Source: Harold Meerveld
Did you know that running with your dog is considered a sport? It’s called canicross and it’s becoming increasingly popular.
Off-road jogging makes for an excellent health activity for you and your pet. Tapping into our natural endurance and the dog’s historical role as a helper, canicross can trace its ancestry back thousands of years.
With some simple equipment, it’s possible to transform runs into bonding time. What’s more, regular exercise can improve your dog’s behaviour by giving them a physical outlet for their energy.
What Equipment Do I Need?
Canicross has the major benefit of requiring little equipment. You will need:
- A bungee or elasticated cord
- A waist belt
- A harness for the dog
The bungee cord connects your waist belt to the dog’s harness, absorbing shock when pulled while giving both of you some freedom of movement.
By using modern canicross equipment, it’s possible to reduce unnecessary discomfort. A full-body harness lets your dog pull from its chest, mimicking the action used to pull a sled. This not only psychologically pushes your dog to run, but creates a clear distinction between canicross and regular walking.
How Can I Train my Dog?
Although running comes naturally to dogs, they must be retrained for canicross. Because dogs are accustomed to following their owner, or simply exploring within the perimeters of their lead, it’s important to teach them to pull forward.
The primary action of canicross is that of a dog leading its owner. Because this is often more control than the dog is used to, they must be adjusted slowly.
A recognisable trail will help your dog familiarise itself with the action of canicross. Choose one of your pet’s favourite spots; running in an open field can be confusing as there’s no defined route.
When your dog pulls out in front, try encouraging them with rewards and praise. This will teach them that it’s alright to lead.
Having trouble with this method?
An alternative solution is to get a friend or family member to run in front of your dog. This will give the animal a direction to move towards while letting them get used to the sensation of the harness. Eventually, they will be able to lead naturally.
Source: Harold Meerveld
What Precautions Should I Take?
Take a look at your dog. They seem to have infinite amounts of energy, right? Unfortunately, your dog is more fragile than you might think.
With younger dogs, it’s vital not to exhaust them. Strenuous activity can actually cause irreversible damage. Before 12 months, a puppy’s growth plates are not yet closed. These soft areas of growing tissue can’t handle the physical strain that an adult dog’s joints can.
Dogs are also susceptible to dehydration. Take a water bottle with you and let your pet stop for a drink whenever necessary.
The following is important:
Humans have the best endurance of any animal. We sweat through our entire skin and only have to control 2 legs. Any animal is going to struggle to match our endurance - even if they can easily outrun us over short distances. We literally evolved for endurance running. Dogs? Not so much.
Increase the lengths of your runs gradually and keep an eye on how your pet is doing. Don’t force them to take part in exercise and never run in hot weather. Because dogs primarily sweat through pads on their feet, a hot surface will stop them from regulating temperature as efficiently.
A hot day or simple over exertion can cause some very serious problems for your pet very quickly.
Is My Dog Right for Canicross?
The quickest solution to health concerns is to tailor exercise for your pet. Running with your dog should be a fun activity for both of you, but some breeds take to it more naturally than others.
Although dogs in the Spitz family like the Siberian Husky are generally the most popular - having been bred for endurance running in the Arctic - most breeds can be trained to run alongside humans.
Dogs with shorter skulls (Brachycephalic breeds like the Bulldog) won’t be able to handle prolonged exercise due to inherent breathing problems.
On the other hand, dogs built entirely for speed (like the Greyhound) simply don’t have the endurance for canicross.
Dogs like the German Shorthaired Pointer, the Dalmatian, and the Rhodesian Ridgeback make excellent running partners. Check out this awesome interactive graph we recently created to find out if your dog is suitable! To see the whole graph with all its functions, click here.
Canicross can be an enriching activity for you and your pet. By working together and getting regular exercise, your canine companion can live up to their potential while keeping you in shape. With minimal equipment, canicross is one of the easiest, most rewarding sports to take part in.