What Is Canicross?

Canicross is the sport of cross country running for you and your dog.  Your dog is attached to you through a human running belt and a dog harness, optimized for the safety and comfort of both runners.  Your dog runs out in front of you pulling its cargo to the finish line.  Along the trails your dog is instructed to take left and right turns, speed up and slow down. 

Canicross is the ultimate training for you and your dog, it increases your bond and enforces your status as the alpha in the pack.  After each fitness session you will find that your dog is knackered, compared to just taking a stroll around a park.

Canicross is mainstream within the UK & Ireland albeit still gaining status.  There are amateur events, fun runs and more daring events such as European Championships or the World Championships. 

Canicross is great for getting out of the house and socialising with animal lovers and of course getting fit.  If you struggle to keep fit due to lack of time, then why not replace a couple of your weekly walks with Canicross.  Your dog will love you for it, we promise!

If you are looking to get fit and exercise your dog we can vouch that it is one of the best ways to train your dog and bring out his/her natural energy.  Have a google locally to see what Canicross clubs and fitness classes are near you and take the leap.

Canicross History

Using dogs to pull started by pulling sleds as early as 2000 BC.  It is believed that it originated in Siberia or North America.  Sled Dogs have been used for many transportation means such as goods, reaching the South Pole, bringing supplies to soldiers in the field,  ambulances and much more.  It is only in the last few hundred years that our companions have become less busy due to modernization.  Canicross is the modern way to keep our dogs busy, bringing the pull back in aid of getting of fit. Sled dogs are still used today in some rural communities, especially in areas of Alaska, Canada and throughout Greenland.  They are also used for recreational purposes and racing events, such as Iditarod Trail and the Yukon Quest.

What Age To Start Canicrossing?

The recommended age to start Canicrossing is between 12 months and 18 months.  Small breeds can reach adulthood at around 9 months and large breeds up to 18 months.  It is important to allow your puppy to grow.  In the meantime you can slowly introduce canicross concepts such as hiking out in front and directional commands. 

What Equipment Do I Need For Canicross?

Running Belt

The running belt is what you will wear.  Some people prefer the running belt to sit up high.  We would recommend a running belt that pulls from hips and bum rather than the lower back.  The hips and bum are a stronger part of your body and is a more stable platform for the pull of your dog.  We would recommend the Non Stop Running Belt which sold as one size fits all.  We have tested many running belts and have found this belt to be the most efficient and of high quality.  The only downside is the pocket is very small for storing items.  On top of the belt we usually wear a bum bag as well to store our items such as phone, car keys and a small water bottle.

Canicross Harness

No doubt this is the most important kit in Canicross.  Your number one concern is safety and comfort for your dog whilst he/she is pulling.  An inferior harness will incur rubbage so do not buy a cheap harness.  Again our recommended brand is Non Stop, however there are other alternatives such as Dragratten and Kisi.  Non Stop fits most dogs, however some irregular shaped dogs need a different brand.  Check out Non Stops fitting guide further down this page.

Bungee Line

The Bungee Line is the umbilical cord between you and your dog, they come in 1m to 2.8m running lines.  Starting out we would recommend a parkrun line which is a 1m running line.  You can be more flexible where you buy the line, just make sure it is a bungee line and has good flex in it to absorb shock.

Bum Bag

We Would recommend getting a bum bag so you can store your car keys, mobile phone and poo bags.  A bum bag that is cushioned and can be adjusted will do.

Trail Shoes

Most Canicross events are cross country on slippy terrain.  Trail shoes are a must.  Shoes are the most complicated part of running, there are shoes we find comfortable and work for our body, but may not work for you.  Personally we use Altra minimalist trail shoes, however these may not work for your body.  Finding the right shoes is important, our advice is to listen to your body if you buy a pair.  If you feel abnormal pain in the achilles, heel or lower limbs, switching shoes may help.  If in doubt visit a foot specialist for recommendations.

What To Wear

We always start off cold when running.  Not unless it is a trip in the mountains you don’t need to wear loads of layers.  On a rainy winters day a t-shirt and a light wind protector is sufficient for your upperbody.  If you are going to a Canicross event it is vital to bring warm clothing and waterproofs as you will be standing about socialising before and after the event.

