Canicross is a sport where a dog and human run together in a team. In canicross, the dog runs in front and the runner guides him/her from behind using verbal cues. It is, of course, also possible to run with your dog next to you. To get started with canicross, all you need are a canicross harness, a bungee line, a canicross belt and a pair of good shoes!
«Canicross» means cross country running with dogs. The word «cani» derives from Canis, the Latin word for dog.
Why should you do canicross? Because canicross is the perfect sport if you like to be active with your dog. Running together also stimulates your dog’s need for mental and physical exercise.
Can my dog do canicross?
Dogs of all breeds, shapes and sizes can do canicross as long as you respect the limits of your dog. Unless your dog has some severe known health issues, canicross is a fairly safe sport and shouldn’t lead to injury. Don’t hesitate to ask your veterinarian if you are unsure whether your dog is fit enough for the challenge.
A small dog will not be able to run as fast as a German Shorthaired Pointer, of course, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not running well for their size and capabilities!
Your dog should be fully grown, usually 12-18 months old, before you start training canicross or doing other hard activities. Start carefully and gradually increase the amount of exercise and load. If you are eager to get started with canicross and your dog is too young, there are many foundation skills to practise in the meantime, like directional cues, line out training, and focus.
Old dogs can run, but you can’t expect them to be as fast as younger dogs. It is also important to consider your older dog’s needs.
Females in heat are allowed at races but will often have to start last.
Many disabled dogs can also enjoy running, depending on what their disability is. If you are unsure whether your dog is suited for canicross or not, consult your veterinarian.
The most popular canicross dog breeds are German Shorthaired Pointers, English Pointers, Belgian Malinois, Border Collies, Beaucerons, and mixes such as hounds (Alaskan Husky mixed with a pointer type of dog), Alaskan Huskies (Siberian Husky-mix), and Greysters (Greyhound mixed with a pointer type of dog).
Mixed-breed dogs specifically bred for pulling have been considered the best canicross dogs for the past years. Nevertheless, at a canicross competition, you will also see people running with their family dog, enjoying it just as much as anyone else. You can do canicross with a Whippet, Cocker Spaniel, Beagle, Labrador, Australian Shepherd, Chihuahua… You name it!
Can I do canicross?
Everyone can do canicross - both proven runners and people who have never run before. Running with your dog can be the biggest motivator to begin participating in sports!
Canicross is a high-impact sport that can be hard on your body, especially if you are running with a big dog that is pulling hard. You will benefit from doing canicross-specific strength exercises. If you have knee or back problems, you are advised to exercise with caution.
Not everyone enjoys the stress of racing, and it is perfectly fine to simply enjoy canicross in your own peaceful forest. The most important thing is that you and your dog are having fun together!
Read our beginners guide to canicross if you want to learn how to get started!