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Have you tried: Canicross?

Written by Fiona

January 23 2019

A sport that has fitness benefits for both dog and owner is fast-growing in Scotland. Canicross sees human and dog leashed together for training runs and racing.  

In recent years, more than a dozen canicross running groups have been formed nationwide.

And, year-round, canicrossers can take part in an increasing list of races, including the Canisports Scotland Series.

One of the first this year is at Mugdock Country Park, Stirlingshire, on February 24, followed by a race at Plean Country Park, also Stirlingshire, on March 17.

Lindsay Johnson of Cani-fit.

History of Canicross

Originating in Canada, canicross is a sport that joins human and dog together as one team. The dog, or dogs, is leashed to the owner with the dog at the front running ahead – and pulling along – the owner.

The pace doesn’t need to be fast and people of all ages and fitness levels can participate.

Most people would agree that it is Lindsay Johnson, of Kilmaurs in Ayrshire, who can be credited with introducing many people to canicross in Scotland.

She first spotted the sport at a dog-sledding event in the south of Scotland almost a decade ago. She decided it would be the perfect pursuit for her young Alaskan malamute, Suko.

Lindsay, who is the founder of Cani-fit, said: “Canicross made sense to me because it was an obvious way to give both owner and dog exercise.

“Instead of going to the gym and walking Suko at another time, I combined the two things and started running with Suko.”

The next stage in canicross for Lindsay and Suko led to the founding of Cani-fit.

She said: “I wanted to do more than just run with Suko. I wanted my training to be structured so I could become faster and fitter and I wanted to compete in canicross events.

“I looked around for canicross training sessions in Scotland but I couldn’t find any. That’s when I decided to start a training group myself.”

Now Lindsay is a full-time canicross leader and organiser of a several races, including an obstacle trail event, Ruffdugger.

She also met her husband Keith at a canicross event.The couple own eight dogs, mainly Scandinavian hounds, which they both race successfully.

Lindsay competes in the UK, Europe and worldwide.

Lindsay said: “I guess you could say that canicross has changed my life. I have a rewarding career, I have got married and we have a beautiful son, Evan.

“I am a great deal fitter thanks to canicross and I have been lucky enough to compete for Scotland at British, European and world levels.

“It’s also been great to see how much other people enjoy training and racing with their dogs.”

Clare enjoys the buzz of canicross and the benefits for her dog.

The canicross convert

Clare Blue, of Glasgow, describes canicross as a “buzz”. She has been enjoying canicross for around two years with her dog Areia.

Clare discovered Cani-fit through social media and attends sessions in and close to the city.

She said: “I love the buzz of running with my dog as it’s a completely different experience to normal running.

“I enjoy the team work and the concentration that’s required from both of us and also the social aspect, both for me and my dog.

“It’s great to see how excited my dog gets at the start of a race and when she’s running in a race.”

Clare, 42, believes hat canicross has been good for helping to socialise Areia, a Portuguese breed.

She said: “Before canicross, Areia was nervous around other dogs so I wanted to see if it was another tool to help her overcome those fears.

“The sport has really helped in that aspect and she enjoys being with other dogs at training and races now.”

How to get started in canicross

Canicross requires a special dog harness that fits around the dog and stops the lead, which is attached around the owner’s waist, from becoming entangled in their legs.

The lead is elasticated, like a bungee line, so that if either person or dog stops suddenly, neither one is jolted uncomfortably.

After this, participants simply wear general running clothing and footwear that is suitable for the terrain, such as trainers for trails.

Most breeds of dogs enjoy canicross although some flat-faced (brachycephalic), such as pugs or bulldogs, may have breathing difficulties brought on by exercise.

Dogs must be at least 12 months old before they are allowed to take part in organised events.

Lindsay said: “It’s important that dogs are fit and mature enough to enjoy running up to five kilometres at a time.

“Like people, dogs will need time and exercise to improve their strength and cardiovascular systems.”

Owners and dogs can run on their own or, for motivation and tips, they can join a canicross meet-up group or a more structured training session, such as those run by Cani-Fit.

Racing or taking part in challenges is the next step for many canicrossers.

For more information see:

This article appeared in my Sunday Mail outdoors column.

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