Fitting Advice

Check out the videos below for fitting advice. 

Non Stop Canicross Harness Sizing Charts

Non Stop Full Harness

SizeMax Neck OpeningNeck CircumferenceBreed Examples
232cm26-31cmJack Russell Terrier
335cm28-33cmParson Russell Terrier
440cm33-36cmEnglish Cocker Spaniel
544cm36-40cmBorder Collie
648cm40-44cmHungarian Vizsla
752cm44-48cmGerman Shorthaired Pointer
856cm48-52cmGerman Shepherd
960cm52-56cmMalamute

Non Stop Half Harness

SizeHarness neck opening
230cm
334cm
440cm
546cm
652cm
758cm
864cm

Non Stop Starter Kit

Canicross Harness

Canicross Running Belt

Canicross Running Line

If you are just starting out and need all the kit we would recommend getting a starter kit, you will save money and it will start you of on good footing.  The only other things you will require is a good pair of trail shoes and optional kit like a bum bag.

Non Stop Full Harness

The Non Stop Full Length Harness is a versatile harness designed by the best in the world in Sled Dog Sports.  It is fitted by your dogs neck size, with a length and width that is fully adjustable.  This harness is best suited to dogs that pull consistently, ensuring a smooth and safe run for your dog.  The spine and the shoulders are free to move and ensures your dog pulls from its strongest and safest points.

There is also the Non Stop Half Harness that has multiple uses from light Canicross and simply going out on a hike.  It is fitted by your dogs neck size, and is adjustable around the ribcage. This harness provides a higher attachment point to your dog and is best suited to dogs who prefer to trot out in front, rather than pull vigorously.  The perfect harness for a hike up mountains.

Designed by the best in the sport, non stop harnesses will ensure a comfortable, safe and fun run for your dog.

Non Stop Running Belt

This belt is super comfortable.  It is designed so you are pulled from the hips and bum which is exactly where you want the pull to drive from as these are some of the strongest muscles in your body.  Getting belts that sit up higher on the lower back is not recommended as the lower back is not an efficient place to be pulled from. 

You can adjust the belt at the waist, legs and how high the bum part sits for the drive of your dog.  It is one size fit all,  there is a generous amount of sizing that can be adjusted depending on your dimensions.  

It also has a pocket on the bum section, however it is quite small.  We recommend to also get a bum bag so you can store your valuables such as car keys and phone. 

Bungee/Running Line

Just like all of Non Stops products the bungee line is of high quality.  They come in 2m and 2.8m lines.  The shorter 2m line is for Canicross and the 2.8m is for Bikejoring.  The reason the line is made of bungee is to absorb the shock for both your dog and yourself. 

There is also a handle on the line if you want to hold onto the line without it attached to your running belt or just simply want to use it as a leash for walkies.

Pricing

Non Stop is more expensive than other brands, however they are the best on the market and quality is more important, especially if you plan to make the sport a permanent fixture in you and your dog’s life.

Canicross Commands

The Commands

Since your dog is leading, you need to train him/her how to go left or right, ignore distractions, slow down, speed up and line out.  Canicross is more than just running with your dog, it is training your dog a set of commands along with the aid of pulling to get from A to B.  See below the essential commands that will be taught at our classes, some people prefer the musher terms, however as long as your dog understands and you are consistent it doesn’t matter.

“Go Gee” – Go Right

“Go Haw” – Go Left

“On By” – Ignore Distractions and Keep going

“Hike On” – Pull harder

“Lets Go” – Speeding up

“Stand/Line Out” – Preparing to move off.

Training your dog takes time, it doesn’t happen in just one session.  After a few months you will start to see a great improvement in how your dog responds to your commands.

Check Out Our 9 Reasons To Canicross

Encourages Healthy Bones, Ligaments & Joints

Running with your dog leads to a stronger body for both you and your dog.  Stronger Bones, Ligaments & Joints will give you and your dog a better quality of life.  Not only will you both feel the benefits, but you will be able to see the results.  Our fitness classes are progressive, the soft trails used reduces the impact that running on harder surfaces incur.  It has been scientifically proven that intelligent training creates a body that is able to withstand degenerative and inactive issues.  The Dog Trails team have extensive intense experience in various applications of producing a healthier body that can perform, but most importantly stay injury free, promoting a long and happier life.

