After running with my dog, Monty, for nearly 18 months I thought a canicross race would be a piece of cake. We’d been running together most days at a gentle pace around Richmond Park in all seasons and nearly all weather conditions. What difference would it make if we ran together as part of an organised race?
The difference between training and a canicross race is the amount of time on the harness
I assumed that the only real difference would be that you’d have to keep your dog on its special harness for the whole race. Normally he’d probably only be on the harness for about a quarter of the run and then he’d run free – unless I spotted a herd of deer. In which case he would go straight back onto the harness. If you haven’t watched the famous “Fenton” video, you can see why.
Monty, our trusty cocker spaniel
It’s easier to find a cani-cross race in the Spring
The first issue was actually to find a race – there are not so many around. In fact it’s fair to say that there are very few cani-cross races in the Winter months, so I was forced to wait until Spring. When I eventually chanced about a 10K race in nearby Guildford, organised by AllAboutTri signing up to it seemed like a no-brainer.
Bear in mind some runners might have several large dogs
In typical fashion we cut it tight arriving at the race late and nearly missing the start. It’s worth bearing in mind that some runners might have several large dogs on a harness. With one small cocker spaniel and feeling particularly unfit, it seemed only right to start right at the back.
Training together in all seasons
Don’t assume your dog will behave how he behaves on a well-known route
Off we went - or in Monty’s case, we didn’t. For whatever reason after a 50 metre pull, he decided that he didn’t really fancy pulling that day. This meant that for much of the race we ran with a slack lead and in some cases I actually had to pull him. Many years ago a personal trainer had offered to do some resistance training by making me pull him on a rope as I ran. Having always politely refused, I soon discovered how hard this feels!
As it was a two lap race and you had to go through the finish half way through, Monty was particularly crafty in speeding up and pulling on each occasion, probably causing some spectators to ask “how can that woman run so slowly with that frisky hound?”
The importance of teaching your dog some commands
Maybe one of the key learnings was the importance of using dog commands – which I’d never used before. I noticed that one runner was speaking to her dog continuously throughout the race.
Canicross is suited to those who aren’t taking their racing too seriously
In conclusion I can say that cani-cross is a great idea provided you’re not taking your racing too seriously. We’ll be doing some more cani-cross but only after a lot more practice. Monty is now a regular fixture at the weekly Parkrun!
Parkrun is a great way to get used to Canicross racing
Top Tips for Canicross Racing
2) Practise makes perfect. The more you can run with your dog on the harness beforehand, the better.
3) Dogs are creatures of habit and while they might be happy to pull on a route they know well, there’s no way of knowing how they’ll behave on an unknown course.
4) Teach your dog some commands – “Let’s go” might mean “pull.” It might be a good idea to encourage your dog if it’s pulling well by calling “good boy.” You could also consider training your dog to understand more advanced commands such as “Turn left” and “Turn right.”
5) Most races seem to take place in Spring. You can search for canicross races at CaniX