If you’re like many canine companions who run and keep fit with their four-legged friends, you’d love canicross – a dog-powered sport – where the human is the driver, directing the dog from behind with voice commands, says Siddhartha Singh
First of all, you need a willing human who is ready to run. Secondly, you need a dog, and thankfully they are almost always up for fun, including running. Now you have the main components, so you’re almost ready to go. Canicross is the sport of cross country running with dogs and since it is dog-powered, so they are harnessed, attached to the human and run as a team. The human is the driver, directing the dog – or two dogs – from behind with voice commands. The runner typically wears a waist belt, the dog a harness, and the two are joined by a bungee cord or elastic line that reduces shock to both human and dog when the dog pulls.
Canicross not only is a great method to get a human and a canine fit, but works the dog’s mind and allows them to use their brain in a work mode. Originating in Europe as off-season training for the mushing (sledding) community, it has become popular as a stand-alone sport all over Europe, especially in the UK. Canicross is closely related to Bikejoring, where participants cycle with their dog and skijoring, where participants ski rather than run.
Originally, canicross dogs were of sledding or spitz types such as the husky or malamute, but now all breeds have begun taking part including cross breeds, small terrier breeds to large breeds such as rottweilers and standard poodles. As long as your dog is fit, healthy, of the right age and able to run, you can really canicross with any dog. Working breeds tend to be the more popular breed for this sport. Always consult your vet when unsure. Not only can all breeds run but people of all ages and abilities can take part, including children and the disabled such as the visually impaired. Some breeds are very well suited to not only running and pulling but running at steady pace over a long distance. It encourages people and their dogs to take part in outdoor activity and meet other like-minded individuals. Dogs can race after they reach 12-18 months of age, you can start some light training with them a few months before this to allow them to get used to being in a harness and to teach them their commands, then gradually build this up, always be careful not to over work the dogs when their joints and bones are still forming. For larger breeds it is important to wait a bit longer to build up greater miles. Again always consult your vet for advice. Equipment can be a bit of a minefield, it is like anything in life, there are options that work for one and not the other. The basic key factors for equipment are a good comfortable fitting harness, which is suitable for running. A bungee line/lead and a waist/hip belt for the runner.
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