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How to train for a canicross competition

The most important thing when you train for a canicross competition is to have fun with your dog! Ensuring that training is fun is the least we can do for our four-legged teammates because many dogs actually pull to please their owners!

What is the right distance to start with?

A common mistake is to start with distances that are too long.

- I hear it so many times: “It’s a dog; it can run forever”! Yes – it can probably run longer than most of us humans, but it doesn’t mean that it is healthy or motivating for your dog. You don’t go running 10-20 kilometers, either, if you have never run before. We manage to train and build up the distance for ourselves but often forget to do the same for our dogs, says multiple World champion, Tessa Philippaerts.

Your dog will probably run like crazy at long distances the first few times, but very soon, it will lose motivation or learn to run at a slower pace.

- For canicross, we want our dogs to pull as good and as fast as they can. Therefore, keeping it short and fun is important!

For older dogs, you can start with one kilometer and build it up in the form of intervals. For young dogs under 12 months, it is important to build it up very slowly. For the first few trainings, 100-400 meters will do.

Read more: Competition tips from a world champion in canicross

Not too often, not too hard

Just like us, dogs need some rest. It is a common mistake that people think their dog has to be tired after a run to classify it as a good training session.

- How would you feel if you had to cross a line for every training session you completed? Hard to keep motivated, right?


Train as you compete

It is also important to run 8 kilometers if your races will be 8 kilometers.

- If you only train for 4 kilometers, the results would be unfavorable. Your dog doesn’t know he is racing 8 kilometers that day and will run like crazy the first 4 kilometers because that is what he is used to. He trusts you to prepare him well for what you want to do with him.

Use a bike or scooter

Tessa’s dogs are pretty big and strong, so she prefers to train them with a mountain bike or scooter.

- I might run canicross with them one time every week to two weeks. It is so hard on the body to run with a big dog. It would take me too many days each time to recover—time which I prefer using on training myself properly to run better. My dogs always join me running free or running next to me on a leash when I warm up and cool down from my own training. I train myself in intervals a couple of times a week and in a couple of longer endurance runs.

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