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Canicross: The New "Secret Sauce" of Training for Multiple Sports? Part 2

More info on this new, exciting sport! By Barbara Scanlan. Photos by Canadog.

This is part two in a series about a new sport that focuses on canine and human fitness. Part one can be seen here.

Canicross precautions.

You're the coach. Know how to run safely.

For humans:

Ann Margaret McKillop, owner of My Fitness Recovery ( of Ludlow, Vermont, has been a runner for 40 years and a ChiRunning® ( instructor since 2006. When asked about the benefits and risks of Canicross, she first listed the many cardio-vascular and stress-relief benefits that come with running.

A Canicross runner will gain a longer stride and faster speed, but it does come with some potential risks. McKillop encourages all runners, whether doing Canicross or not, to develop an efficient and safe running style. She notes that, as a Canicrosser, unless you are as fast as your dog, you can actually increase your risk of injury. Over striding can be hard on knees and hips. Also some runners may experience lower back strain from pulling and braking against the dog. High impact injuries can also increase. Heel strike runners carry the highest risk of injury, according to McKillop.

To avoid injury, she suggests practicing good form without the dog pulling you until you are comfortable with the new running style. She recommends, "leaning from the ankles with the shoulders and hips ahead of the feet so that you are going with the forward motion the dog generates rather than braking against it. This will reduce stress on the lower back."

For racers, McKillop says to "Master the start. A dog, especially the kind that is great at Canicross, gets up to speed much more quickly than his human partner. When the dog gets to the end of his lead, the runner will be jolted in what is essentially a whiplash motion of the lower back. The runner should hold the harness of the dog until, together, they are at their preferred speed, and then let the dog run the lead out." She adds that holding and gradually feeding out the lead at the start will also help the racer avoid crashes with other teams who might be crossing line and lead.

Equipment fit is also important. McKillop says "For the human, the length of the line and the angle at which it connects to the dog are important in protecting the runner's lower back. If the dog is much smaller than the runner, there is a tendency for the runner to bend at the waist."

Ramsay adds that a good pair of running shoes is also important.

For dogs:

First and foremost, McKillop says to be sure both you and your dog are wearing properly fitted equipment. She shares, "If your dog is wearing a sled dog harness, it must be the right size or the dog will not be able to breathe properly. Also, the harness must settle properly on the area the dog is meant to pull with or you risk injuring your dog." Canadog has online videos to help with fitting ( and Ramsay says she and her staff are available to help potential Canicrossers determine the right fit.

Ramsay urges, "Make sure your dog is age-appropriate for the distance you want to train. Dogs are generally fitter than people, but check with your vet before beginning." When running, she recommends watching the feet of the dog, especially when running on pavement or taking on further distances. Before, during and after running, check the pads for fissure


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