What is Canicross?
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Is canicross good for dogs?
Canicross is a dog sport that first became popular in continental Europe. It originated as a method of exercising high-energy sled dogs, like huskies, when "mushing" was not possible.
It involves hooking your dog to a specialized running harness and fastening it to your body with a hands-free leash so that you can run together.
The sport is well established throughout Europe, and there are numerous canicross clubs and regular competitive races. While it is still relatively new to the United States, its popularity is growing. It's a great way to improve your fitness, keep your dog happy and healthy, and develop your bond.
Do I need any special equipment for Canicross?
As long as your dog is wearing a well-fitting harness, you can give canicross a spin without any special equipment. Never run with your dog while he is only wearing a collar, as it puts too much pressure on his neck.
If you think this is something you want to take more seriously, investing in the right equipment is recommended. If you can join a local club, they will not only be able to advise you on techniques, but they can also bring some club gear, allowing you to see what works best for you and your dog. We have put the basics below.
A Canicross harness for your dog
These are designed to give your dog more full-body support when he is pulling forward. There are many brands on the market and some are better suited to certain dogs than others.
A suitable strap
A short traffic leash or a retractable leash is not enough. You need a hands-free strap that is not so long that you can get tangled in things or trip over and preferably it should be a bungee strap or a bungee accessory to prevent any sudden movement at high speeds.
A body harness/belt for you
It's okay to go for a strap that loops around your waist, but many serious canicrossers use a wire harness or belt for comfort and support. It's similar to a climbing harness - you pull it up and it supports your hips and pelvis.
Other possible teams
Having a belt or backpack that can hold water is helpful, you should also have room for a portable travel bowl for your dog. Don't forget some dog garbage bags too.
Can all dogs canicross?
It is a great sport for most dogs. Some breeds are natural canicrossers, like Huskies, but even breeds like Chihuahuas have been known to get involved and love each other. However, there are some exceptions.
While your puppy's bones are still growing, it is vitally important that they do not over-exercise. Canicross is not appropriate until your dog is fully grown, so it is usually over a year or even 18 months old for large breeds.
Many older dogs are exceptionally fit and healthy and can continue to fulfill their golden years, but it is important that you judge wisely when retirement may be most appropriate. Even if your dog loves it, if he shows any signs of lameness, pain, stiffness, or has been diagnosed with arthritis, then it's time to find a lower-impact activity to keep him happy.
If your dog is recovering from an injury, he needs time to fully recover. Reintroduction should begin with your veterinarian's approval and should be gradual. If your dog has had major surgery, she may never be able to return to canicross due to the risk of re-injury or pain.
Dogs with respiratory problems
If you have a flat-faced brachycephalic breed like a Pug or French Bulldog, canicross is probably not a suitable activity. Because they often already have trouble breathing and regulating their temperature, strenuous exercise could put them at higher risk for injury or breathing problems.
If your dog is overweight, he should be on a moderate diet and exercise plan. Canicross, when a dog weighs too much, can put extra pressure on their joints, and they are more likely to have trouble regulating their temperature and run out of breath too quickly.
Nervous or reactive dogs
If you recently adopted a dog that is nervous around other people or dogs, you should consider how to introduce canicross. Exposing them to a busy club environment can be too much, and they may need to rush one-on-one while preparing for presentations. Many clubs are very considerate when it comes to nervous dogs, ensuring they have plenty of space and positive presentations. If your dog is uncomfortable, don't force him.
Don't canicross in hot temperatures
In scorching temperatures, any strenuous exercise is inappropriate and with canicross, even a slightly warmer day can cause your dog to suffer from heatstroke. Make sure your dog is always well hydrated, stays cool, and doesn't run around when temperatures get too hot.
What are the basic techniques of Canicross?
Ultimately, you want your dog to come out front, but some dogs, especially if they generally walk very well on their heels, may automatically run alongside you.
You can encourage them to run ahead by having another runner upfront and giving them lots of praise and encouragement when they do. You can also work on a signal to ask them to keep going and reward them every time they do.
Some people are concerned that the canicross drag will cause a dog to take regular walks. As long as you maintain consistent training and commands, this is not likely. Most dogs understand the difference between a canicross harness and a regular one.
Once you've both figured out the basics, you can start entering additional commands, including those used to slow down, stop, move left or right, or overtake another runner.
Enjoy The Video Tutorial about What is canicross? Guide to running with your dog.
Source: Non-stop dogwear
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