So, Canicross? What’s that all about then?
Written by Clare Grierson: Dog Trainer, Behaviourist & Runner
I love running. It’s a time for me. A time when I just become absorbed within myself, think about nothing but about how my body feels, the mud, lovely, lovely mud and ground beneath my feet, the trees and the scenery I am running through. The wind in my hair, the puddles and the track. A time to switch off. To breathe deeply, to just be.
Competitively, it’s a time to grit in, to pick off those in front of you one by one by one. To dig in up the hills, to allow the body to flow down the hills and on sight of the finish, to power, to give it that last bit of energy, that one more deep breath. I can rest when I am over that line. The more I put in now, the more I will appreciate the down time, the cold beer, the well-deserved meal, the celebration of another personal best clocked up.
Why share that with a dog?
Well, if you have one, why not? It’s fantastic!
Why run on your own, then walk the dog? Why run with the dog on a lead with the dog yanking your shoulder from the socket? Why run whist constantly calling the dog away from squirrels, other dogs at the other end of the field? Why do this alone when, you and your dog can be a team, a fantastic synchronised, bonded, streamlined team.
Canicross, as the name suggests is a combination of Canine and Cross Country. The right kit ensures a comfortable umbilical bond. The harness for your dog fits beautifully allowing them to breathe freely, pull in to the harness without rubbing and chaffing. The lead has a bungee effect ensuring both you and the dog are protected and that there is ample suspension. Then for you there is a hands-free waist belt. This is designed to sit just below your hips to ensure that there is no strain on your back, but better still… it helps to give stability and strength to your core… I am telling you, canicross had me at ‘can’!
As a dog trainer and a keen runner, I have been blessed to be able to combine both of my passions. What better way to spend an hour with my best friend than to run TOGETHER. And that’s the key. We run TOGETHER. We are both benefiting, bonding, spending time together, getting fit, socialising if we want to, and spending time alone-together, if we want to.
As part of training we add cues such as “let’s go”, left and right, “hike on” I think that has to be my favourite mind you, “on by” is pretty special too. With cues like that to use when running, I am surprised there aren’t more people literally grabbing their dogs and heading out for a run.
For dogs that are “unsociable” or suffer from slight insecurities around other dogs, this sport is perfect. As a behaviourist, it is brilliant to find a sport where dogs of this nature can participate. They are “under control” as they are kept on lead. But they have the freedom and enjoyment of running, doing something positive, heathy, physical, opioid inducing activity with other dogs, whilst using their brains and being given the space they need to feel comfortable with their owners, their carers, their best friends.
For agility dogs and owners, it is a wonderful way to keep fit for those all-important competitions.
I am so glad that Canicross is becoming more and more incorporated in to running and charity events throughout the country, throughout the year. We have spent many years bonding with these amazing creatures. I hope more and more people will be inspired to take part in a sport that is fantastic for humans and canines alike whether it’s for general fitness or to raise awareness and money for special causes.