One of the three key items of equipment you need for canicross is the bungee line, the line is what connects you to your dog and can make a big difference to the comfort of your run. When I first started canicross, I just grabbed a lead and attached it to my dog’s harness but I could see very quickly that without a section of bungee, there was the potential for a lot of force to be transferred through the line which could cause damage. The line for canicross is usually around 2 metres when stretched, as that gives the runner enough room to run without tripping over, however both longer and shorter lines can be used in different situations. For example if you are canicrossing at a Parkrun or other event where there are regular runners, you might want to keep your dog closer to you and under more control with a shorter bungee line. If you are training with lots of open space or are using one line for canicross and bikejor, you might want to choose a slightly longer bungee line. The line you use for canicross is an often underrated, but vitally important link in the equipment you use, so for that reason the ‘L’ in the K9 Trail Time A-Z of Canicross is for line.
The Neewa Canicross Belt is the newest addition to our ever-expanding range of waist belts for canicrossers. The belts are known as waist belts but now I would say the term ‘hip belt’ is probably more accurate and I would always advise anyone using a belt for running with your dog, to adjust it low down the body on the hips. The Neewa Canicross Belt’s lightweight design lends itself to this position because the mesh of the belt supports the runners bottom and the top of the belt clips around the hips rather than the waist.
The belt has integrated leg straps which (together with the strap that clips around the hips) keeps the belt in place when running and prevents unwanted movement. The Neewa Canicross Belt has a small pocket in the mesh at the back of the belt, large enough for keys and a few poo bags but nothing more. The belt also feature a metal ring which slides along the webbing strap in front of the runners hips to attach your dog’s line to. You can either just loop the webbing handle of a line through on itself, through this ring, or use an additional carabiner to attach the line.
The main advantages of this belt are that it is lightweight, adjustable to fit most sizes and has the sliding ring on the front to attach your dog to, which I am a big fan of. The Neewa Canicross belt is also very good value for money and that makes it a great starter belt, as well as one for the more experienced canicrosser. The only disadvantage I can see with the belt is that it’s style might not suit everyone, it does sit low down on the body with minimal material and this might not appeal to every canicrosser. On the whole though, this belt comes highly recommended by us for every day use and for racing with one or more dogs, it has been tested with three enthusiastic collie crosses and passed with flying colours!
For more information or to buy this belt please follow this link:
If you are thinking of starting canicross but have no idea where to begin in terms of training your dog, both in terms of fitness and actually how to start safely, look no further. We have teamed up with the UK’s top two canicross class providers, Cani-Fit and Joggy Doggy Ltd, to give you an introduction into training yourself and your dog to go from zero to hero.
The first thing I would say is this is not just about getting from doing nothing to running a 5km, if it were that simple you could just use the fantastic ‘Couch to 5km’ programme and there are many who have started in this way very successfully. However, if you truly want to embrace canicross, it’s much more about the bond you are building with your dog as a team, rather than just having your dog join you on a run. What you are looking for is to create a relationship with your dog based on the training tips we will give you, so that you and your dog are working together and sharing a much calmer and controlled experience when you hit the trails.
To begin with you need to focus on your groundwork. It takes a dog very little time to learn that certain words mean certain things. I’m sure most of you have taught your dogs, sit, lie down and stay, as these are the basics of any dog training for anyone. With canicross, the basics you should be training are ‘go on’ ‘left’, ‘right’, ‘straight on’, ‘steady’, ideally a ‘back’ or ‘behind’ and a ‘line out’ command too.
The directions and start and stop commands don’t really need explaining in detail, it’s obvious why you need them and you can start teaching them at any age on walks. I would spend no more than 10 minutes in a focused session, perhaps within a walk, where your dog is on a harness and lead and you reinforce these voice commands, rewarding your dog for quickly responding.
The ‘back’ or ‘behind’ command comes into play when you are going down a steep hill and do not want your dog pulling you down some tricky terrain. The command is also useful if you spot a potential situation on a run (an off lead dog you don’t want yours to interact with or perhaps along a busy section of pathway where people might not appreciate being run at with the dog in front).
The ‘line out’ command comes from racing and trains your dog to reach the end of it’s bungee line and then to stand and wait for your ‘go’ command. This has uses beyond racing however, because it is generally easier to teach your dog to be polite and well mannered while waiting to run. You might need the ‘line out’ command when in a group waiting for others to catch up or if you are waiting to cross a section of road. The key is to train frequently in short bursts so your dog doesn’t get bored and understands what you are asking of him or her with each specific command.
