Canicross: the ultimate running adventure with your dog


Canicross is a stellar way to share your running passion with your furry friend. Whether you’re looking for a way to stay fit, spend quality time with your pet, or compete, it’s got you covered. However, this endurance sport requires specific gear and prior prep. And keep in mind: not every breed is cut out for Canicross.

Here are some tips for starting off on the right paw.

Running canicross with your dog: What’s the deal?

Canicross (or dog running) is more than just a jog in the park. The two of you are a dynamic duo, encouraging each other over a course that spans several miles (usually 2.5 to 5.6 miles for competitions). That’s why trust between master and dog needs to be rock solid. You’ll be pushing each other to new limits.

  • For this activity, you and your dog are joined by a stretchy tether of about 5 feet (1.50 meters), equipped with a carabiner at both ends. One end clips onto the master’s canicross belt while the other attaches to the dog’s harness.
  • You’re not there to drag your dog. They should be running because they love it.
  • With your dog leading the way, they’ll set the pace, exerting a slight pull.

To conquer this sport successfully, a gradual build-up and specific gear are a must.

What gear do you need to run with your dog?

  • A sports harness for your dog that’s built for pulling. This device allows you to control your dog without choking them. In fact, choke collars, prong collars, and semi-choke collars are a big no-no for canicross.
  • A stretchy tether of about 5 feet (1.50 meters) also known as a tow line.
  • A special canicross belt and comfy running shoes for the human in the duo.

A nifty tip 💡

  • Hardening lotion (such as Solipat) to toughen up your dog’s paw pads.
  • Vaseline to soften and moisturize overworked paw pads after a run.
  • Treats to reward good behavior.

How to start canicross with your dog?

Step by step is the way to get your dog excited about running with you.

  • Training for canicross First, equip your dog and slip into your gear.
  • Second, give your dog a bit of freedom to do its business and relax.
  • Third, start walking casually. Automatically, your dog will position itself in front of you, then you pick up the pace.
  • Applaud and reward your dog when it gets in front of you.
  • Once your dog has the hang of it, start jogging slowly then faster. You should feel a slight pull.

Gradually, increase speed and course length.

 Which dogs should avoid canicross?

A visit to the vet is key before you embark on the canicross journey.

  • Dogs with heart murmurs, breathing issues (brachycephalic breed) or joint problems (arthritis, dysplasia or weak cruciate ligaments) cannot engage in canicross.
  • Plus, you should wait until your dog reaches 1 year to start this sport without risking damage to its joints. If you plan on running with it, teach it recall, heel, left and right during this first year. And get it used to the harness.
  • Finally, category 1 dogs are not allowed in canicross competitions.

Working dogs (Malinois, Labrador, Golden, etc.), Jack Russells and sheepdogs (Australian Shepherd, Border Collie, etc.) are perfect for running with their master.

Smart tip about canicross

Avoid giving food or drink to your dog before exertion, and wait two hours after your canicross session to feed them. Otherwise, your dog runs the risk of stomach torsion or flip. This condition can be very serious, even deadly for your companion.

Images: 123RF: Przemyslaw Iciak, Przemyslaw Iciak; Pixabay: Susanne

Written by Lydie Dronet | With over 20 years in the field of animal care, Lydie shares her paws-on expertise and experience. Other topics she loves delving into are nutrition and the medicinal uses of plants.