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Canicross: A beginner’s guide

Image used with permission from DogFit. DogFit provides quality canicross kits and trainer certified courses so you can get started with canicross in a safe, fun and social way.

Whether you’re new to running or have been pounding the trails for years, taking your dog along with you could be a hugely rewarding experience for you both. But how do you get started in canicross?

From how to join a canicross club to the equipment you’ll need, we’ve outlined everything you need to know to get started in this rewarding sport.

What is canicross?

Canicross is trail running with your dog. It originated in Europe as a way to keep sled dogs active and trained out of season, and quickly caught on around the world. 

Canicross participants wear a waist or hip belt attached to their dog’s special harness via a bungee line – this means that running is completely hands free and safe. You can take part by yourself or as part of a local group.

Whilst most people take part in canicross casually with their local group, many choose to participate in events, even competing for coveted championship titles.

How do you get started in canicross?

Getting started in canicross is easy, and there’s not too much equipment required. Before you buy any equipment, make sure your dog is fit, healthy, and able to run, as well as being mature enough to take part (between one and two years old depending on their breed). If you’re in any doubt, talk to your vet first. 

You’ll need to get you and your dog kitted out with a waist belt, bungee and harness for your dog – if you’re unsure about what to purchase or how to check it fits, just get in touch with your local canicross group – they’ll be happy to give you advice.

Once you’re kitted out, it’s time to get out there. If it’s the first time you’ve participated, we recommend booking a class with a local certified trainer, who will be able to give you plenty of advice and motivation.

Which dog breeds can do canicross?

Siberian Husky running

Originally, canicross was dominated by sled and spitz breeds like Huskies and Malamutes, but these days you’ll see all shapes and sizes of dogs out on the track, including mixed breeds, large breeds, and terriers. 

Even so, it’s fair to say that there are some dogs who aren’t cut out for canicross. Dogs who don’t have a strong desire to run might not be suited to it. Equally, it’s worth checking with your vet before starting any high intensity activity like canicross, especially if your pooch has existing health issues.

What age can my dog start canicross?

Most dogs should not start canicross until they are between one and two years of age, depending on their size and breed. In general, larger dogs take longer to reach maturity, and so shouldn’t participate in canicross until a bit later.

Can I run with more than one dog?

Yes, you can! However, if you’re just starting out, it may be best to get used to running with just one dog first before introducing another.

Can I do canicross if I’m not very fit?

Absolutely! Canicross is an accessible sport, and running with your best friend can be a fun and active experience for you both. Just build up gradually to longer distances and faster runs to avoid any injuries – this is best done with a class or club who always run at the pace of the slowest runner. 

Getting started with canicross could be a hugely rewarding experience – just don’t forget to build up slowly and account for the fitness of both you and your dog as you train. Use a PitPat GPS or a PitPat Dog Activity Monitor to track how much exercise your pooch is getting – so you know when to head out on a second run or let them have a snooze on the sofa!

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