When we spoke to Jenny Lee of Joggy Doggy Ltd this is what she had to say about canicross training:
‘Canicross is great fun for your dog, as natural athletes they love to run. Even better though is sharing one of their favourite activities with their owners! Canicross enhances the bond between dog and owner as they learn to work as a team. Dogs also produce endorphins as they run and the enhanced effort level required by canicross leaves them happy, confident and calm, making it a brilliant release for high energy or stressed out canines. At Joggy Doggy we have three clear objectives that we seek to reach with our furry clients:
- Keep it fun – most dogs have huge enthusiasm for running but can put themselves at risk of overexertion. At Joggy Doggy we teach our clients to be mindful of the following:
- Build up your doggy miles gradually so that your dog has time to adjust on a muscular and cardio vascular level.
- When running your dog use a mix of terrain to protect sensitive paws and reduce jarring on the joints
- If safe and appropriate then allow your dog time to run unattached in between short burst of canicross training time
- Use reward based training in short and regular sessions
- Keep it safe and controlled – Canicross requires good communication between dog and owner. Before starting the sport make sure that your dog is engaged and can cope with basis commands such as those learnt in puppy classes. This foundation will then allow them to grasp commands used in canicross. In our sessions we focus on areas including:
- Teaching your dog directional commands
- Teaching your dog speed commands eg how to steady up when running down a steep hill and speed up on the home straight
- The appropriate way to pass other dogs whether they are walking along or racing past you
- Steering away from and ignoring distractions such as wildlife, toddlers in pushchairs, dustbins or food wrappers!
- Keep it positive – building a partnership with an animal that sees the world so differently to us is not always an easy task. Establishing a strong canicross team with your dog takes humour, patience and hard work as well as time. It is so worth it though. At Joggy Doggy we use reward based methods to tackle various challenges and work them through with our (long suffering!) owners including:
- Motivating dogs to pull when they are quite happy trotting along at heel
- Teaching dogs that they should pull into the harness with their chest and shoulders and not run backwards playing tug with the line
- Teaching dogs to run straight and not weave from side to side in their excitement to get going at their speed and not yours
- Encouraging dogs to adjust their speed to suit their owners and not take off dragging their owners along behind
- Encouraging dogs to focus on their running partner and not on everything else but!
- Channelling enthusiasm into running and not barking, circling and jumping up
- Giving dogs confidence to run past and alongside other dogs in race and group run situations’
Jenny Lee is the owner of Joggy Doggy Limited and heads up a team offering Canicross Fitness Classes and Canicross Personal Training Sessions to runners and their dogs through local parks, woods and footpath trails. Joggy Doggy Ltd has branches in Kent, Hampshire, Cumbria, Oxfordshire, Edinburgh and Flintshire and was the first Canicross Group to be Run England affiliated. In between Canicross races Jenny can be contacted at http://www.joggydoggy.co.uk and on 07584 438973
We also spoke with Lindsay Johnson of Cani-Fit and asked her what top training tips she covers in her classes and what she thinks is most important for training your dog to canicross:
‘At Cani-Fit we like to pass on our enthusiasm and passion for canicross and fitness, training dogs and owners and exploring trails, to as many dog owners as we can. Cani-Fit offer various levels of structured classes to get dog and owner fit together, while specifically learning how to safely enjoy the sport of canicross.
We work on a lot of interval type training, this can not only boost fitness levels quicker, but it allows for lots of breaks and pauses for the dogs, ensuring they go into each interval feeling fresh and full of energy and giving 100% effort to their job in harness.
Canicross is fantastic team sport which will strengthen bond between dog and owner, it can also be extremely sociable for canines and humans alike . Working in a group can teach dogs how to safely exercise around other dogs, whilst humans give each other some company and moral support .
From Cani-Hiking (walking only) to mixed levels of canicross ability, Cani-Fit can provide training to suit you and your 4 legged training partner. There is nothing more satisfying than coming home from a dark , cold winter night knowing you and your dog have explored and worked hard on the trails together. Doing so in a structured, organised class setting can make life a little easier and more fun. All you need is your head torch, trail shoes and your dog!
Lindsay Johnson is the owner of Cani-Fit and runs Canicross Classes with her experienced run leaders in many popular Scottish park and forest locations for the benefit of the dogs and their owners. Lindsay and her team have won many National and European titles in the dog sports they teach, allowing them to pass on their experience to those attending the Cani-Fit Classes. Lindsay can be reached on 07709 394667 or firstname.lastname@example.org, class information can be found on http://www.cani-fit.com
So as you can see, we all agree that canicross training should first and foremost be fun, keeping sessions short and exciting, focused on building the bond with your dog, so it’s not just about running with your dog but working as a team.
If you would like any more information on Joggy Doggy or Cani-Fit classes please do use the contact details we have given and we hope you have found this blog taking you from ‘zero to hero’ in useful. Happy trails!
