We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Hey there, Don't forget to log in and join the conversation Log in

Love your dog? Then train with them!

Photo credit: DogFit

Love your dog? Then train with them!

28-Mar-21

By Gail Walker

If you haven’t heard of Canicross then you soon will. Hands-free trail running with your dog is a rapidly growing sport in the UK, attracting both social runners and competitive runners alike. It has also captured interest from TV companies (having featured recently on the BBC’s Countryfile), various press and also specialist running magazines.

When I established DogFit along with my business partner Ginetta George over six years ago now, Canicross was very much regarded as a niche sport in the UK and so we took it upon ourselves to make it as inclusive as possible and also help promote the many health, fitness and well-being benefits.

Six years on we have an expanding network of leading DogFit Trainers that introduce people and dogs to Canicross, run dedicated training programmes and regular classes. We also have various online training programmes and support, and we sell a range of Canicross equipment including our own popular DogFit Starter Kit that we manufacture in the UK.

/RunUltra/media/Images/RunUltra%2520DogFit%2520article/RunUltra-DogFit-article-1.jpg

I was already an endurance runner when I discovered Canicross so being able to combine my love for the trails with my love for dogs was an obvious choice. Plus it meant I could kill two birds with one stone by exercising myself and my dog at the same time!

But what has particularly struck me is the thousands of people who have taken up the sport through DogFit who have never or rarely run before but somehow Canicross has given them a purpose and made running an enjoyable experience. I guess it’s because not only are they literally running with their dog, but it’s a very social sport often (outside of covid restrictions) enjoyed in groups; as such many strong and long lasting friendships are made.

The bond you build with your dog through Canicross is truly special. We incorporate commands or cues (such as ‘left’, ‘right’, ‘with me’ etc) so just through communicating in this way you are instantly working as a team. We have lost count of the number of stories we have received from customers with reactive or anxious dogs where Canicross has completely transformed them. Running with other dogs in a pack and with a focus on one thing really helps build their confidence and serves as a positive distraction; having that job to do along with listening out for instructions from their owner.

/RunUltra/media/Images/RunUltra%2520DogFit%2520article/RunUltra-DogFit-article-4.jpg

Many people ask who can do Canicross. The short answer is any dog and any person can take part. Some dogs are not built for certain distances or temperatures but it’s about adjusting accordingly and there is even the option to Canitrek which is hands-free walking as opposed to running. If in any doubt, we suggest you consult your vet and/or GP to be safe.

So what kit do you need to start doing Canicross? Well, there are just three essential items, aside from a good pair of trail shoes; a belt for you (which is specially designed to sit low so the pull comes through the hips rather than back), a harness for your dog (also specifically made for the sport) and a bungee line that attaches you to one another. The bungee line takes up any slack when the dog isn’t pulling so hard but also absorbs any shock when it does.

As a long distance runner myself and someone who has taken part in many trail marathons with my dogs, I will integrate Canicross early on into my training. That way my dog is building up their endurance and strength gradually too which is really important for avoiding injury. Over the years we have enjoyed running some stunning courses together, across various off-road terrain; from coastal paths to dense woodland.

/RunUltra/media/Images/RunUltra%2520DogFit%2520article/RunUltra-DogFit-article-2.jpg

I will avoid Canicrossing when it is hot and/or humid as dogs really struggle so do be mindful of this and always put the needs of your dog first. We have written a really helpful blog on this topic which is worth a quick read.

If you have a dog that isn’t up to running the longer distances, don’t be put off as you can easily include them in your shorter runs. This is a wonderful way to mix up your training and enjoy some special bonding time together.

One thing that really stands out for me, especially over the pandemic, has been the positive impact Canicross has had on people’s mental, as well as physical, well-being. We have helped hundreds of people over the past 12 months by offering online support, free training programmes, virtual challenges, and access to expert advice. We even launched a podcast called Talk Canicross which includes an array of fascinating guests.

At DogFit we have a truly special community and we are passionate about supporting and encouraging people longer term. If you are interested in finding out more, accomplished runners may find it helpful to have a Taster session with one of our certified Trainers. They can also recommend which equipment to use, including the best harness for your dog. Alternatively, you may have a local group in your area you can join for help and guidance to get started.

Do check out our website as it has a wealth of information about Canicross. You can also find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as subscribe to our Talk Canicross podcast. The podcast includes a fascinating interview with a nutritionist which will be of interest to many of you as it touches upon considerations for your dog over longer distances.

Best of luck, and I hope to see some of you out on the trails with your dogs.

All photos credit Gail Walker/DogFit

/RunUltra/media/Images/RunUltra%2520DogFit%2520article/RunUltra-DogFit-article-3.jpg

Your Comments On Love your dog? Then train with them!

You must be logged in to add your review, click here to login or click here to register