canicross / Canicross

For many, canicrossning is the easiest way to start sledding. In the canicross, the dog advances so that the dog pulls the runner. The dog has a suitable sled dog harness and the human has a Canicross belt on the hip. There is always a flexible bungee line in between, which dampens jolts.

In the canicross, the so-called the weakest link is usually the runner, because the dog mainly moves at the speed that the runner can run. Of course, you can get considerable pulling help from the dog, but compared to other sled sports, the dog's pulling ability is not as decisive in dog racing. It is therefore easy to practice the sport even at the competition level with a wide variety of dogs of many sizes. Of course, many do canicrossning without competitive goals: it's an easy way to improve both your own and your dog's fitness. The dog is an excellent pacer and working together gives a whole new boost to normal jogging!

Getting started in Canicross

With some dogs, pulling starts to flow quite naturally, while others may have to be encouraged to pull more. If you want your dog to become a reliable puller who doesn't stop after smells or other disturbances, it's worth practicing pulling just like any other new skill. You should start the canicrossning hobby in moderation. Pulling the runner is hard for the dog, so initially the distances are only tens or hundreds of meters. When you don't let the dog get tired too much, it keeps its enthusiasm for running.

When can you start the canicross?

You can start practicing direction, start and stop commands already with the puppy during daily walks (and continue to reinforce them throughout the dog's life). However, the dog must be fully grown and healthy for actual pulling training. It is good to have some kind of basic fitness for both the dog and the runner as a basis for starting canicrossning. The runner's physique is also put to a different test in the sport than when running without traction, so it would be good to have the supporting muscles and running technique in order to prevent sports injuries. This is especially emphasized when running with large, strongly pulling dogs - with smaller dogs, the effect of the pull is naturally smaller.

In any case, the starting threshold for canicrossning is very low. For example, compared to dog cycling and skijoring, it is much easier for a person moving on foot to control the dog. canicrossning also works as a good starting sport for a dog, even if the goal is to focus on other sledding sports later.

Equipment in good condition from the beginning

Whenever the dog is pulled, the equipment must be in good condition: the right size pulling harness for the dog, a flexible pulling cord and a foot-looped pulling belt for the runner. So don't get carried away with the idea that you will get the right equipment when you first start the sport. The right equipment is a safety factor for both you and your dog. For example, improperly fitting sled dog harnesses can also quickly reduce the dog's motivation for the entire sport. canicrossning equipment is also multi-purpose: often the same running belt and elastic sling can also be used for everyday walks and camping/hiking. Read more about the equipment below.

find the best equipment for canicrossning here

Elementary exercises

You should start pulling training with very short pulls of a few tens of meters to the reward. The reward can be food, a toy or even a familiar person. If you can use an assistant, let him stimulate the dog verbally from the front. A runner enthusiastically running behind can easily make a beginner dog just look behind or even stop.

  • Run together to the pay with the dog in a pulling harness but not connected. This way the dog gets used to the person running close behind.
  • Let the dog pull in the tow harness, so that you brake the going. This is how the dog gets a feel for pulling in a pulling harness. In this exercise, you don't even have to run yourself first.

Always remember to warm up and cool down both your dog and your own muscles before and after even short pulling exercises.

Extending the drawbars

When the dog is no longer bothered by the "brake" running behind it and the dog has learned that pulling in the pulling harness is allowed and desirable, the pulling distance can be extended step by step with different training sessions: e.g. 100, 300, 500, 800 meters. As the trips get longer, there will naturally also be translations.

In order to maintain the dog's motivation to pull, you must maintain your composure during training. The length of the pulling part, especially for a beginner dog, should be such that the dog can pull it with the cloth taut. With well-run performances, the dog gains confidence in pulling and the motivation to pull increases.

You can include a pull-up workout as part of a longer run. It makes sense to first jog to warm up the muscles - take a stretch in the middle of the run - and then continue cooling down the muscles for the rest of the run. When the dog is not intended to pull, the leash can be attached to the dog's collar. Warming up and cooling down can of course also be done so that the dog can move freely; if there is a chance.

