If you like to be active with your four-legged friend, canicross is the perfect sport for you! A harness, bungee, running belt, and a pair of shoes is all you need to go cross country running with your dog at a competition or simply for pleasure.
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!
Can I do canicross?
Everyone can do canicross—both proven runners and people who have never participated in canicross before. Running with your dog can be the biggest motivator to begin participating in sports!
Canicross can be quite taxing on your body, though. It is a high-impact sport. If you have knee or back problems, you are advised to exercise caution initially. Races are off-road, and shoes with a good grip are recommended.
Can my dog do canicross?
All types of dogs of all sizes can do canicross as long as you respect the limits of your dog! Unless your dog has some severe known health issues, it is a fairly safe sport that is not that injury-prone.
Small dogs or dogs with short noses will not be as skilled as a German Shorthaired Pointer, of course, but that does not mean that they’re not running well for their size and capabilities.
Old dogs can run, but you can’t expect them to be as fast as younger dogs. It is also important to consider older dogs’ needs.
Regarding breeds, the most popular in this sport 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).
It has been popular to use a mixed-breed dog specifically bred for pulling for the past five to ten years. Nevertheless, at a competition, you will also see people running with their own furry family member, enjoying the competition just as much as anyone else. There are people starting with their Chihuahuas, Maltesers, Whippets… You name it!
Females in heat are allowed at races but will often have to start last.
What equipment do I need?
For canicross, you need a well-fitted harness designed for pulling, such as the Non-Stop dogwear Freemotion harness. It is specifically designed for sports with a high pulling point.
You and your dog run as a team connected by a bungee leash. The leash is made from elastic material that will absorb abrupt pulls from your dog and make the workout more comfortable for both you and your dog.
A good running belt is also important. It should pull from the pelvis area or under your bottom. A canicross belt that pulls on your back is not recommended.
Read more: Canicross harness and equipment
What distances do they run at competitions?
This can vary depending on which country you are located in and what class you are starting in. It is not unusual to have one shorter distance for kids (escorted by an adult), approximately 1-1.5 kilometers. Kids older than 10 years often have the chance to run as juniors without any help from an adult. Juniors and adults can run a short distance (2-3 kilometers) or a long-distance (4-8 kilometers).
Most races are held with single starts every 15-30 seconds. Double start or smaller waves can occur at big competitions with many participants. Mass starts occur but are not common. If there is a mass start, this will be announced by the organizers well before the event.
How do I find competitions in my area/country?
Most countries have one or more federations. On their websites and/or Facebook pages, you can find information such as dates, race rules, results, etc.
Read more: How to train for a canicross competition