Keeping Fit With Your Dog – Guest Blog by Founder Of Cani-Fit
Cani-Fit are a Scottish based company who train people how to get fit with their dogs all over the world.
We are sled dog sport enthusiasts, with our experience and knowledge in dog harness sports we develop training classes, events for humans and their canine team mates to enjoy.
The most popular sport being canicross. Canicross is running over trails, cross country with your dog in harness and attached to you by a bungee line and a belt.
The sport requires a willing runner both from the dog and human counterpart and some understanding in how best to train your dog. You are required to teach your dog directional commands, focus work, distraction avoidance, speed commands, trail etiquette, strength and fitness.
This all sounds quite technical and complicated but in fact for most dogs, especially the active types it comes very naturally. It does require a little more patience and time for some humans to understand it all 😉
Dogs love to run, that we don’t need to teach them. Most will enjoy pulling, however that requires a bit of careful training. Combining running `and pulling on exciting trails, with lots of smells, soft natural ground and time spent working with their owner is a winning formula.
Working and training with your dog is sure to strengthen your bond. In the sport of canicross you become a team. A team that looks out for each other, that works together over challenging trails, that accomplishes goals together. You discover a deeper understanding of each other, you learn to tune in to each other quicker and truly become a dream team 😉 or as cheesy as its sounds “at one with nature”.
Canicross is a hugely welcoming and inclusive sport. You do not need to be an elite runner with an elite sled dog breed to take part. All breeds can take part, so long as they are old enough to start running (11-12 months for most breeds), and able to regulate their breathing to cool down (perhaps not best for flat faced breeds such as Pugs ) . You can start off training at Cani-Hike level, which is power walking with your dog in harness, teaching them all the basics at a lower impact to running.
Ground surface and temperatures are important factors to consider. You want the surface to be soft, natural like grass, woodland dirt, sand etc. The soft surfaces will improve your dogs strength whilst running and pulling but also be far kinder on their joints and pads. Too much running on hard pack roads, gravel or stoney surfaces can leave your dog feeling stiff or bruise their pads.
Every dog will cope differently in warmer climates, it is important to be able to read and understand your dog. In the hot summer months, you want to avoid running in direct sun light or when humidity level is high. Pick cooler times, shaded areas, or if in doubt let them skip a run out until weather cools down.
Ensure your dog is well hydrated and has access to clean fresh water after a run. Avoid running a dog after feeding, you want to allow approx 2-3 hours after a feed before taking on any hard exercise, also allow your dog at least an hour post run before feeding.
Keep training short to begin with, do not quickly ramp up their miles, even if they are fit and healthy. Keep it physically and mentally positive for them. Think of your dog as a young child. Switch up what you do, keep it fun, stimulating and leave them feeling like they could have done more. Don’t run your dog to exhaustion or to tire them out.
Canicross does require specific kit, a harness that supports the dog when pulling and running. Your standard pet shop harness isn’t ideal as can cause restriction which can lead to discomfort or worse an injury. At Cani-Fit classes you can borrow kit when you are starting out. Harness, bungee line and a hip belt. You can also get advice on how the kit should best fit.
Trail trainers are best, you need something that has grip for the time of year and terrain you run on, so most autumn / winter is a lot of wet mud, you want a good grippy sole. Drier months something with more cushioning that works well on dustier type trails.
A lot of canicrossers will find they are easily motivated to canicross than perhaps run on their own. They know how much their dog loves it, their dog needs exercise anyway and that assistance you get from them pulling makes it such a thrill (and a little easier to get from A – B)
We promise it’s not “cheating”, it is Canicross.
By Lindsay Johnson