Healthy Cardiovasular System

The Heart, Lungs and Circulatory System are extremely important for both Humans and Dogs.  Canicross will provide ample amounts of exercise to stimulate the Cardiovascular system, keeping yourself and your dog in tiptop condition.  Consistently exercising these vital functions will develop a strong Cardiovasular System, that not only can enable a faster run but more importantly will make the body more efficient at repairing, delivering nutrients and recovering faster from common illnesses.

Promotes Better Sleep 

One of the things you will notice coming to classes is that your dog will sleep after class.  They will be hungrier and more importantly content. You will notice when you go to work during the day that your dog is more content and less agitated.  It is very important for us as responsible dog owners that we provide our dog with activities that release all the energy they have.  This makes perfect sense when you think how active dogs should be.  For 1000s of years dogs have worked with humans, helping us with various tasks using their endurance and willingness to be part of the human pack.  It is only recently that dogs are becoming more sedentary.  This produces many issues: behavioural, obesity, unhealthy and generally an agitated dog.

Increases The Bond With Your Dog

You will notice your dog listens to you more.  Dogs like having things to do, they like to please, be rewarded and to feel like they have a part to play in the pack.  Have you ever noticed the dynamics of your dog, always watching, listening and wanting your attention.  They are primed for working.  Canicross provides this in abundance.  The commands used for directional work, increased speed, or the simple act of encouragement provides this boost; enduring physical tiredness together.

Improves Mood & Well Being

If you aren’t one for physical exercise, you may never have experienced the joy of becoming physically stronger.  It trickles into every aspect of life.  If you want to become more productive in life mentally, start by providing your body with the right stimulates to release the right chemicals and further produce a body that is less tired and can endure more.  It will improve mood, confidence and focus.  Your dog will feel better, more content, be in physically good condition and live a longer life with less medical issues further on.

Saves Time

An hour of Canicross or an hour of walking your dog, which one provides more stimulation.  Definitely Canicross, although it is also important for your dog to have off the lead time to relax and enjoy the simple sniffs.  A 20 minute Canicross or bikejor session will tire your dog as if they were on a day trip.

Socialises Your Dog

Dogs will become more stable when participating in Canicross due to the act of socialising them with other dogs.  Their energy becomes focused on Canicross which leads to an excitement, if you have ever seen a Canicross race event you will know the excitement experienced by puppers ready to race.  Reactive dogs can be socialised into the Canicross environment.  We give reactive dogs space, overtime they will learn that Canicross is a good thing and that their classmates are not that bad.  

Meet New People

Ever wondered where all the dog lovers are.  Come to Canicross classes and meet them.  You will meet wonderful people that are a joy to be around.  The people that come to our classes are animal lovers that want the best for their dog through nutrition, exercise and love.  You do not need to be fit to join our classes, however we want you fit and we will make you fit if you come to us regularly.

Be active

Having something to do, a hobby and routine is important.  It will provide you and your dog a better quality of life long term.  It will take time and it will be hard work.  A year of Canicross training will see results for both yourself and your dog, you will learn things about yourself and about your dog.  Your dog will be raring to go for a run to release energy.  More importantly you will both be happier.  

Canicross Hiking

It is important to not overdo Canicrossing.  What we do to stimulate our dogs energy is to provide 1 to 2 Canicross sessions a week and a few Canicross hikes.  

Canicross hiking is simply hiking with your dog pulling.  It is also a great way to build up to Canicross with short running bursts.  

Where To Canicross

Canicross is best suited to forest trails, grassy trails and beaches.  Our dogs will do better with narrow trails as it tunnels them into canicrossing.  Generally anything that resembles nature is the best place to canicross.  If you live in Northern Ireland the below locations link will help you find a spot. 

Finding A Club Near You

Finding a club near you is now the next stage.  Use google by typing in the word Canicross and then your location.  You can also try searching on facebook for pages that exist for clubs local to you.

Advice

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us through our facebook page.  We have a wealth of knowledge and want to grow the sport in the most positive way.  Click the link below if you want to follow us or ask a question.