Dogs are unquestionably a key component to canicrossing and I’m often asked which is the best dog for taking part in canicross. My answer is always the same, ‘any dog that wants to run’! When I first started canicrossing I expected there to be lots of the dog breeds I’d traditionally associated with running, such as huskies, participating in the sport. It just so happened my dog was a husky collie cross so I was fairly sure we’d fit in. I found however, that the variety of dog breeds taking part was much, much wider than I would have imagined and people were running very quick times with some very little or unexpected dog breeds. So I quickly realised that it’s not necessarily the breed that determines the dogs’ ability in canicross, (although natural athleticism obviously helps) but whether or not the dog has the right mental attitude towards the activity. Generally speaking it’s the dogs’ work ethic that determines whether or not they are going to excel in the dog sports and any dog who considers their canicross session a job to be taken seriously will put 100% effort in for you. Many people are now favouring hound type dogs for canicross because they are physically built well for covering the ground quickly and are also from working backgrounds, so seem to really thrive on running in harness. I still maintain though that any breed of dog within reason can enjoy the sport of canicross and that any dog who is fit to run may enjoy the partnership created when you run with your dog in harness. So my letter ‘D’ in the A-Z of canicross, is for ‘dogs’, of any shape or size.
Commands are key to be able to successfully canicross and more specifically, voice commands. The main commands are ‘left, right, go and steady’ but people include all sorts of commands in their canicross repertoire. I personally use the mushing commands of ‘gee’ for right and ‘haw’ for left and there other agility commands for directions which I’ve heard people use too. What commands you use doesn’t really matter as long as you are consistent (there’s another ‘C’ word for you!) and your dog understands them. I also use ‘straight on’ and ‘on by’ which are useful forward commands to ignore distractions you may encounter, but I’ve never quite mastered the ‘whoa’ or ‘steady’, so must keep practising! In all seriousness if your dog has been taught very clear voice commands and is responsive to them, it can make a huge difference to your canicross experience, so my advice would always be to start to train the commands first, before you even attach yourself to your dog. Walking and using the lead to guide your dog is a great way to initiate voice command training and once you’ve mastered them, you know you’re as prepared as you can be to get out there and canicross. This being a vital part of your canicross training is the reason for me choosing ‘commands’ as my word for the letter ‘C’ in the A-Z of Canicross.