The term ‘Canicross’ is short for canine cross country. The sport was developed in Europe, most likely by the Skijor/sled dog fraternity as a means to exercise their dogs in the summer.
With Canicross the dog is encouraged to run out in front of the runner and give them a bit of positive assistance. Because the dog may pull, they wear a harness which is designed to not put pressure on the dog’s neck like a collar would. The dog is connected to the runner with a shock absorbing line that extends up to 2m. The runner wears a hip or waist belt to attach the line onto.
Communication with your dog is an important part of the sport. You need to be able to direct your dog left and right, encourage them to go on and to steady. The words you use are up to you, just make sure they are consistent. When you first start running in a group the dog will normally find it fun and go out in front to be part of the pack. Every time the track changes direction use your command so the dog gets used to it.
It is also easier to follow a track rather than train in an open area. The “steady” can be used to control the dog on descents as you may not want to be pulled downhill! Some people on downhill stretches teach the dog to come back to their side rather than to have them out in front, a lot of the European runners do this on the descents. It is also useful to have a “leave” command to stop them engaging with an outside stimulus, such as other dogs, deer, etc.
The right harness should be one that fits the dog and that they are comfortable in. The harness ideally needs to be fitted to the dog and the dog should run in the harness to check it’s comfortable. Our club has several different harnesses available for you to try to get an idea of what suits your dog. You may also run out in them to see how the dog performs. Should you need a custom harness making, we can help you measure your dog and advise you about the various kit suppliers out there.
Lines should have some bungee built into them to absorb the shocks and make it comfortable for both runner and dog. The line can be up to 2m extended for most competitions. It should also only have metalwork at the dog end in case it detaches from your belt as you would not want it flicking and hurting your dog or a passerby.
There are two types of belt on the market, hip belts and waist belts. The difference is where the belt pulls from. Hip belts are better for control of a stronger dog as you are less likely to tip forward too much when the dog pulls. However they often use leg straps to keep the belt low and some people find these uncomfortable. A waist belt has an advantage in that they are often capable of being used to walk your dog/s when not running. Ashridge Canicrossers have belts of various styles that you can try to see what suits.
No, when starting out for the first time please inform us that you will be attending and the type of dog you have. We will try and get together some equipment so you can see what Canicross is all about. Once you’ve had a go you might want to experiment with different harnesses and belts to see the difference. If you decide that Canicross is fun and you wish to continue, we will help you get the right equipment for you and your dog. The Club is hoping to soon build its own stock of loan equipment, so any contribution to the treasurer would be welcome. Please see the Canicross Equipment
page for more information.
To become a club member simply complete and submit the membership form on the Membership
page. Details of how to pay the £15 membership fee are also listed on this page.