Fact: dogs make the best running buddies! They can’t wait to head out the door, they’re happy to set the pace and they never complain about the weather. According to a recent study in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, people who exercise with their dog are 34 per cent more likely than non-dog owners to be physically fit. And for many, running with a dog tops walking – it boosts the owner’s aerobic fitness, allows the dog to express natural instincts and, let’s face it, is a lot quicker than hours of strolling. ‘We’ve seen first-hand the benefits of running with a dog,’ says Ginetta George, director of DogFit, dog running experts at. ‘A responsible dog owner should be exercising their pet every day. Not only does running with their dog keep both pet and owner fit, but it also saves valuable time – no need to walk the dog then head off to the gym!’
This perhaps explains why canicross, cross country running with a dog, is growing in popularity. Originally borne in Europe as a way of training the dog sledding community during the off season, canicross is now a sport in the UK. A variety of dog breeds – from little terriers to big labradors – take part, as well as owners with a range of fitness levels. Dog racing events take place up and down the country, whether at an official canicross event or a dog-friendly parkrun, over a variety of distances. Fancy getting involved? Here are some tips from the experts at DogFit on how to run with a canine friend.
1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT KIT
There are three essential items that you need to run with your dog – a waist belt, dog harness and bungee line. This specialist kit ensures that both the dog and you get a comfortable run. A canicross waist belt like the Rock Empire Running Belt (£43.99;) fixes around the waist and legs to prevent you from getting back strain, while the bungee line absorbs any shock from the pull of your dog. Be aware: there are different styles of harnesses, depending on your dog’s size, power and running ability. It’s also worth investing in a pair of trail shoes that have grippy lugs on the soles made for running off-road.
2. DO SOME TRAINING SESSIONS
Running with your dog begins with a little bit of training. Head to the local park with your canicross kit and start walking to warm up. Let your dog pull on the lead. If your dog doesn’t pull, don’t panic – all they need is a little bit of encouragement! Try running, switching places with a friend and running in front of your pet, as she will want to keep up with you! Increase the mileage slowly to give you and your dog a chance to adjust to the training.
3. LEARN A FEW KEY COMMANDS
Directional commands are key when running with your dog. If you both know what’s expected, the run will be more enjoyable and you’ll get a chance to bond. Common commands include: ‘let’s go’ to start the run or raise the tempo; ‘on by’ to encourage your dog to focus; ‘whoa’ to stop and ‘steady’ to slow down. Don’t forget to praise your dog for obeying a command. That way, your pet will be more likely to oblige next time!
4. MAKE USE OF YOUR BODY
Is your canine pal ignoring your directions? Give the commands added weight by using your body resistance to reiterate the demand. For example, lean forward slightly and say ‘let’s go’ when you want to pick up speed. Alternatively, lean back slightly and say ‘steady’ when you want to slow down. This will help your pet get the hang of the running lingo.
5. JOIN A CANICROSS CLASS
If you want expert help, head to a canicross training session with your pet. Not only will this help both you and your dog get to grips with the sport, but it’s also a great bonding activity. Sign up for a DogFit class at. There are different classes to suit a variety of levels and abilities, from beginners to experienced runners. Nobody (and no dog for that matter) is too slow to learn canicross, so give it a go!
BEST BREEDS FOR RUNNERS
While there’s no perfect breed for running (trust us, you’ll be surprised at how fast some of the little’uns go), some dogs are naturally suited to pacing the trails. Here are some of our favourite jogging companions.
Athletic and with a short coat that won’t pick up trail mud, the Vizsla has immense amounts of endurance, speed and great jumping skills. Perfect for off-roadies.
JACK RUSSEL TERRIER
Don’t underestimate the running ability of this little friend. High on energy, the Jack Russell can keep pacing for a surprising amount of time.
The original canicross dog, a Siberian husky is born to run. This pet can run and run and run, so would be a great companion for a long-distance strider.
As a gun dog, labradors are well-known for being active souls. Lean, energetic, obedient and speedy, this is the dog to pace you around a 10K.
This pretty pal has bundles of buzz. Light, agile and sprightly, Brittany Spaniels need oodles of exercise and will love to go for regular runs.