FAQ’s of Canicross

Otis the Canicross Coach

Canicross is rapidly growing in popularity not just in the UK but throughout the whole world.  Here at One & All Dog Fitness we truly believe that it can be a great addition to the lives of dogs and their owners so we created this blog post to help put any misconceptions about Canicross to bed and answer any questions that you might have.  We fully appreciate that trying anything new can be scary and nerve-wracking but we want to make your first experience of Canicross as fun and safe as possible so hopefully this post will answer some questions that you might have and give you the confidence to come along to your first class. 

Our Sunday Class – what a location for a fitness class!

1.Isn’t running with a dog cheating?

We hear this one a lot, The answer is always no way!  You still need to put in the hard work, if anything, being attached to a dog makes you run faster and harder than you would normally.  To be a fast Canicross runner you still need to be able to run fast yourself, your dog doesn’t do all of the work for you.  Not only that but it’s not just about you anymore, you need to consider your dog, and your dog’s needs, abilities and their level of training.  You will notice that once you start running with a dog your running posture and style will completely change, you’ll ache in places you don’t normally ache and you’ll work harder than you ever do in a dogless run.  You’ll also find that you suddenly want to do better, not just for you but for them too, because they are your best friend and they deserve you to be the best version of you that you can.

2. My Dog is only small, can I still get involved?

Absolutely! Small dogs love to run just as much as big dogs, and it’s just as important for them to have a suitable and safe outlet for their energy. You’d be surprised by the difference a small dog can make to your running – yes they may never be able to pull as hard or strong as a bigger dog but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun together. Canicross harnesses come in all shapes and sizes so we’ll be able to find one that fits your dog perfectly.  

He might be our smallest participant in class but he is still mighty, and works his tail of for his owner

3. Do you have to be fit or a runner to start?

This isn’t the case – our classes cater for people of all fitness levels and speeds. By choosing to start Canicross you’ll soon start to gain increases in your fitness levels.  Everyone is on their own journey in life and it’s important not to compare your journey to anybody else’s.  The most important thing is that you are there and having fun with your dog.  Once you make the commitment to yourself (and your dog) you will soon notice that your fitness, stamina and speed will improve. 

4. Isn’t it better to do in the nicer weather?

Actually Canicross is the perfect sport for colder weather. The heat of summer and high humidity can actually be really tough on dogs (it’s why we moved our classes to early in the morning during summer).  You’ll notice in the cooler weather that your dog’s running ability and performance will improve dramatically and you’ll really be able to push the speed and distance more than in the heat.  If you’ve got to take your dog out for a walk in the dark or in bad weather anyway you may as well kill two birds with one stone and go out for a Canicross run with a group, that way you’ll cover twice the distance than you would going out for an hours walk and be back in the warm and dry sooner. 

There is a saying that is very popular within the dog world “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing” and this is very true when it comes to Canicross.  As long as you have suitable clothing and trail shoes that have good grip, running in the winter can be safe, really fun and leave you with a real feeling of accomplishment.  

Briar loved running in the rain, the cooler temperatures make it much for comfortable for them

5. My dog can be reactive towards other dogs or nervous around people. Can I still join in?

All dogs are different and as your dogs care-giver you know your dog best, and you know what they can and can’t cope with so it is up to you to decide whether this is suitable for your dog.  Canicross can be great for some reactive dogs but for some it can simply be too much – it is your decision.  In classes we try to keep space between dogs anyway and we mostly run in single file in classes with some over taking practice; which you could opt out of if your dog would prefer, so it is still possible to give your dog plenty of space.  Some owners choose to keep their dog muzzled during Canicross for the safety of other dogs (greyhound muzzles are perfect as they allow dogs the space to pant) so that their dog can still take part.  If you do have a reactive dog then please don’t let it put you off or be embarrassed about it, but do make sure you tell your instructor or other people in the class this enables everyone to give you and your dog the space that they need.  Being part of a pack and having a job to do can give some nervous dogs a huge confidence boost (it certainly did for our own rescue dog).  The great thing about Canicross is that for the most part everybody is focused on their own dog so they are happy to give your dog plenty of space and just get on with their own running.

6. I don’t think my dog will pull

You’d be surprised, dogs love running and most will happily follow other dogs, they’ll soon get the idea of what they are being expected to do and will soon learn to love it.  Some dogs do take to it quicker than others – especially if they have never been allowed the opportunity to pull before.

