We think of the new year as being a time to make changes and get healthier, and this is often through exercise and activity. With our dogs being such an integral part of our lives, if a resolution is around getting fit, then our four-legged friends make for perfect motivation.
If the idea of getting a bit fitter and building a closer bond with your dog appeals to you, then why not try Canicross! It’s the sport of running with your dog.
You might be thinking that you couldn’t possibly run with your dog as you’re not fit enough, or you’re too old, to start a new exercise programme. Canicross doesn’t need to be something that requires high levels of fitness, it can simply be a fun activity that brings you closer to your dog through a shared training regime.
Exercise has been proven to help release the hormone serotonin in our bodies, which makes us feel happy and calm. The same can be said for the effect on our dogs. It has also been demonstrated that physical activity can improve our mental health. It makes sense that this would also translate to our dogs and their mental health.
In addition to helping you and your dog live a healthier life, Canicross can be an outlet for dogs with excess energy. We have found that Canicross, as a fun but controlled sport, can help meet the needs of over-active dogs resulting in better behaviour. It’s also a great way to give dogs, that can’t be let off lead, a really satisfying workout without having to worry about what they’re getting up to.
So what do you need to know?
Canicross is a sport, so whilst it is easily accessible for most people and their dogs, there is a bit more to it than just going for a run with your dog lead in hand.
You don’t have to be a runner to start Canicross! As I mentioned above, lots of people are put off thinking they need to be super fit to start but as long as you start slowly, anyone with a basic level of fitness can take part.
You don’t need to have a specific breed or a bigger dog to Canicross. We fit harnesses for many of the smaller breeds and find that energy and activity levels, combined with a strong work ethic, are more important than size.
“You don't need to have a specific breed or a bigger dog to Canicross. We fit harnesses for many of the smaller breeds!”
However, your dog does need to be fully grown and we generally recommend they are at least a year old (older in larger breeds). We suggest this to ensure you don’t put too much strain on immature bodies and minds.
You can start training voice cues with your dog as a puppy, and we always recommend getting them used to having a harness on and being allowed to pull in it. Doing this early can be beneficial if you know that Canicross is something you want to do with your dog later on.
The right equipment is important. This is my biggest passion but also something which people struggle with the most. You need a harness for your dog, a belt for yourself and a bungee lead to connect you both. These all must fit correctly and meet your individual needs. At K9 Trail Time we advise people how to select and fit their equipment, so that you and your dog are comfortable and safe.
It’s also important to be aware of your surroundings; what surfaces you are running on, if there are any natural water stops for your dog, what temperatures you are running in. It can be dangerous to run your dog in warmer weather and you must always remember they are putting in extra effort when pulling in harness. If it is particularly cold and wet, thin coated dogs can suffer from the cold just like we can, so always bear this in mind when planning your runs.
Treat your dog like an athlete, try and do a decent warm up before, and cool down after your runs. Don’t feed them too close to a run (leave at least a few hours) and if you are doing lots of extra exercise, you may need to have a look at their diet and add some extra calories. However, for most dogs a regular 5km run will not require any changes to your dog’s food.
Last year I did a survey and found that 79 per cent of people who were considering Canicross said they hadn’t taken it up as they were worried about getting something wrong and injuring themselves and their dog.
But now with events, clubs, communities, coaches, competitions and even courses to help you get started running with your dog safely, there are many ways to get the help and information you need.
I set up the Canicross Foundations course last year to give people the opportunity to learn the basics. To give help people feel confident to get started on their own if they can’t get to a group or Canicross Coach to begin with.
So, if you think you are ready to take the plunge and get started running with your dog then we can help! Covering all of your training and equipment needs, K9 Trail Time offers a number of different Canicross starter sets.
The most popular set with beginners is the Canicross Adventure Trail Starter Set which combines some of the best brands of Canicross equipment for people to get out running with their dog.
Canicross has already helped many dog owners across the UK to cope with health issues ranging from chronic fatigue and cystic fibrosis to mental health and feelings of depression. Running with your best friend can provide the motivation to keep at something which ultimately benefits you both!
If you’d like to know more about getting started, our starter sets, or our course please do visit www.k9trailtime.com and if you have any specific questions then please do contact me, Emily via my email: firstname.lastname@example.org
K9 Trail Time stocks a wide range of products that we have tried and tested ourselves, so you can be sure they are fit for purpose. If you need any advice on choosing specific canicross equipment for you and your dog, please do contact us at email@example.com