Canicross: Everything you need to know

There is nothing better than sharing daily activities with your dog to strengthen your relationship with him. This is why, in this article, we will explain everything about Canicross: what it is and how to practice it.

Not only is canicross super healthy and brings countless health benefits to both of you, it also allows for better communication between you. Learn everything you need to know to practice canicross and start training with your puppy as soon as possible.

What is canicross?

This is a name for the sport of distance running with dogs. This sport is a race in rural terrain where the man and his best friend, the dog, in perfect harmony, not only seek victories but also a lot of fun. The dog and the man are always connected by an elastic leash. The rider usually uses a harness connected to the elastic guide, which in turn is connected to the dog’s traction vest (harness). The elastic guide reduces shock for both, as the dog is generally faster than the human.

Canicross is a very popular dog sport at the moment. It is actually a variation of mushing, the traditional sled dog race.

It is a sport in which the owner and the dog run together and engage in physical activity. The puppy should be strapped to its owner’s waist with a special anti-pull harness and a special canicross harness (which are usually long enough) to control the puppy’s speed. But be careful, traditional collars are not used, because they are specific equipment that protects the dog and the train master from the four-legged companion.

This method is quite well known, especially in certain European countries where this tradition has been practiced for many years. In addition to the many canicross competitions, it is also possible to train alone in the forests, on paths and trails.

Why go canicross?

The practice of canicross has many advantages, both for you and for your dog. Let’s take a look.

The benefits of Canicross for dogs

Exercise is not only good for us, but also for our dogs. For centuries, many breeds of dogs have been used for work and were very active in their daily lives. Today, however, many of these dogs live in houses or apartments where they have nothing to do.

With Canicross, you give your dog an “occupation” that allows him to move and stay active, which strengthens his musculature and skeletal system and stimulates his cardiovascular system. He will also be mentally stimulated because he will have to concentrate to follow the orders that you give him.

“With Canicross, you give your dog an ‘occupation’ that allows him to move and stay active, strengthening his muscles and his bone and cardiovascular system. In addition, he will also feel mentally stimulated.

All of this will help your four-legged friend to feel more relaxed and satisfied, provided, of course, that you combine the Canicross sessions with times when you allow them to go their own way, walk at their own pace and sniffle as much as they want, what they have to do every day.

The advantages of Canicross for humans

Of course, the most obvious benefit is the same as if you walked on your own: Your fitness will improve dramatically, you will feel more relaxed and in a better mood, you will sleep better, you will lose weight …..

With Canicross you kill two birds with one stone, as they say, because you can train while walking your dog, which saves you time.

“Canicross training with your dog kills two birds with one stone, as the saying goes, because you can train and walk your dog at the same time, which saves you time.

In addition, your bond with your dog is strengthened because running with him requires a good relationship between the two of you, a team effort where you both have to do your part and work together.

Where to go canicross?

Although in many countries canicross is already very popular and appreciated, it is necessary to promote it in other geographical areas of the country, where both the climate and its natural spaces are ideal for this practice.

How to start canicross?

Canicross is an activity that you can do together with your four-legged friend, but in order to do it you need to teach your dog what to do: It’s not just about putting on the special harness, attach the leash and expect it to start running.

For this reason, the first thing you need to do is make your dog understand that it is time for some fun running when you put on the special harness. In canicross, the canine and human parts of the tandem should be in perfect harmony, and your furry friend should be very familiar with a number of orders so that you can guide him without a problem.

In canicross, the canine and human parts of the tandem must be in perfect harmony, and your furry companion must master a certain number of orders very well so that you can lead him without problem.

In canicross, the dog must always run in front of the human runner and pull him. However, your dog should know that he is only allowed to shoot when you are running together. This means that he should be able to distinguish when you are walking normally and the leash should always be relaxed, and when he is canicrossing and has to shoot.

The idea is that he learns to understand that when he is wearing the special Canicross harness he has to run and shoot, but when he is wearing a harness or racing collar he has to run on the free line.

For this reason, it is important to teach your dog to run off leash as a puppy and before canicross training.

The ideal is to have a comfortable harness (see our article on the best harnesses for dogs) and a long leash (about three meters, never less than two). You can see a few of them in our post on the best dog leashes).

The dog must learn to differentiate between a normal walk, where he must walk without pulling, and canicross training, where he must pull: the key is the harness he is wearing, and he must know how to distinguish the walking harness. of the canicross harness.

It is advisable to use a long leash as you give your dog space and freedom of movement. If you use a short leash, your friend will have no choice but to pull you whenever he wants to reach for a scent that attracts him, for example.

At this point, you can teach your puppy some commands he needs to know when you walk together, telling him when to shoot, when to stop, when to turn right or left, etc. Remember: even if he is ahead of you, you must guide him.

What diet?

Just as athletes need a good diet to perform well, dogs that practice canicross do too! Choose high-quality, high-end food suited to the lifestyle he leads. He will need a good nutritional intake for this sport.

Remember, too, that food isn’t the only care he needs. The happier your dog is, the happier you will be too: give him care and attention, protect his health … Give him a good life!

