All you need to know to get started in Canicross

I wrote an article for a local online publication, This Is Our Town Guildford. The brief was to share my experiences of this exciting sport and hopefully encourage more people and their furry friends to give it a try. Although I’ve only been doing canicross for a relatively short time, I have learnt so much and met so many lovely people and dogs. It’s one of the best things I ever did and my dogs absolutely love it!

I also run a business called Dogfit so please take a visit 🙂

Here’s the link to the article:

http://www.thisisourtownguildford.co.uk/canicross-around-surrey/

I’ve also added the draft below in case the link ever disappears….

(If you are interested in trying out Canicross this is definitely worth a read. It doesn’t matter if you don’t live in the Surrey area. Just do a search in Facebook as there are quite a few groups across the UK, or add a post to the Canicross Trailrunners page).


Canicross around Surrey!


Are you looking for a new hobby in 2014? Well, maybe Canicross is the answer.

I’ve been given the opportunity to share with you all my Canicross experiences and hopefully also convince some of you to give it a try too.

Two of my favourite things (aside from chocolate and wine :) ) are running and dogs. So when I came across the relatively new and exciting sport of Canicross, it was perfect for me and my husband to get into.

So what exactly is Canicross?
If you haven’t heard of Canicross before, it’s basically cross country running with your dog. It developed from the origins of skijoring, where people ski with their dog pulling out in front of them. It is not (as one of my friends wittily remarked) a frustrated Scotsman trying to get across a river! I know, my friend definitely should NOT give up his day job!

The Canicross kit is very simple. The dog wears a harness and you wear a belt and a two metre bungee line is attached between the two of you. The line helps prevent any nasty jarring when the dog pulls and so makes the experience much more comfortable. The idea is that you run together with your dog leading the way without the need to worry about your dog running off or chasing anything that moves! Well, that’s the theory anyway. And if you are up for the challenge, you can run with more than one dog; depending on their size (and yours), two dogs are usually about manageable, but I have seen some people running with four. Not something I’ll be trying in a hurry!

Is it a sport I can get into?
The best thing of all about Canicross is that it suits people and dogs of all sizes and levels of fitness. There is no set distance or pace to stick to, so you can gauge it based on how you feel and how much your dog can do comfortably. I’ve seen people running with their little Terriers and Dachshunds through to those attached to Labs, Vizslas and Huskies.

My husband and I run with our two rescue dogs, our Staffy called Sidney and our Rhodesian Ridgeback/Doberman cross called Red. They both love it. Red is pretty strong and is always raring to go when we set off, especially in a race situation where she’s more revved up, so it’s exhilarating at the beginning of a run and can be challenging going downhill! Sid is a fantastic Canicrosser, he’s totally focused and consistent all of the time and pulls really well.

Canicrossing 2

So how do I get started?
I first discovered this wonderful sport when I saw some Canicrossers taking part in a local off-road running race. They suggested I got in touch via the ‘Cannicross Trailrunners’ page on Facebook (click HERE) to find out how I could get involved and at the very least try it out before committing to investing in any of the gear. This is a great page as it’s a national group so there are a lot of experienced and enthusiastic members, so it’s perfect for getting any free advice and questions answered. Through the page, I got in touch with some local Canicrossers in the Guildford area, met up with some people doing a training run at The Chantries, borrowed some kit and before I knew it I was ordering some of my own online later the same day. Ever since then, my husband and I have been Canicrossing regularly with our two dogs, whether it’s as part of a social/organised fun off-road run or in local/official races.

So where can I go Canicrossing?
I particularly love the social runs that we do. There’s a local Canicross page for the Surrey/North Downs area called ‘North Downs Canicrossers’ (click HERE). I joined this and started organising regular social runs. We meet up most weekends and vary the locations and distances. There is no pressure to run fast or even be experienced. It’s all about meeting up with both our two and four legged pals and having an enjoyable run in the beautiful Surrey countryside- sometimes we’ll even have tea and cake at the end! If you like the sound of Canicross and fancy giving it a try, why not join us some time?

If you do also fancy taking part in an official race there are many events across the country that allow Canicrossers to take part. I tend to stick to more local races. My first race was ‘Hard as Snails’, run by aat events (click HERE); I loved this race as it features some of the best parts of Guildford, from The Chantries to Newlands Corner. They also run ‘The Brutal’ series which is very popular with Canicrossers and I’ve also taken part in some of the ‘Human Race’ off-road events (click HERE) which are great fun, yet challenging and really well organised. The ‘Endurance Life CTS’ events are also extremely popular, although some are particularly tough. In fact my husband and I have entered the one coming up in Sussex (here’s to hoping we can walk afterwards, as it takes in the Seven Sisters). For a general overview of Canicross friendly events across the UK, it is worth checking out a dedicated Facebook group that’s been set up called Canicross Events (click HERE).

In summary…
If you have a dog and either enjoy running or just fancy trying this as a new way to get/keep fit, I would urge you to give Canicross a go. Plus you get to enjoy the beautiful Surrey countryside. It’s so much fun, both for you and for your dog. And it’s a great way to meet new friends. Feel free to get in touch with me (and the other members) via the North Downs Canicross page and I’ll be more than happy to answer any questions, including where you can get hold of the right kit. Or why not join us on a run to see it in the flesh? And if you want to read a bit more about Canicross, take a look at my blog by clicking HERE. It’s just a fun account of my experiences with some useful pointers along the way, but I also hope it may give other people the inspiration to give it a try.

I know one thing’s for sure, my dogs love it and that’s all that really matters

Gail Walker (@GailWalker1)

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4 Responses to All you need to know to get started in Canicross

  1. Jura says:

    Hello! I’m glad I stumbled upon your blog as I have been looking for more info about running with dogs. After having an Irish wolfhound when young (which was definitely not suitable for running) i now have a dog from sudan who is fantastic at running. About her here: http://juraphotos.wordpress.com/about-tala/ We’re limited a bit though as we live in hanoi, vietnam so our main obstacles are traffic and aggressive dogs! We usually just run together for my training but there is a casual 10k race in a safe area of town this Saturday so were going to do our first timed race! I’m very excited. I hope when we move back to the uk we can get into canicross as it looks like so much fun!

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    • gailw1 says:

      Hello! Tala is so beautiful, what a lucky girl to have found you! Love the photos & your blog :). I have such a soft spot for dogs, especially the ones that are rescued. I just wish more people took them on rather than paying silly money to a breeder. Canicross is such good fun, we are loving it. We also run with our dogs off lead but canicross is different and quite exciting running in a pack with the happy hounds! When you move back to the UK it would be lovely to meet you & the gorgeous Tala one day. Good luck for Saturday!

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      • Jura says:

        Thank you so much for getting back to me and for your kind words about tala. The race went really well. I’ll do a blog post soon on it but most of the pics are pretty low quality. We did 10k in 47mins and 48 secs! So I was happy with that. We both wasted energy at the beginning as at the beginning she wants to pull to be in the lead but with people doing it sub 45 that was never going to be us! I’m sure we would be slower with hills and mud! I really look forward to trying it when I come back!

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  2. Pingback: The fastest dog in Hanoi | Hound in Hanoi

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