Canicross (or CaniX)

Canicross with a Smooth Collie

Canicross is the sport of cross country running with dogs. Originating in Europe as off-season training for the mushing (sledding) community, it has become popular as a stand-alone sport all over Europe, especially in the UK.

Canicross can be run with one or two dogs, always attached to the runner. The runner wears a waist belt, the dog a specifically designed harness, and the two are joined by a bungee cord or elastic line that reduces shock to both human and dog when the dog pulls.

Originally canicross dogs were of sledding or spitz types such as the husky or malamute but now many different breeds have begun taking part. Not only can all breeds run but people of all ages and abilities can take part, including children and the disabled such as the visually impaired. It encourages people and their dogs to take part in outdoor activities and meet other like minded individuals.

Personal experience of Canicross

A Smooth Collie enjoying Cani-X

“I have not always been a runner, but after a 2014 motorbike crash I learned to walk again, then jog and finally joined a local running group. I needed a breed which might manage 6 – 10 mile runs or be content occasionally with lead walks and playing in the garden. It should also assume the companionship duties vacated by our dear departed dachshund, Mysia.

During these researches I discovered Cani-Crossing – a sport in which you and your dog wear a harness connected with a 2 metre bungee cord. Cani-Cross was invented to keep sledding huskies fit during the off-season, and the commands you teach your dog reflect this: “Haw” to turn left; “Gee” to go right. OK, you could shout ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ but using the proper terms reminds the dog that this isn’t a gentle stroll around the block!

It took us a year to find our perfect companion – few Smooths are born every year, and competition for the pups was gentlemanly, but fierce. And once we had our gorgeous pup, Arrow, I had to let his bones and joints develop properly for another year before subjecting him to the rigours of Cani-Cross.

He senses that he is meant to pull as soon as the harness goes on – it is shaped to spread loads across his chest and to allow deep breathing without restriction. I can tell he’s excited by his alert stance when I ask for “Line Out”, so he straightens the bungee cord ready to set off. Arrow has taken to it enthusiastically – at least after the first half a mile of stops for sniffing and weeing! But then he runs more seriously, alternating between an effortless trot (uphill) and joyful galloping (on the flat or downhill). Of course, he runs faster than me and is more sure-footed. When the track turns downwards, I find myself yelling “Woah” quite a lot!”

Richard & Arrow