Canicross is the practice of running with your dog (canine cross country). Canicross got started in Europe, where mushers began the practice to exercise with their dogs during the mushing off-season. However, canicross has since grown to be a popular sport in its own right.
Canicross involves a dog (or sometimes two dogs) staying attached to a runner, with the runner wearing a waist belt with a bungee cord that attaches to the dog’s harness. The elastic bungee cord reduces the pulling shock for humans and dogs, allowing them to run more comfortably together.
Take a look at what canicross looks like in action!
Originally canicross was designed for mushing dogs, with huskies and malamutes as popular breeds. However, it’s possible for dogs of all shapes and sizes to participate in canicross.
While all dogs can enjoy canicross, it will work differently depending on your dog’s breed and size. Smaller dogs won’t be able to provide as much pulling power. Some dogs are built to run longer distances than others. Simply make sure you understand what your dog is capable of, and stay within what makes sense for them.
Want to learn more about which dogs are best built for going the extra mile? Check out this great interactive graph from Lovejoys Pet Food to see which breeds pack the most energy punch, or see our own list of the best dog breeds for running!
While all breeds of dogs, from labradors to terriers, can participate in canicross, the dog’s personality plays an important role as well. Some dogs love to run, and they’ll go nuts over canicross. Not all dogs love to run though, and those less inclined to bound about will probably not enjoy canicross.
What’s especially unique about canicross is that a variety of humans can participate as well – children, disabled individuals, and the visually impaired can all enjoy canicross, with proper training and preparation.
You can start canicross at any level of fitness. Just remember to start out easy and don’t push yourself or your dog too hard. Canicross can be performed while walking, hiking, or running.
photo credit: Harold Meerveld, flickr
Don’t expect your dog to become a champion runner overnight – and in fact, some will never become running pros. Start slow, work your way up, and watch your dog carefully to ensure you’re never pushing them too hard.
If you’re starting with a dog who hasn’t done much running, be sure to check out our guide on how to prep your dog for long-distance running. You definitely don’t want to just start running 10ks with your pooch without some prepping!
While canicross doesn’t require ultra-specialized training, you’ll get the most out of it with some basic training practice.
Canicross will go much smoother if you have some basic dog training down and if your dog can understand and respond to some verbal cues. These are the same verbal cues found with dog joring.
A big thanks to BikeJor.com for providing information on many of these commands. Check them out for more bonus commands.
While pulling isn’t required for canicross, it is common – especially in races with humans and canines working together as a team.
It can be a bit difficult to get your dog to pull, especially when they’ve been taught that pulling is bad.
Don’t worry – we aren’t going to destroy years of dog walking manners! You’ll want to make sure your dog understands the difference between walking and canicross by teaching them that different equipment calls for different attitudes.
Show your dog that pulling should only be OK with the harness and the hands free leash – collars and traditional leashes are for walking.
photo from Ferran, flickr
Harnesses are actually designed to help your dog pull, as they allow your dog to use the force of their chest to pull.
When starting off with canicross, it’s often easiest to have a friend walk ahead of you and encourage your dog to walk and pull ahead of you. When they pull, be sure to give lots of praise and encouragement.
Usually a couple of canicross sessions a week are a good place to start. Once your dog gets the hang of it, the road is yours!
You’ll definitely want to make sure you’re equipped with the right canicross gear.
photo from Rubén Ortega Vega, flickr
Canicross really can’t be performed with a regular leash – it’s recommended that you get a dog joring system with a dog harness and human waist belt. Here’s why:
For a canicross starter kit, we recommend the Ruffwear Omnijore System. It provides the canicross harness and canicross belt needed to begin your dog running adventures!
Canicross is hugely beneficial for you and your dog. Here are some reasons why.
Here are a few pieces of advice to remember with canicross.
Canicross can be a rewarding sport for owners and dogs, but it won’t be for everyone. For one, not owners want to get into the habit of encouraging their dogs to pull – especially if you’ve just broken them of that habit!
For some folks, some sneakers and a good dog harness designed for running is all you really want – you don’t need to dive into the canicross sport to simply enjoy jogging with your four-footed pal!
Have you ever done canicross? What about just regular running with your dog? What has your experience been like? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Photo Credit: top photo was made using a photo by Harold Meerveld from flickr. Text was added by K9 of Mine.
Meg Marrs is the Founder and Senior Editor at K9 of Mine. She is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! She loves iced coffee, hammocks, and puppy-cuddling!