth rates, the generally accepted rule is that you should wait until your dog is 12-18 months old before you do any serious running. In order to prevent any damage to young growing bodies.
However you can work on commands, many canicross commands translate beautifully into every day walks/life with your canine companion. These can be worked on each day, in the home, garden, local park and woods. Building up a positive association with these commands in many different location will give you a massive head start. You do not need a harness for work on these commands, you can start out on your walks or in your gardens. Simple things such as left and right, and close are easy to work on.
The majority of the commands can be taught from a young age out of harness and can then be incorporated into your running.
As with training a dog to do anything, it takes time, patience, kindness and positive reinforcement! Once your dog is old enough to run in harness, pairing up with a more experience canicrosser, or coming on a group run with help dramatically. Before you know it you will both be clocking up the miles surprisingly fast.
In my next blog post I will go into more depth about harnesses, and other equipment. But if you are interested in knowing more before then, please do shoot me an email!