- Be prepared
Research the canicross event in advance so that you know as much about the event as possible. This includes the distance, terrain (so you can plan your footwear), the likely number of participants (a smaller race may be a better option for dogs that become overwhelmed when surrounded by lots of people and other dogs), the route (choose a course with plenty of shade in the summer) and water stations (you may need to arrange your own hydration pack). Don’t forget to follow any specific guidelines if entering a Park Run.
- Plan your arrival
Give yourself plenty of time to arrive at the canicross event with enough time before the race to do a recce of the area, warm up and allow your dog to relieve himself. Staying calm with help your dog to do the same (hopefully!) before the race begins.
Equally, don’t arrive at the event too early if your dog is highly energised or excitable dog as too much hanging around may work them up too much. You know your own dog best of course, of course, so be mindful of the environment that your dog will be most suited to and avoid putting them under any unnecessary stress.
- At the start line
Dedicated canicross events usually operate staggered start times, where runners set off individually at intervals. However, other types of canicross friendly events, i.e. dog-less races that welcome canicrossers, can vary in how they manage the start for the canicrossers. Some ask participants to set off at the same time as the dog-less runners, while others delay the canicrossers start for a few minutes either before or after everyone else sets off.
Whichever approach they take it’s worth thinking about how your dog will react. Some find it stressful joining a mass start, so you may wish to consider moving with your dog to the side or back of the crowd until the race starts. If this is a potential concern, look for more relaxed starting procedures, such as those in operation at such as Dogstacle to ensure an easier, relaxed atmosphere for your dog. Always put the needs of your dog first. Think hard and be honest with yourself about whether they really will enjoy it as much as you.
- Commanding officer
Take time ahead of the event to practice and perfect some useful commands that will help your dog understand what is expected of him during the race. Done properly, this should make a big difference to your race experience and help you build a strong, longer-term bond with your dog. Commands such as ‘left’ and ‘right’ will help with more technical courses, while ‘with me’ and ‘behind’ will keep you both on track during challenging downhill sections.
- Consider other runners
When overtaking other runners, especially those running without dogs, be mindful that they may not know that a dog is coming up behind them and therefore may not be able to react quite so fast. They may also be afraid of, or not be keen on dogs getting too close to them during a race. Friendly communications are key in such situations. Call out to your fellow runners that a dog is about to pass them on their left or right, maintain a good distance between you as you overtake (keeping the line short if you can) and thank them when they move to let you pass. Politeness and consideration speak volumes and ensure that canicrossers are welcomed at future events.
- Clean up your act
Always carry poo bags with you and be willing to stop mid-way through a race if your dog feels the urge to poop! The best way to avoid such situations is to arrive at an event in enough time for your dog to take care of business before the race begins.
- Food and drink
If you have signed up to a longer race, e.g. a half, full or ultra marathon, then it’s important to consider hydration and nutrition for you and your dog. Pack a small rucksack with emergency supplies, such as water, collapsible drinking bowl, food, spare clothing and basic first aid supplies. Many events insist on this anyway so check their rules to make sure you comply. It’s also worth having a few provisions in the car for afterwards, including water and dog treats. Also, a handheld portable dog shower is useful to clean your dog if the race has been cold or muddy.
- Weather watch
Make sure you are fully aware of the predicted weather conditions and the start time of the canicross event so that you can work out likely temperatures and make sure that your dog will be comfortable. Take particular care in hotter temperatures and withdraw from the race if you think it will be too hot for your dog to trot. Always take water with you for your dog.
- Make sure you warm down
After you have finished the race, give yourself and your dog plenty of time to bring your heart rates down before leaping in the car and heading home. This is especially important if it’s been a warm day or you have a long journey back home.
- If in doubt, ask!
Contact the event organisers with any general questions you may have – they will be happy to help. If you come across a race that doesn’t specifically invite canicrossers to enter that doesn’t mean that you won’t be welcome – they may not have come across canicross before, for example. So, ask the question…and take the opportunity to explain to them the many benefits of canicross!
At DogFit, our passion is about encouraging and supporting people and their dogs to keep fit together in a fun, safe and social way. If you are interested in running with your dog and have any questions about getting started or purchasing kit, please get in touch with us at www.dogfit.co.uk