Canicross: Putting Your Dog To Work

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November 27, 2011
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Some dogs have a need to pull. We can train them to walk next to us, heel, and have perfect leash manners but some dogs just were made for working. If you have a pup that has a working dog’s mind and could probably tow your car if you hooked her up to it, you might want to think about training her to do Canicross with you. It’s a form of mushing and being pulled by your dog but you’re not on a sled. You are on your own two feet.

Sounds crazy? It’s not. It’s a practice that has been used by many for years and in fact can keep you fit and your dog might love it. Your dog wears a pulling or racing harness and you wear a special belt. This allows for your dog to pull you safely. Usually it’s for those who are jogging or running but it can also work for fast walks and hikes.

Canicross helps you move faster and can increase the length of your strides. It can also increase the distance you cover and alleviate the weight you have if you’re carrying a bookbag because your dog also helps. You both burn more energy and have fun. One of the biggest benefits is that is puts your pulling dog to work and allows her to pull. This can make it easier to tire her out, train her the difference between leash walking and pulling, and help improve the bond between you two.

If you think your dog might get too excited and pull you too hard off your feet, start slow, use commands and positive reinforcement to instill heeling, slowing down, and sitting. This will come in handy when Canicrossing through the streets, down a hill, and on slippery trails or sidewalks. With enough practice and time, your dog might even realize what surfaces trigger her to “walk slower” and heel and start doing it before you even ask her to. Also, teach your dog a command for starting, so she knows she can pull. You don’t want to latch the leash to your belt and be comically dragged because she pulled before you took a step! Try teaching “Go” to start, “Right” to turn right, “Left” to turn left, and “Wait” to slow down and stop.

Don’t be shocked if you get some strange looks from joggers, bikers, and other people. It’s not that common to see someone being pulled by their dog with a leash attached to a belt but many athletes do it and have reported that their training times are faster, strides are better, and it has improved their running. Once you get the hang of this, you’ll find it to be a great exercise routine.

If you want more information about Canicrossing, visit the canicross website.

Photo courtesy of Racheal Bailey

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