Running with dogs has now become more popular than ever.
Whilst well organised canicross events have taken place for many years, especially on the continent, here in the UK and in East Anglia, there are several clubs which not only put on some super events, but are run by people with a wealth of experience when it comes to all things running with your dog.
When it comes to competitive canicross running, to say that some of the runners and dogs are elite really is an understatement with major championships being keenly contested. However, for many it is just about having fun and keeping fit with your dog.
While it is natural for all canines to want to run, some dogs are more natural than others when it comes to running longer distances (like people).
For those who are thinking about getting a dog for this purpose, it really is important to make sure that not only does the dog suit your running needs, but also your lifestyle too. I have huskies and wolf type breeds and they really can be full on.
If you get a dog from a puppy, then also make sure you let it get close to fully developing before asking it to go out on long runs with you. I would suggest at least 10 months to a year and even then just start with short runs.
At the same time if the dog wants to stop, then stop. Unlike us crazy runners who more often than not try to run through pain and injury, if a dog says it doesn’t want to run then you know something is wrong.
Get your dog fitted out by an expert when it comes to choosing a harness for your dog. The expert will also make sure that the belt, which fits around your waist, will also suffice for your own needs.
Running with leads attached to a collar can lead to neck and back issues for your dog. I did this myself initially until receiving good advice from an expert who owns a specialist store (Kisi Canine) for dogs. A bit like Sportlink in many ways, but for canines instead of people.
For those who want to run with their dogs off lead then needless to say this won’t happen in any canicross event. But for those who do, my opinion is that your dog should always run to heel.
My dogs are never off lead and we have been chased and even attacked a number of times by dogs, which are off lead which really is not nice. At the same time I have seen dogs go charging off chasing wildlife in the woods which is not fair to the animal being chased and there is every good chance that the hunted will be followed by the hunter onto a main road and with that the consequences could turn out to be awful.
Good footwear is also essential particularly when running round wooded trails and off road tracks especially at times when it could be wet and slippery. Or of course after a heavy snowfall which can be great fun too!
Most importantly, remember that dogs do not sweat like us and can easily over heat. They remove heat from their body as part of their cooling processes through panting.
Therefore, do not run with your dog in really warm temperatures. Even in temperatures which we think are ideal, could still be problematic for your dog so if you do run with them, just keep it to very short slow runs of a few minutes and take fluids with you for not only yourself, but for your dogs too.
On the very few occasions where I have gone out wondering whether it will become too warm before we get back, I have always kept close to home to cut short if needs be. It’s a good idea to run close to streams as well which we can all dive into!
As mentioned earlier, if running with your dog is for you and you are still relatively new or inexperienced, then seek out the various canicross clubs which are local to you and of course a specialist store which caters for all your dog running needs.
Canicross really can be a super way to keep fit and bond even further with your dog especially when knowing you are doing it correctly.