At K9 Trail Time we are dedicated to helping get you and your dog canicrossing, bikejoring or dog scootering in the safest and easiest way possible. Our background in the dog sport retail industry comes from years of practising and enjoying canicross, bikejor and scootering ourselves, not just training but racing too and we’ve also enjoyed a bit of dryland mushing at times. K9 Trail Time was started after I couldn’t find anywhere online that stocked all the equipment I wanted to use for my own dogs and although there were other retailers out there, no-one had the full range I wanted to see. So I decided to set up for myself nearly 5 years ago now and the range we stock is probably the biggest you will find of any dog sport equipment retailer. I test EVERY item we sell personally, so I can help to explain how everything works and to be able to tell our customers what might suit them and their dogs most. I wanted to be able to offer everyone coming into the sport the best possible options, tailored for them and their dogs, and to do this I needed to stock all the top brands and have used them. Over the years I have added brands and they have added more products to cater for every type of dog imaginable to be able to participate comfortably and also to cater for the different circumstances you might be running in. For example the Parkrun length lines were added after manufacturers realised the popularity of running with your dog in the weekly Parkrun events. Check out the website, which is always being updated with new products for you and your active dog, at http://www.k9trailtime.com. I know it’s unashamed advertising but I just couldn’t do an A-Z of canicross without including K9 Trail Time somewhere, so for that reason, we are the ‘K’ in the K9 Trail Time A-Z of canicross!
This time of year as the weather is getting cooler, it seems appropriate to mention the ‘J’ word – Jacket. I know I am now back in my lightweight running jacket as the temperatures have dropped and sometimes we need to consider the same for our dogs. Any time you go running with your dog you will be assessing the weather and if you have a hairy dog breed, you will just be relieved that you don’t have to worry so much about them overheating as winter approaches. But if you have a breed with very little hair then you might have the opposite problem and need to be aware of how quickly your dog can get cold, particularly when it’s wet. At K9 Trail Time we stock a number of different jackets for dogs, ranging from a cool coat to help your dog cope with the heat, to the winter coats, which they can wear during or after exercise. We also stock life jackets which are very useful for keeping your dog safe if you do any swimming. Anything we don’t have in stock we can usually order to be delivered within about a week. So although not essential for every dog, we felt it important enough to make ‘Jacket’ our ‘J’ in the A-Z of Canicross.
The Neewa Running Harness is one of our more recent additions to the range of shorter harnesses at K9 Trail Time and I have to admit when I got in some samples, I wasn’t sure about the high padded neck at the front of the harness. The neck sits much higher up than any of the other sport harnesses we sell and I always advise people to avoid anything that sits too near the throat.
However, when I actually used this harness on my dogs, I realised that the neck is very cleverly designed to fold slightly when the harness is on the dog and being pulled into. As a result the neck bends away from the throat and causes no issues whatsoever.
The Neewa Running Harness is also fully adjustable on the neck as well as the chest and the only harness I will sell that is adjustable in this way. I have always felt adjustment in the neck has a potential for weakness in the harness, but I feel the strength of this harness is in no way compromised by the adjustment and having it means it is the perfect harness for a growing dog to get used to having a harness on. It’s also very useful if you have more than one dog the harness needs to fit, I have used a size Medium on my 20kg collie but also on my mum’s very differently shaped 12 kg cross breed.
The harness is padded in all the areas it needs to be and my only constructive comment would be that if there were a bit of padding under the d-ring to attach your bungee to, then this harness would be the perfect shoulder harness. I would recommend this harness for anyone whose dog is perhaps unsure about pulling into a harness yet, as it can be secured so it doesn’t move about on the dog’s back if your dog isn’t pulling out in front. I would also suggest this harness for dogs who are growing and this will be their first running harness. I don’t suggest you start running puppies in them but you can start training your voice commands and get them used to the feel of pulling into a harness on walks.
The Neewa Running Harness is also useful for people who let their dogs off lead on runs and can even double up as a car harness (although it has not been crash tested). It can be used for all the dog sports and even just as a walking harness, so it is truly multi-purpose too. It comes in a range of sizes and colours which means there is something for everyone’s taste and colour scheme and a size to suit most dog breeds.
For more information on sizing or to buy please visit our website here:
When you are doing anything with dogs, it pays to use your own intuition and instinct even if you are new to something. I often find that people have had a certain piece of equipment suggested to them or have been told to do something in a way which doesn’t make sense to them, but because they are a ‘novice’ they have gone along with what the more experienced person has said. I would always encourage someone to do or use what feels right for their situation or dog and that is why I’m not a huge fan of just telling people what I think they should buy in terms of canicross kit. I will always try and give people as many options as possible and allow them to make a choice for themselves based on their personal knowledge of their dog and their own comfort. People tend not to value their intuition as much as they should and dismiss their own feelings based on what the majority may be doing. I even wrote a blog about it a few years ago:
It is also worth remembering that your dog will have their own instincts and this should also guide you in everything you do within the dog sports. If you rely on each other to work out what training, routines, equipment and experiences will benefit you both the best, then you can’t go far wrong.
So for that reason I have chosen ‘instinct’ as the ‘I’ in the K9 Trail Time A-Z of canicross.