Spring season is here! With spring comes the desire to be more active, healthier, to enjoy the outdoors more, and to lose those unwanted pounds that creep on us during the colder months. This is true for most of us, but it might also be true for your dog! He most probably wants to spend more time outside, to be more active, to enjoy the warmer sun and the new smells, even more so if it means spending more time with you.
A possible match: canicross! A lot of people would not dare to try canicross: “I am way too much out of shape”, “I cannot run”, “I have bad knees”, etc. Yet, you do not absolutely have to run to do canicross; you can do “caniwalk”!
By starting to walk “cani-style” instead of running, you are getting the same benefits (being more active, spending time with your dog and enjoying the outdoors), but you are doing it more gradually, hence reducing the risk of injuries. And this is true for your dog too: an inactive dog might have a hard time getting from the couch to running for 30 minutes without the proper preparation!
If you have an already very active dog, do not feel bad because you cannot yet run with him. Pulling you during your caniwalks makes it more physically challenging for him, therefore giving him a good outlet and a good workout, plus it also challenges him mentally as he is in “working mode”. And as you get more in shape, you can gradually alternate between walking and running as you go along.
The only rule is to enjoy yourself in the outdoors and spend quality time with your dog. Canicross is a team effort: it is a good bounding activity between the dog and his owner. Not only will it make your walks very enjoyable, but it will also probably make your everyday routine more fun with your tired and well-behave dog.
So what do you need to get started?
– A harness: this is the most important piece of equipment. You want your dog to feel comfortable when pulling, and he should not feel the line bouncing on his back. The harness should fit just right. Make sure to go in a store where you can bring your dog so that he can try on different models and sizes
– An elastic line (or bungee cord): this is the physical bond between your dog and yourself. It is important that you choose an elastic line as opposed to a regular one to ensure that neither you nor your dog experience shock loads.
– A waistbelt: this piece of equipment is for your own comfort! You want a good-quality belt that spreads the load that your dog applies to you while pulling, so that you do not develop back pain or other injuries.
Pulling is not natural to all dogs. In fact, most dogs have been taught not to pull, and might not know that it is sometimes appropriate to do so. You have to teach your dog that it is OK to pull when he is wearing his harness. To do so, you can ask someone to call your dog with his favourite treat once your dog and you are wearing your canicross kit. When he pulls to go see your friend, that person gives him at treat and you can reward him yourself with a “good girl/good boy”. You can repeat several times until he learns that pulling with his harness is something good (he gets rewarded and praised!). You can also have another dog teach him how to pull by following an experience dog and his owner. When your dog pulls to get closer to the duo, you praise him.
Interested to learn more? Here is some info and reference links for you to read: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canicross