Canicross is rising in popularity in the UK, and there are a few reasons for it…
When the UK went into lockdown in March 2020 we found ourselves with a dilemma. We were only allowed out to exercise once a day and for those people who were used to complete freedom to exercise themselves and their dogs, this left them with a choice between their own outdoor exercise or that of their dog.
People started looking for solutions to this, so they could combine running with taking their dog out and many found the answer in the sport of canicross. Canicross is defined as cross country running attached to your dog and is a growing sport across the UK, Europe and worldwide, with dedicated leagues putting on races for dogs of any breed who enjoy running with their owner.
When you combine your exercise with your dogs, not only do you give your dog a good workout by getting them to take some of the pull (through specialist equipment of a harness, belt and bungee line) but you can also increase your own speeds and fitness by taking advantage of this additional power.
This gave people a few of things essential to well being and mental health during the lockdowns, which were the toughest times in the whole pandemic so far.
The first benefit is that it gives people a purpose; it’s often hard to be motivated to exercise being stuck at home, but if it means getting your dog out too, then it will be worthwhile. Dogs can be fantastic motivators and having to get out every day for their well being means you’re getting your daily dose of endorphins too.
The second is that people have company on their daily exercise; some people can feel not only more motivated, as mentioned above, but also safer if they have a four-legged friend to accompany them whilst running. This has been particularly important at a time when we aren’t allowed to meet up with our usual social networks.
Lastly it means it takes the worry of having the embarrassment of extracting your dog from other dogs or groups of dogs being walked by others. By having your dog attached to you and in close proximity, it means that you don’t have to have the interaction (which we were advised against) with people who are sharing the same outdoor space for exercise.
Due to the rapid increase in dog ownership throughout the past 18 months and also the lack of training and socialisation that was available for these often young dogs, it would seem there is going to be a continued need for this controlled exercise, as people begin to get back to some sort of normality with their dogs.
This is where canicross can really help bridge the gap for those dogs who are more nervous or reactive and haven’t had many social interactions with others, but still need good quality exercise to meet their physical and mental needs.
Things you should know before you start running with your dog
- Get yourself the proper equipment, a harness for your dog, belt for hands free running and a bungee lead to connect you to your dog, this will protect you both from any pulling injury.
- Your dog should be fully grown and developed before you start any in harness running training – ideally 12 months for canicross, potentially older if you own a larger breed.
- You can teach voice cues on your walks to help you start training from any age, be consistent and reward your dog often to reinforce the cues.
- Don’t feed your dog too close before or after exercise (usually at least a couple of hours)
- Make use of off road trails and paths for running and be polite and considerate of other trail users who may not have come across a canicrosser before.
- Keep your sessions short and fun for both you and your dog, like any new sport you will be using muscles in a different way for canicrossing, by taking things steady you will help avoid injury for yourself and your dog.
- So if you aren’t one of the people who has taken up running with your dog over one of the lockdowns, why not start now? There are many benefits and you might just find you both love your new sport.
More information can be found on our blog. We’d love to see more people getting involved with their dogs and would be happy to answer any questions you might have; the email to contact us is firstname.lastname@example.org