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Canicross: The New "Secret Sauce" of Training for Multiple Sports? Part 1

Learn about a new sport that might be beneficial for agility training. By Barbara Scanlan. Photos courtesy of Canadog.

Canicross offers dogs cardio-conditioning benefits combined with strength-building, harnessed pulling.

Have you ever wondered how those European handlers and dogs stay so fit and fast? One guess is a canine sports phenomenon that has caught fire in the United Kingdom and Europe, but has yet to catch on in North America.

Canicross. Your next new dog sport?

If you haven't yet heard of it, you're not alone. Actually, it's most easily defined as running cross-country with dogs. The handler wears a hands-free waist belt and the dog wears a pulling harness, similar to the ones sled dogs use. They're attached by means of a bungee-corded leash. Usually it's done over natural trails.

I hadn't heard of the sport myself until YouTube posted this video ( as a suggestion in my subscriber email. It was about an event in Czechoslovakia called the Hill's Cup Praha.

Just watching the video gave me an adrenaline rush. People were racing with their dogs running  no, pulling them!  with sled dog harnesses. The first group to run were very fit runners and dogs, but after them came a lot of regular people with pet dogs and even small children in tow.

The whole thing had a festival, dog-friendly atmosphere that looked really intriguing. Needless to say, I had to learn more.

Why Canicross?

Runners run faster with a longer stride since the dog supports part of the weight.

*For agility handlers - As an agility handler, I've been aware of a surge of interest in fitness for both dogs and handlers in dog agility. Canicross seemed like it had the makings of a new conditioning sport that could suit the needs of both.

*For pet owners of energetic young dogs - As any pet dog class instructor can attest, there are thousands or even millions of young dogs out there in homes today whose lives are in jeopardy, just because they have a natural amount of canine energy. 

*For fitness enthusiasts with dogs  Many fitness enthusiasts and runners may have a dog and understand the benefits of keeping their canine pal fit, but don't want to go through the ordeal of fumbling with a dog leash or have a strong dog yanking on their arms.

*For competitive runners - Some might already be running with their dogs, but find their dogs aren't welcome in most competitive running events. Also, using arms to run efficiently while holding a leash can often be next to impossible. 

Benefits of dog-powered running.

Overall, runners find they can run faster with a dog in harness since, during the part of the stride when the runners feet are off the ground, the dog's pull supports the airborne weight. Runners report they run more freely and with a longer stride.

For the dog, the pulling harness is safer and prevents injury to the neck. Pulling is also a better workout for the dog. It builds a dog's strength and the effort of partially supporting the handler's weight also burns off excess energy more quickly. 

Canicross equipment helps humans run free and dogs run strong.


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