Learning to canicross should be really good fun for you and your dog.
Your dog must be fully grown (at least 12 months old) to start canicross but there is no upper age limit as long as your dog is fit and healthy. Care should be taken with brachiocephalic breeds such as Bulldogs but if you have any concerns about whether your dog should participate, please consult with your vet
Your dog's canicross experiences should always be positive so before you hit the trails, read our 5 top tips for canicross success below.
01/ Ensure your dog's harness fits comfortably
To encourage your dog to pull into harness, it's important the harness fits well and is comfortable for your dog.
Harness queries are the most common for beginners and they're difficult to answer as there are so many variations of size and shape of dogs just within one breed.
We believe there is no such thing as a 'perfect harness' but there is the perfect harness for your dog.
02/ Get to know your equipment
To canicross, you need a harness for your dog, a belt for you to wear and a bungee line to safely connect you both. Having a bungee or elasticated line is really important as it acts as a shock absorber between you and your dog.
Equipment will wear with use so get to know your equipment so you can check for any damage before heading out on the trails.
03/ Keep the run short and exciting
Find an exciting trail such as a single track in a wooded area so your dog has a clear defined path to follow. This will encourage them to run in front of you and pull into harness.
Try to avoid hard or gravel pathways which will be less comfortable for your dog to run on. It's important that all of your dog's canicross experiences are positive.
When starting any new activity it's important that you and your dog build up your training gradually so your bodies have time to adapt to forces being placed on it. Start with a short interval of 50 -100m to encourage your dog to pull into harness. Then if you can, free run your dog for the rest of your run or walk them on lead.
04/ Reward your dog for pulling into harness
Some dogs will naturally run into harness. But if your dog is unsure about being allowed to pull here's some tips on how to encourage them:
Roll a ball in front and treat reward
Run with a friend who is running very slightly in front, encouraging the dog to run along. Or have your friend in harness and you run slightly in front
Run with a canicross group.
When your dog is pulling, put a verbal cue in such as 'yes', 'good boy/girl' or 'go go go' so that the dog associates that word with the feeling of pulling in harness.
At the end of the run always reward your dog with verbal praise and attention so it's a positive experience for them.
05/ Teach your dog directional cues
When you're out on the trails it's important to give your dog clear voice cues so they feel confident about which direction they're going in.
You can use whatever words you like as long you and your dog both know them. You can start teaching directional cues whilst out on a walk, so when your dog approaches a right turn, say the word 'Gee'. If they look back at you, put your right arm out as a directional cue. As soon as they have taken the corner, reinforce with either an 'OK' or 'good boy'.
You can also reinforce it at home by holding a treat in your hand either side of your dog and rewarding them if they go to the correct hand. Just ensure if you're asking them to 'gee' that it's your dog's right.