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  • Writer's pictureThe Old Wolf

Canicross Run With Them

Updated: Dec 1, 2020

Canicross is a sport in which both the dog and the human to race as one. Essentially it is a cross-country race that you compete in with your dog. The human runner can choose to race with one or two dogs and they must be attached to a belt harness. Runners will typically use a bungee or some type of elastic leash so they won’t get pulled as hard if the dog was to suddenly run ahead or to the side.

Canicross is a great workout for both the person and the dog, offering time to bond and develop a matching chemistry. The person is usually very vocal while running often giving commands and directing the dog where to go. This sport is another great workout for the dog in terms of using their brain. It is vital that the dog and human get along in terms of friendship and communication.

Originated in Europe as part of an off-season training regime for sledding. Over time Canicross gained in popularity and eventually became its own sport. Most races are around 5km in length, however there may be certain events that will either be longer or shorter.

You and your dog will both benefit from it. Both of you will bond as you start to spend more time together. You will also gain a deeper understanding of what your dog is trying to tell you and your dog will start to learn what you want from it with your body language. You will both be physically fit and giving your dog regular physical activities will benefit his health as well as your own, they will also be more engaged as they are using their brain in a more diverse and stimulating environment.

Suitable Breeds for Canicross

There are no particular dog breeds that are needed to compete in Canicross. There are certain breeds that are more suited for long distance running of this sort. If your dog is healthy and has energy to burn you can try Canicross with them. Working dogs are often more likely to be chosen to compete seriously as they have higher energy levels, able to obey commands and would be able to sustain running for long periods of time.

Your dog can’t be too young though, usually between the ages of 12-18 months will allow them to compete in Canicross. Younger dogs aren’t allowed to compete as it is harmful to their development and causes strain and stress on their growing bones and muscles. Once your dog is old enough you can begin some simple training. It’s always a good idea to consult your vet about what you aim to do and how often you plan to Canicross with your dog. Your vet will more than likely know about Canicross and they might even give you a few tips on how to improve with certain training methods and what to look out for in terms of your dog’s health.


A harness, leash, a belt and good running gear are pretty much all that is necessary when competing or training for Canicross. It might take a while for your dog to get used to wearing and running with a harness, but once they do it is a lot better for you and them. The harness shouldn’t be too tight, if you can fit two fingers in between the harness and your dog’s back, neck or waist then it’s a good fit. Any less and you won’t have a good amount of control over your dog, any more and you’re restricting your dog’s breathing.

If your dog is wheezing after or during a run that means the harness is too tight and you should loosen it or buy a bigger fitting harness. You don’t want to restrict your dog’s breathing at all, especially when you take them running. Where the leash clips onto the harness is also vital, usually for sledding the connection point is designed a lot lower to maximize the pulling power of your dog. For Canicross you want the connection point a bit higher so you want to get a harness that sits higher on your dog, if it’s lower it won’t be as comfortable and you could pull your dog from underneath, which is very uncomfortable as they run. While you’re running with your dog it should be as comfortable as possible and you shouldn’t have any problems in terms of being off balance or having the equipment not lining up right. If this is so you might need to adjust either the harness or the line.

The line is simple, you need a bungee or elastic line to absorb the shock between you and your dog if there is an unexpected pull. Instead of the traditional leash, the bungee line will take the energy and impact leaving you and your dog safe to continue. The length of the leash is important, at full stretch the perfect length should be two meters. If there is more than two meters it leaves you susceptible to falling and tripping over it, or your dog has the opportunity to run further off course, which can cause some problems. If the leash is shorter than two meters, you and your dog will be a lot closer meaning you can easily run into them and hurt them or yourself.

Waist-high belts are important and need to be secure for you to be able to run hands free. Your waist belt shouldn’t be too tight but firm. There are belts that also come with leg straps meaning more security if your dogs are faster and might sometimes pull. If your dog pulls you while you wear your belt with leg straps, it will come from underneath you making your legs work more while you are able to keep upright.

Your clothes should be comfortable to run in, avoid loose clothing and aim for a tighter fit. Depending on where you are geographically you might need more or less clothing. Also take into account wet weather conditions for you and your dog.

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