If you have a happy dog, they will be highly motivated and enjoy spending time and doing things with you, like canicross.

If the dog has become a real runner, and he must participate in a race, it is advisable to take the last meal the day before the competition, because his digestion is slow and could cause him inconvenience during the race.

It is always advisable to give animals a healthy diet and, during competition and / or training, the diet should be rich in good quality protein.

What equipment do you need to practice canicross?

To be able to canicross with your dog, you must equip yourself with the right equipment. Basically, you need three things: a special canicross harness that is comfortable for your dog, a special canicross harness for you, and a bungee cord that connects you both. Let’s take a look at the characteristics that this equipment must have.

Harness for Canicross

Of course, to practice canicross, your dog must wear a harness and never a collar. Remember that your friend must walk on a leash, so a collar would be dangerous and could harm him.

But not all harnesses are suitable. It is important that your dog feels comfortable and safe while walking and that he can pull on the leash without injuring himself. First of all, the harness you choose should be well suited to your dog’s body shape, not rub against him, restrict his shoulder movements, or put pressure on his airways.

This is why it is advisable to choose a harness specially designed for this sport.

[amalinkspro type=”showcase” asin=”B00O4B5MJK” apilink=”″ new-window=”true” addtocart=”true” nofollow=”true” sc-id=”4″ img-sizes=”500:458″ imgs=”” link-imgs=”false” specs=”H-type hiking dog harness to walk with your dog, trek with your dog and run with your dog~~~Padded dog harness, made entirely with strong, durable, breathable, non-allergenic materials~~~This reflective vest has special padding to maximize your dog comfort and safety~~~It fits most dogs, thanks to its 4 neck and chest adjustments. For extra large dogs, such as Newfoundland, we suggest our Adjustable Sled Pro Harness.~~~It comes in 5 colors: Blue, Black, Pink, Red and Yellow. Sizes are X-Small, Small, Medium, Large and X-Large.” btn-color=”#ff9900″ btn-text=”Buy on Amazon” alignment=”aligncenter” hide-prime=”0″ hide-image=”0″ hide-price=”0″ hide-button=”0″ width=”750″]Neewa Dog Running Harness, Dog canicross Harness[/amalinkspro]

Canicross belt

The ideal canicross belt should allow the pressure to be evenly distributed over the hips and lower back when pulling the dog. It should also be well padded to be comfortable and not to hurt.

[amalinkspro type=”showcase” asin=”B00O4AS7M0″ apilink=”″ new-window=”true” addtocart=”true” nofollow=”true” sc-id=”4″ img-sizes=”500:478″ imgs=”” link-imgs=”false” specs=”This dog leash belt can be used with a waist leash for running or as a dog walking belt hands free~~~Made of polypropylene and padded in the lower back area, for greater comfort. Very sturdy and durable.~~~It has a cotton lining so that it can also be worn in contact with the skin without the risk of allergic reactions, chafing or rashes.~~~The Neewa Dog Running Belt has a shock absorber at the front that prevents jerking, which might be harmful to both dog and owner.~~~It has a removable pocket, which can be used to hold your cell phone or snacks for the dog, and a collapsible bowl that contains up to one quarter of wat” btn-color=”#ff9900″ btn-text=”Buy on Amazon” alignment=”aligncenter” hide-prime=”0″ hide-image=”0″ hide-price=”0″ hide-button=”0″ width=”750″]Neewa Dog Walking Belt with Pocket and Collapsing Bowl[/amalinkspro]

Leash for walking your dog

The traction leash is the link between you and your dog in canicross, but you can’t use just any leash – you need a leash specifically designed for the sport.

It should have two carabiners, one of which attaches to your dog’s harness and the other to your belt, and have an elastic part in order to absorb the shock of acceleration and prevent you and your friend don’t hurt each other.

[amalinkspro type=”showcase” asin=”B07XYNGCR1″ apilink=”″ new-window=”true” addtocart=”true” nofollow=”true” sc-id=”4″ img-sizes=”500:500″ imgs=”” link-imgs=”false” specs=”DURABLE & STURDY – This heavy duty dog leash is made of durable nylon material, lasting longer easily; lightweight buckle with large loading capacity greatly improves tensile strength.~~~EASY TO CONTROL – 2 padded handles provide more convenient options, the top handle one is used while walking, running, or jogging; another bottom handle is used on busy sidewalks, bike lanes, and crowded areas in order to close control of your dog.~~~BUNGEE DESIGN – The Anti-Shock Bungee design and soft handle improve control and cushion, eases the pressure for both the owner and the dog, and provides more space and freedom for your dog.~~~MULTIPLE SAFETY – Dog leash with metal eye-splice and clip hook could beat huge pulling force, and attach car seat belt to keep your dog safety in vehicle while driving; also with a highly visible reflective dog leash, strengthen security at night.” btn-color=”#ff9900″ btn-text=”Buy on Amazon” alignment=”aligncenter” hide-prime=”0″ hide-image=”0″ hide-price=”0″ hide-button=”0″ width=”750″]AUROTH Dog Leash Large Dogs, Heavy Duty Dog Leash Bungee[/amalinkspro]

In addition to the three accessories mentioned above, it is advisable to use good trail running shoes, which are ideal for running in nature. They should be light, have good grip and be waterproof. You have to keep in mind that you will be running on uneven terrain where there is dirt, mud etc.

