Would you believe there is an actually recognised sport where you and your fluffy little pooch can enter together and enjoy together?! Another special bond for you pair to share (other than those daft dog antics that never fail to amuse us; from refusing to go walkies to stealing the Thanksgiving turkey off the side).
Cani-cross, a sport of running off-road with your dog (or two) is growing in popularity as more dog lovers and dog owners sign up. Gone are the days where it originally set out for the sledging types of the Huskeys or Malamutes. But now all breeds have come to the table (I’ve even spotted a pug and a chihuahua on a course!)so no matter size or shape, you and your furry friend are more than welcome to canine cross events all over the world.
The other fantastic thing about cani-cross is that whilst it is inclusive of all breeds, it also doesn’t require you to be super fit (or frankly even a regular runner) to take part – it’s a wonderful way to meet new people, new dogs and run or walk across some beautiful courses from all over.
It is also an incredible opportunity for dogs with high energy levels or behavioural issues where they cannot come off the leash for whatever reason. And also for those with rescue dogs, it is an invaluable way to socialise them. Not only do they benefit from running amongst other dogs in a group but they pick up verbal commands quickly, and this all speeds up that special relationship and trust they have with their new owner. Of course, these benefits are not just for our four-legged friends, reports show that runners participating have improved mental health and wellbeing experiences. Making friends with like-minded people all help motivation and can provide unparalleled support.
Perhaps you’ve been out with your dog for safety whilst training, or a nice companion when it gets lonely on those trails; now, they can enjoy race day with you. And I have to say; it’s an experience like no other.
Thanks to the Europeans for coming up with this phenomenon, alongside skijorring (skiing with your dog pulling out in-front) and bikejoring (cycling off-road with your dog pulling out in-front), would you try any of these other sports with your pooch?
How do I get started?
Good question. And the beauty of this sport (like running alone really) is that it’s a very simple and straightforward activity (the most complicated part is not to get tangled up in the leash).
You, the owner wears a running belt (yup a hands-free event) and your dog will wear a harness. You are attached to each other via a bungee cord or elastic of some kind – to reduce the shock when your dog starts pulling away (we’ve all experienced that when they see a squirrel or cat, right?). And that’s all the kit you need (bar some suitable running shoes).
However if fitness is a concern for you, or perhaps you need little extra support on what to expect then DogFit offers international classes, and crazy free information online on how to get the balance, bond and confidence with your furry friend before entering a race event.
It goes without saying, but please make sure your pooch has the all-clear from the vet before starting an exercise plan (just as we would). And take it slowly, building their endurance up a bit by bit. Start with smaller bursts of running incorporated during into their walk and increase the time, over time.
*Also note, that a Vet will not permit a puppy to partake in such an event until they have stopped growing around ages 18 months for most breeds.
What If I have two dogs?
This might be one of those times where more isn’t ALWAYS merrier. Of course, if you are up for the challenge then by all means two dogs are manageable. If their sizes and capabilities are similar I don’t see any issue, neither do the canicrossusa folk! (I mean you’ll be training with them beforehand, so you’d know better than me).
Tell me about the canicross kit
The canicross kit is very straightforward and made specifically for the Sport. The runner, (or human, however you wish to see it) must wear a running belt that ideally is lightweight, and sits on your hips, or just about the buttocks. Ideally, the belt has adjustable leg straps, so any excitable pull or unexpected jarring from your dog will be through the hips and not cause any back pain.
The belt would have loops or places of attachment for the bungee cord, the elastic leash of your dog. Who ideally is out in front leading the way. He or she, would need a specially designed, and securely fitted Canicross harness, purpose build for ease and comfort with its attachment area for the elastic leash.
The specialist equipment helps to absorb any pull from your dog but also gives you the hands-free movement to enjoy running freely. Perhaps your pooch is wonderfully obedient off a lead, however, CaniCross rules state they must be attached to you at all times.
So how about it? Let your dog be part of your training and truly enrich and encourage that incredible dog-owner bond we all know too well. Try canicross, and let me know how it goes!