Beginners Guide

Rogue Dog kindly starred in a video guide to give an introduction on how to canicross.  Watch it here.

The first thing to think about when starting canicrossing is ensuring your dog is old enough and in good health.  Please also ensure the external environmental conditions are suitable for canicross.  

If you are in any doubt as to whether or not you should run with your dog, please consult a vet.  For best results and to avoid injury to you or your dog start your training slowly and build up.  Remember to ensure your dog is fully hydrated, rest him if need be and make sure he does not over heat.

Please do not encourage a dog to pull if he is wearing a collar, this could result in a neck injury and choking.

The art of dog obedience training is consistency, persistency and practice.  Canicross is much the same, the dogs learn the commands by associating them with an action and gaining positive reinforcement.

First things first, figure out what commands you want to use and stick with them.  Different people use different commands.  The important thing is to use whatever works for you and your dog.  Below is just an example and  is by no means exhaustive.

Action Required

Possible Commands

Musher Command

Relevance of the command

Pull

Forward motion

Pull

Ready

Go

Hike on

Hike on

Gives the dog the message that he is free to move forwards

Slow down

Steady

Woaaaaaa

For safety reasons it is essential to have control of your dog’s speed e.g:  steep down hill terrain or farm animals

Wait

Wait

Your dog learns to stand still before starting off or in the middle of a run if for instance you need to re-tie a lace.

Go faster or put in more effort

Hup Hup

Yala (Running Jaspers own term)
Hike Hike

Hike Hike

There may be times you need to encourage your dog more, e.g:  hills, passing other dogs

Go past an interesting object/dog

On by

Dogs are easily distracted.  They need to learn to ignore distractions when they are working in harness.

This is also used to overtake other dogs during a run

Turn Right

Right

Gee

Self explanatory, the dog is upfront and is leading the way, but you are his guide and must give directions!

Turn Left

Left

Haw

Self explanatory, the dog is upfront and is leading the way, but you are his guide and must give directions!

As with most animals a fast, enthusiastic and relatively high-pitched tone indicates an increase in energy requirement and a steady, deep and flat tone indicates a decrease in energy requirement.

Get your dog used to these commands when you are out walking, e.g. if you take a right turn, say “right”.  Whilst he is on the canicross harness and up ahead of you, you may initially want to put your hand on the line and slightly pull it to guide him to the side you want him to go.  Each time he gives you the correct behaviour remember the praise.

When you are behind other runners at a canicross group run your dog should follow the dogs up ahead, but still give the directional command each time you go round a corner to allow your dog to associate the command with the change of direction.   You will be amazed at how quickly they pick it up!

Most dogs naturally love to pull, do not worry that all your good ‘heel’ work will go out the window when you encourage them to pull.  They very quickly learn the difference between a collar and a harness.  The harness means running and being allowed to pull!!  To ensure you don’t confuse them try not to use their harness for walking them.

To get your dog to pull into the harness try running with a more experienced dog, if this is not an option have a friend or partner ahead of you by about 100 meters and if necessary ask them to call your dog.  With your dog in his harness and attached to you, give him the command for forward motion with a lot of verbal praise and encouragement when he responds as required.  Once you reach your friend given him a lot of praise, treats and cuddles.  Repeat this a number of times over a few weeks and as he picks it up have him run beyond your helper until you give the command to stop or steady.

Be aware of your equipment, if the line is slack, scoop the slack part up with your hand to avoid tripping over it and do not allow your dog to run around the ankles of the runners up ahead.

If you have any questions at all feel free to post these on the Cani-Sports Edinburgh Facebook group.