Even if your dog seems to already find the exercise rewarding, the thank you waiting at the end of the run is an important part of maintaining pull motivation.

Equipment for canicrossning

  • sled dog harness for a dog
    A harness that fits the dog well, is the right size, and is intended for pulling sports. With ergonomic pulling harnesses, the maximum pressure of the pull is comfortably directed on the dog's chest and not on the sensitive throat area or on the shoulders. Check out this sled dog harness to our matching guide .

    If your dog is not intended to actually pull, but just to walk ahead of you at the end of the leash, or even next to you, instead of elongated pulling harnesses, well-fitting harnesses are ideal for running with your dog shorter Y-harness .

  • Flexible drawstring
    In all harness sports, you must always use a flexible harness. The optimal (and competition-compliant) length of the dog leash when stretched is at least 1.5 m and at most 2.5 m, measured from the back of the dog to the buckle/hook of the competitor's belt. According to the official rules, the end of the bungee cord on the runner's side must not have any kind of metal part (lock or ring, etc.), because they might injure the dog if the bungee line for some reason comes off/is detached during the pull. This safety factor is also good to take into account when training.
  • Also remember to check the condition and elasticity of the pull cloth from time to time: even high-quality pull cloths lose their elasticity over time and hard use.

  • Canicross belt for runners
    It is important that the Canicross belt that goes on the runner's hips stays in place even when running. The leg loops prevent the belt from snagging when running uphill. A pull belt that is too high on the waist is very risky, because all the jolts are then directed at the person's back. The pull belt must also be wide enough: according to competition regulations, the pull belt is at least 7 centimeters wide on the back side. You can learn more about the various Canicross belt models in our Canicross belt guide . One of the most ergonomic options for a running belt is Non-stop dogwear's CaniX Belt , where the traction point comes from below, at the height of the runner's buttocks.

canicrossning competitions

Sled sports competitions in Finland are still relatively small events, where the atmosphere is relaxed. So don't hesitate to participate in the first competitions! The easiest way to start a sled sports career is specifically with canicrossning. In practice, it is enough for the dog to move ahead of the runner voluntarily and not be a danger to other dogs or runners. A dog with aggressive tendencies has absolutely no place in sledding competitions, as tight overtaking situations will inevitably occur.

In Finland, the so-called sula maa sled sports competitions are organized in spring and autumn. Summers are the vacation and basic fitness season for sledding athletes, as the hot weather is not suitable for sledding sports. Competition rules of IFFS, the International Sled Sports Federation, are used in competitions under the Finnish Sled Sports Federation. National rules supplement the IFSS rules in national team sport competitions and SM competitions.

You can find information about upcoming canicrossning competitions here: Luge sports competitions and events . In the competition announcements, the class abbreviations for canicrossning series are DCM / DCW (canicross men / women) and for juniors DCMJ / DCWJ (boys / girls). Even in official competitions, in addition to the normal canicross class (usually approx. 5 km) there is also a hobby canicross class (usually approx. 3 km).

Don't forget to check out our website as well: Participation in canicrossning competitions .

Does the dog always pull on a leash if you do pulling sports with it?

One thing to think about for those who are considering starting pulling sports is whether the dog will also start pulling on a leash during daily runs. In practice, dogs do learn to distinguish between different equipment when they can pull properly and when they can't. sled dog harnesses feel different to the dog when worn than normal everyday outdoor equipment, so it is easy for them to distinguish them. It is therefore logical for the dog that the tow leashes use different harnesses than those that have been taught to walk nicely in everyday life without pulling.

A dog used for pulling sports does not automatically mean a dog that always pulls on a leash. Practicing pulling sports is also a great way to channel an active dog's energy into exercise. Therefore, permitted pulling in sled dog equipment can also make everyday jogging easier.