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Other products to consider

In some cases, you will also need to protect your dog’s paws, especially if you are running over rough terrain. To find out how, see our special article on caring for your dog’s pads.

You can also consider purchasing boots for your dog so that his paws are optimally protected. Check out this option in our article on dog socks and shoes.

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How to choose a canicross harness?

Choosing the right harness is not that easy. The market is booming. There are several for you to choose from. The true traction harness attaches only to the middle or lower back of your pet, never on the top. He must be :

  • Choose the right size for your dog and adapt it to his shapes.
  • Your dog should not smell too strong or float inside.
  • Your dog should not feel any discomfort when breathing and have his shoulders free.
  • The harness must be tight. The seams should not tear as soon as you pull on them. Clips are not recommended because they are too fragile.
  • The preferred material is nylon, which tends to resist over time and to multiple washes.

In stores, there are many brands and it is absolutely necessary to favor traction belts whose multi-strap can be adjusted according to the intensity of the outing.

Which harness for canicross?

A lot of people think that the canicross harness doesn’t have to be specific, but it works with whatever is purchased.

They are characterized by padding in certain areas where the animal will make a greater physical effort, such as the breastbone. They are much lighter and strive to be comfortable for the animal, so that it is not embarrassed when it runs, and at the same time it does not feel the pressure of the pull, nor does it hurt itself. .

Depending on the type of canicross, the breed of the dog, its size, etc., one type or another will be more recommended.

When purchasing a canicross harness, you should consider the following:

  • Don’t buy too tight. If your dog is a runaway, there are models that focus on this type of dog. But in general, you need to allow it to breathe and, most importantly, that the harness does not press against the ribs of the animal as you can endanger it. A little trick to find out if it’s the right one is that you can put two fingers on the waist, chest and neck.
  • You need to check if the animal can breathe deeply without feeling uncomfortable.
  • He has a high connection. Harnesses that connect at the back are more suited to the sled and not to the crossover. Mushing actually consists of pulling a sled.
  • Make sure the harness is not too long, as this will make you uncomfortable and your movements may be more dangerous and more likely to cause injury.

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How to hang a canicross leash on your belt?

The Canicross leash can be attached to the harness ring or belt with 3 options:

  • The simple buckle: make a lark’s head on the harness ring.
  • The carabiner loop: very practical for quickly attaching and detaching the leash
  • Carabiner: Easy to use, the carabiner also allows you to attach the leash to your backpack belt when you canoe.

At what age to have your dog pulled?

Canicross is a great sport for most dogs. Some breeds are natural canicrossers, like huskies, but even breeds like Chihuahuas are known to get involved and love the sport. There are, however, a few exceptions:


As your puppies’ bones are still growing, it is essential that they do not exercise too much.

Canicross is not appropriate until your dog is fully mature. The ideal age is therefore generally over a year, or even 18 months for large breeds.

Dog breeds in canicross competition

Canicross, different from other sports with dogs, does not require a pedigree. All breeds are allowed, including dogs without a defined breed (mongrel). However, for this modality it is important to choose preferably medium or large dogs that are strong, healthy and love to run. The border collie, the dogs of the pitbull group, the Siberian husky, the German shepherd, the Italian greyhound, the rottweiller, for example, are good options.

Therefore, small dogs such as Chihuahua, Yorskhire, Pug, Lhasa Apso, German Spitz are not suitable for this sport. In addition, dogs suffering from dysplasia, rupture of ligaments or muscles, elderly, limping or brachycephalic dogs should under no circumstances play this sport.

Canicross requires strength and physical preparation, some competitions can make the guardian and the animal travel twenty kilometers, so all care is necessary.

All dog breeds: small dog and large dog

The first thing to do is to think about our own physical form. If we are new to running it is always best to start with a dog that we can control and will not pull at us, but who is strong and energetic to take the physical strain. Breeds like the Jack Russell have these characteristics. There are breeds of small dogs that would not be prepared for this effort. For example, the Pincher or the Yorkie don’t have a lot of muscle mass and, in general, they are not very energetic. A medium sized animal can also be another option, as it is still easy to control, such as a poodle. In these cases, it is possible to participate in categories of less than fifteen kilos, because it is a different category. Running with a large dog who sets a different pace is not the same as starting with a small dog whose pace is not as good.

If, on the other hand, you already have a physical background, it is better to opt for large dogs. The Weimaraner possesses strength, lightness and speed that are hard to match. There are also dogs that are very good and can withstand long runs, such as the Siberian Husky, the Border Collie or the Belgian Shepherd. All of these breeds are distinguished by the fact that they have been working breeds, whether hunting, herding, or sled pulling, and therefore are genetically prepared to endure heavy physical labor.

In summary, there are no excluded breeds, as there are many bastards who can make good canicross companions, whose physical and psychological characteristics make them suitable. Just look at the dog’s strengths and weaknesses and do some health checks to see if it can handle this strenuous exercise.

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