7. I’ve spent ages teaching my dog to walk to heel will this undo my work?

Dogs are smart, and as long as you use a different harness for Canicross and a different set of commands your dog should be more than capable of being able to learn the difference between when it is time to pull and when it is time to walk nicely on the lead.

8. I’m afraid that my Dog will pull me over

It’s very unlikely that this will ever happen.  Like any extreme sport there is always a risk of injury but it will most likely be down to human error rather than your dogs fault.  You need to remember that you are in control at all times and that you control the speed.   That said, if you do have a big dog or a very strong puller you will need to use common sense and be prepared to work hard when training your dog especially when it comes to down hills.  If you have a strong dog I’d also recommend working on strengthening your core muscles and leg muscles – this will really help your running, Dan is a qualified Fitness Instructor so don’t be afraid to ask advice on this.

9. My Dog is too noisy to join in

No dog is too noisy for Canicross! Dogs love coming to classes and they bark from excitement and its great to see them enjoying themselves so much.  We run on trails in the countryside so noise really isn’t an issue. 

10. I don’t think I’ll enjoy it

You never know unless you try it! I’m proud to say that here at One & All Dog Fitness we have created a really wonderful and kind community, everyone is so supportive of each other and their achievements that it’s a pleasure to be around everyone and their dogs.  We never leave anyone behind and do our best to welcome everyone and ensure they leave us feeling empowered and happy.

11. I don’t have the right kit

We have various Canicross equipment available for you to borrow so no need to commit to buying anything straight away.  We also have a selection available to sell should you want to own your own equipment.  The only other thing you really need is trail running shoes (and a head torch if you are joining our classes in the dark).

Briar is wearing the Non-Stop Dogwear Free motion Harness

12. I don’t have time to commit

We run classes three times a week, hopefully one will be suitable for you, if not we can always organise a 1-2-1 for you and your dog at a time that will suit you. A Canicross Class with your dog is a brilliant way for both you and your dog to get a workout in at the same time – who needs the gym?!

Alternatively, if you think Canicross is something your dog would enjoy we can run your dog for you.  

13. I don’t think Racing is for me, can I still come along to classes?

That’s absolutely fine, racing isn’t for everyone and we’ll never push you into it.  For some racing is just a chance to go out and have a good time with their dogs and come away with a medal.  Racing is a great training tool as well as it enables you to keep track of your progress and shaving time of your PB.  The racing community is a very friendly one and very welcoming to new participants.  Even if you don’t want to race we will still teach skills that you will find useful in a race such as being able to overtake or for your dog to be overtaken. 

14. I don’t think my dog can concentrate for that long

Never underestimate your dog – you’d be surprised at what they can pull out of the bag.  Dogs love running and being part of a pack whilst running with their humans can be enough to get any dog focused.  Dogs love having a job to do and an outlet for their energy and canicross can be perfect for that, so why not give it a try.  

15. I’m not sure if my dog is fit enough

If you are concerned about your dog’s health or fitness then we suggest getting them checked out by a vet before starting the sport.  Canicross can be a great way to increase strength and fitness in dogs but if there are underlying health issues you will need to get that addressed first.  It takes time to build up fitness for running so we won’t have you running a 5KM run straight away, we will increase the distance slowly while working on technique.  Canicross is quite a safe form of exercise for dogs as they are only moving in one direction (forward) and it enables you to keep an eye on where they are and what surface they are running on.  It is recommended that dogs don’t start their Canicross journey until they are at least 12 months old (older for bigger dogs)

16. I won’t know anybody in class

Here is the great thing about Canicross – you’ll have your dog with you, so straight away you are already with your best friend.  Everyone in class will have their dog with them too so you’ll already have something in common with everybody.  Our group is a very friendly bunch and always welcome new people into the class.

17. How do I get started with Canicross?

Firstly, I’d recommend finding a class or group near you.  Most classes will have a selection of equipment than you can try out to find the right fit for you and your dog.  They should also advise on you on basic commands and techniques involved.  If you don’t live near an existing class then you can, of course, have a go by yourself and see how things go.  There are also some good online training programmes out there which will really help you.

I really hope that you have found these answers to some common questions helpful.  Is there anything that we’ve missed off that you’d like to know the answer to? If so please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us as we’re always happy to help out.  Why not try coming along to a class and see for yourself what the fuss is all about?