One of our lovely Snowpaw customers has written this great blog on getting into canicross with a small dog during the lockdown and the benefits it’s had for both her and the newly rehomed Zeus.
We’ve had Zeus since February, he is a 2.5 year old Jack Russell Chihuahua cross and is a real beauty, although his name may give him an inflated sense of self importance at times!
Due to his Jack Russell genes, Zeus needs quite a lot of running around to burn off his excess energy and seeing as I had recently worked through the couch to 5k programme I was really keen to get involved with canicross as a way to make sure he got some good exercise along with me getting fitter. Lockdown was a real incentive for me to get him training for it as he was definitely not blowing off enough steam on his 20 minute outings to the local park, especially as he’s not interested in chasing a ball. He was scratching at the back door throughout the evening and just not settling down which he’d never done before, usually in the evening his Chihuahua side comes out and he just wants snoozing and cuddling with us on the sofa!
I was worried that canicross wasn’t going to work well with a little dog as I’ve only seen working dogs or bigger dogs being exercised that way but Zeus absolutely loves it. It makes me stick to my own exercise regime too and having his happy little face running alongside me definitely makes running more enjoyable! If you’re not a runner yet then it’s really easy to build up your stamina at the same time as training your dog with the kit using the couch to 5k system (more on that shortly!).
Rachel at Snowpaw Store was fantastic with recommendations for what kit to buy for a small dog and I bought an Arctic Wolf Lite line a Dragrattan Junior Musher Belt (I’m only 4’11 and this one fitted me best!) and a Ruffwear Front Range harness which Zeus wears on all his walks and is really comfortable for him.
First thing I did was spent time getting Zeus used to the kit, we only use the line and my belt when we run and use a Flexi retractable tape lead on all his walks. I had tried running a little with him on the usual lead but found it much harder to control the direction he was going and also it interfered with my running style. Canicross harnesses and lines mean you can run hands free, which is so much easier. Also it’s important to let your dog know what is expected of them when you take them out – Zeus associates the bungee line with running and knows it means business and that when he’s on it it’s not the time for sniffing about or playing with other dogs! He does, of course, sometimes need to do other business, so I clip a little Eco Hound Poo bag dispenser to the canicross belt to keep my hands free.
Secondly, I didn’t want to over do it and cause him to over exert himself, dogs don’t know when to stop and I was worried he might hurt himself if we went full on too quickly. I went back to the couch to 5k format from the beginning (I used the BBC app but there’s loads out there) which worked really well to get Zeus up to speed – literally! The run, walk format was also great to get him used to going at the pace I dictated and training him not to pull to hard and to be guided by my direction. There is also a great blog about increasing milage with your dog that Snowpaw wrote a while back with some top tips.
I’ve found running with Zeus for 20 minutes uses up a huge amount of his energy which has been great during lockdown to stick with the rules and not be reliant on meeting other dogs who want to play to get him running around! He really enjoys it and we balance out his day with my partner walking him off lead in the park in the morning so he gets some good sniffing and play time in and then I take him out later in the day to really tire him out for an evening cuddling on the sofa. Don’t be deceived by your dog’s size – most dogs will be able to keep up with you without going full pelt, especially if they’ve got some terrier in them!
All in all I can’t recommend canicross enough, it’s the perfect way for any dog lover to not only exercise their dog properly but to get fit themselves. The training with Zeus has also made him walk better on the lead and has definitely strengthened our bond.