Canicross is relatively unknown in North America; however, it is a very popular dog sport in Europe. The name Canicross is derived from canine (cani) and cross country (cross), and is a dog sport that involves both a human and a small team of dogs. There are many Canicross clubs in Europe; the largest Canicross clubs being CaniX UK and the European Cani-Cross Federation (ECF). As it's name implies, Canicross is a dog sport where owners and their dogs run cross country together.
Canicross is a very old dog sport that was originally created to help keep sled dogs in shape during the summer months, so that the sled dogs were fit and ready to go when the sled dog races began again in the wintertime. Today, Canicross has become a dog sport on its own, and is enjoyed by dog owners and dogs of all sizes and breeds, be them mixed breed or purebred. However, due to Canicross being a strenuous sport, it is generally only suitable for dogs that are very active and have good endurance, like the Nordic breeds, herding breeds, hounds and gun dogs.
The rules for Canicross are very simple and it is an excellent sport for novice dog owners to participate in. As the dog handler actively participates in Canicross, just like the dogs, they must be in excellent physical shape. During a Canicross competition, the handler competes with one or two dogs. The handler is tethered to their dog or dogs with a bungee cord or elastic line, the cord is connected to the dogs’ harnesses and to the handler’s waist belt. The bungee cord or elastic line is used to help reduce the shock if the dog pulls, and also helps reduce the shock if the owner accidentally pulls the dog or stumbles. The races are either time trialed or grouped. In time trial races, each team runs individually and the team with the quickest time wins. During a timed Canicross trial, teams are usually started 10-15 minutes apart. Grouped Canicross racing is when the racers all start at the same time and the first one to the finish line wins. The majority of Canicross races are timed trials as they are generally safest. Most Canicross races are 5-8 kilometres long; however, some can be as long as 20 kilometres.
Canicross is an excellent dog sport as it helps to keep both the dogs and the handler is shape. Canicross is definitely not a dog sport for inactive dogs or handlers, and dogs like Pugs, English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs and similar breeds are generally not seen participating it in. At the moment, Canicross is generally not seen outside Europe, but it is only a matter of time before the sports becomes popular in North America and other parts of the world.