Starting Canicross Training with your Dog

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: August 1, 2017
Starting Canicross Training with your Dog

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There is nothing better than sharing daily activities with your dog to strengthen your bond. For that reason today at AnimalWised we'll talk about cani cross or canicross training, a sport that involves running with your dog attached through the use of a harness for the animal, a belt for you and a shock-absorbing rope to connect you both.

Besides being healthy for the two of you and receiving all the benefits of running, canicross training will work wonders for your relationship with your pet and facilitate communication. Do you want to learn more about it? Stay with us and learn all about starting canicross training with your dog so you can have a go.

You may also be interested in: Dog Agility: Tips to Start Training


  1. What is canicross?
  2. What do you need?
  3. Can I practice canicross training with my dog?
  4. How to do canicross training

What is canicross?

Canicross competitions are held all over the world, although you can also practice on your own in forests, trails and footpaths. After all, canicross training is simply cross country running, only with a canine companion by your side.

Canicross is a very popular kind of sport nowadays, and it began as part of the training for mushing, that is, sledding with dogs. This explains the sport's popularity with spitz breeds and other working dog types.

Starting Canicross Training with your Dog - What is canicross?

What do you need?

In cani cross, owner and dog run together. The dog should be attached to the waist of the owner with a special harness and a specific canine cross training belt, which is usually quite wide to prevent injuries and pulls. This belt is attached to the owner's waist to control the speed of the dog.

Therefore, you cannot use a traditional lead for canicross training, as you need specific equipment that protects both dog and owner from their partner's tugs. The complete canicross training equipment includes:

  • Harness or belt for the runner. It must be wide and padded; some canicross belts have pockets or compartments where you can keep snacks or other useful objects for the training session or race.

  • Harness for the dog, specifically for this purpose. It must be comfortable for the dog, hold them in place and avoid rubbing that could cause injuries or wounds. You should never use a collar for canicross, as it may cause irreparable cervical damage to the dog.

  • Shock-absorbing lead or bungee cord. This lead holds the owner and the dog together. It should be elastic in order to avoid sudden tugs and soften fast changes in pace. It should be 2 m long at the most.

  • Running shoes or snowshoes.

In addition to these basic elements for canicross training you must note that:

  • If you want to start canicross training with your dog they must be at least a year old, have passed a veterinary control and be in perfect physical shape.
  • You cannot participate in canicross competitions with aggressive dogs that may endanger other runners. Use the muzzle if necessary.
  • The owner can never run in front of the dog.
Starting Canicross Training with your Dog - What do you need?

Can I practice canicross training with my dog?

There is no perfect breed to practice canicross training, as long as the age and health requirements are fulfilled. Most dogs are suitable for this sport, although canicross is more popular with medium or large breeds, from 20 to 30 kg (44 to 66 lb) in weight. Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes are particularly good options.

In principle you can participate in canicross training with any dog suited to regular running; however, and not surprisingly, there are dog breeds with a better predisposition to racing than others. Brachycephalic, that is, short-muzzled breeds like the Pug are not suitable for intense exercise, as they have difficulty breathing and regulating their body temperature.

Molosser breeds like mastiffs, Boxers, Dogues and Bulldogs are also unsuitable for canicross training, as their corporal structure make them more likely to suffering heatstroke and breathing difficulties when they attempt intense physical exercise.

Before starting canicross training with your dog you should take them for a complete check-up at the vet's. Your dog must be fully developed and completely healthy to start practicing canicross; pay attention to the state of their paw pads regularly.

Starting Canicross Training with your Dog - Can I practice canicross training with my dog?

How to do canicross training

What is a canicross competition like?

There are several modalities within canicross training. The most common and widespread variety is running on solid ground, although some categories involve using snowshoes in the snow. Circuits usually range from 5 to 12 km (3 to 8 mi), but this can vary according to the standards set out by the organizing federation.

In canicross races, the dog's welfare comes first and the end result comes second. People who compete at a professional level in canicross do so from the most absolute and deep respect for the animal. This explains why some actions such as running in front of the dog and, of course, mistreating or abusing it somehow, are banned.

How to train for a canicross competition:

Once you have the canicross equipment and you've taught basic commands to your dog, including those of direction, you can start training together in parks or suitable areas. It is necessary to establish a moderate routine and increase the intensity and length of the training sessions as your results get better.

If you want to participate in official canicross competitions with your dog you should set distance and time goals; once you've mastered them you'll know you're good candidates for such an intensive sport.

You can also consider joining a canicross or mushing club to train with other people and dogs and participate in their different activities.

Starting Canicross Training with your Dog - How to do canicross training

If you want to read similar articles to Starting Canicross Training with your Dog, we recommend you visit our Sports category.

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Starting Canicross Training with your Dog