There’s more to running with your dog than just trotting off, lead in hand and dog by your side (or under your feet).
CaniX (which stands for canine cross-country) is the growing sport of running while connected to your harnessed dog. As well as special kit, there’s a technique with commands and you can even go on to enter events. I approached Jenny Lee, who teaches CaniX at her Joggy Doggy classes in Kent, and asked if she thought Frankie and I could learn this new skill. Well, you know what they say about old dogs and new tricks!
Frankie is a five-year-old Boxer/Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross rescue with a heart of gold and an over-exuberant nature. We power walk twice a day and have run together in the past using a regular dog lead. Jenny assured me that the specific kit and techniques of CaniX would make everything much easier and more enjoyable for us both.
The basics The CaniX kit is what really helps transform running into a great training session for dog and owner. The human wears a thick, wide belt and the dog wears a sturdy harness, designed to distribute pressure evenly through the chest and shoulders. You’re connected by a CaniX line, similar to a lead but much longer. As you start to run, you send the dog in front of you by verbal command and he runs out to the end of the line. From this position, you can both run in harmony, with the human enjoying the benefit of the pull (the pressure is comfortably spread across your lumbar spine and hips). It’s a hands-free experience, because the line is taut between you and the dog, although you can easily reach out and grasp the handle if you need to. Before heading off into the beautiful local woodland, we worked on commands; turning, stopping and technique. We learned how to pass other dogs safely and played games using sprints and relays. I was amazed at how quickly and intuitively Frankie took to the whole thing. He’s smart, but not a working dog, nor is it in his breed to pull things. The commands were similar to those I’ve seen used in Husky sledding: ‘hike hike’ for moving out to the end of the line and a simple ‘left’ or ‘right’ for turning.
Heading for the hills The second part of the lesson was a run up into the surrounding woodland, through mud and leaves, up and down hills and across open countryside. I was a little nervous about the prospect of being pulled down muddy hills by a 26kg dog but, amazingly, Frankie slowed his pace to match mine and seemed to be listening carefully for my CaniX commands. By the end of our run we were both tired but exhilarated. CaniX really does make running so much more enjoyable for both halves of the partnership. I can’t speak for Frankie, but I sensed he relished the feeling of being put to work in this way. It seemed to spark off a deeply buried instinct in him and his mind seemed very focused on the job he’d been given. As for me? I found I could open up my stride, run faster and tackle the off-road conditions more confidently. Jenny explained why she loves using CaniX to exercise dogs (and humans!). ‘All domestic dogs have a far greater capacity for exercise than we normally let them have,’ she says. ‘CaniX is ideal, particularly for dogs who can’t be exercised off the lead. They work hard and it fatigues them, and they learn in a different way when in harness. Humans generally find they can run faster and further when running with their dog in harness. It encourages them to run on different terrain, which is good for fitness and joints. And I don’t know anyone who isn’t incentivised by running with a happy dog!’ Will Frankie and I continue doing CaniX? Put it this way: I’ve already ordered our very own belt, harness and line.
Why we love to run with our dogs
Lottie loves to run and I am open to persuasion. She is the best possible personal trainer, because she motivates me to get out. Anna and Dalmatian Lottie
Puppy classes didn’t work for Monty, who had a bad time of things before being rescued. CaniX has done wonders for his confidence, obedience and social skills. Rob and Parsons Terrier Monty
I don’t like running when I’m by myself. CaniX has revolutionised running for me. I enjoy it so much more than regular running. Caroline, who borrows a friend’s dog
The CaniX kit really helps my running technique. Running with Jasper is so much more rewarding than running by myself. Bella and Cocker Spaniel Jasper
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