Fitter together with your dog – Canicross

Guest Author: Lara Trewin and Tilly 

As a rescue dog, Tilly was a bundle of nerves when she first came to us. We adopted her through Penelope and the SeBPRA team in September 2017 when she was 18 months old. She had no concept of play and was generally very wary of most new encounters she had in her new world. She was so gentle and has now grown into a confident and playful girl. 

Tilly and I now work together daily and share our passion of canicross with other people, she really has changed my life. We have an amazingly tight bond as a result of all the work we do together.

Here’s our story….

When I was looking for a rescue dog, I had certain criteria in mind. I was looking for a dog who I could run with. I’m a passionate trail runner and wanted to share this with a four legged friend around the coast paths and trails in North Cornwall where I live.

The start of Canicross

I had heard about canicross and knew that you could run with your dog in a controlled and safe way, but knew very little else about the sport. Once Tilly had settled into her new life here and because she was over 18 months of age, I very quickly introduced her to my weekly social runs with my friends. Initially I had got a belt that went around my waist, a bungee line and a harness that I bought from my local pet shop. We started off with a weekly run of between 3-5 miles and she was a complete natural.

Canicross originates from sled dog sports where the dog is harnessed to the human with canicross specific equipment. The dog pulls out front and through commands given by the human, follows a path or trail that the human wishes to take.

Tilly was a natural

Seeing that Tilly was taking to this like a duck to water and the fact that she was a strong puller, I quickly realised that if I wanted to keep my kidneys intact and my back in good order, I really needed to investigate the sport further and source some more comfortable equipment for both myself and Tilly. Her walking harness was really not the best option for her shoulder joints whilst running.

Stepping up our game

I came across DogFit whilst searching and immediately liked what I was seeing. Their blog posts were answering my many questions and their shop showed me a diverse range of equipment that was on offer for all sizes and breeds of dogs. This was the start of our new world together!

Great for dogs with poor recall

One of the biggest advantages of canicross is that you can still run your dog without letting them off the lead. For many people this is the only opportunity for their dogs to still enjoy a good run and burn off some energy. 

In fact, many people with dogs that can’t be let off the lead tell me that canicross has transformed their lives and that of their dogs – the dogs are both happier and more stimulated. Canicross enables owners to stimulate their dog’s brain as well as their physical requirements through the “working” element of the sport, training the commands and ultimately working as a team towards a common goal.

I can tell that the bond Tilly and I are forming is growing daily, her recall as a gundog was nowhere to be seen when she arrived so I knew I couldn’t just let her free run with me as her prey drive was bonkers! Yet whilst in the run harness and focused on the job in hand, she seemed to tame down that frenzied reaction. Quite clearly, she feels she has a job to do and she does it diligently.

I also saw how much this sport was suitable for many different breeds of dogs as well as anyone willing to get past that mindset of “oh I’m not a runner” and just enjoy exercising with their dogs. It also seemed like a no-brainer for me. The time it takes to walk the dog then hit the gym or exercise alone was combined and I was able to keep family and work commitments juggled whilst exercising the two of us.

Canicross has enabled me to stimulate her mental as well as physical requirements and along the way we have made huge improvements in her confidence, recall and command training.

Sharing our passion

Both of us have enjoyed canicross so much that we are now DogFit certified trainers and have so much fun sharing our passion with others in our area. We now lead groups ranging from 1-2-1 taster sessions, group canicross sessions and Couch to 5K programmes. I have seen many people who thought that canicross was just for fast runners with fast dogs, come to our sessions and are surprised by how inclusive the sport can be.

It also means that you and your dog can make it to your local parkrun and jog your way to 5k together! It opens up a whole new world for you and ensures your dog gets the stimulation they need whilst being safe and securely in your care.

If anyone would like further information on canicross, then please take a look at DogFit or get in touch with myself and Tilly here.

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