Frequently asked questions
How does the club work?
Essentially, we are a group of like-minded dog owners who enjoy socialising and getting fit by running with our dogs. The club is run by a committee (all volunteers and club members). We like to think we are a very friendly club and have social events as well as regular runs together. Quite a few of us also like to travel to Canicross events across Scotland and the UK to compete wearing our snazzy club t-shirts and hoodies (some of us are more competitive than others). Many of us simply enjoy getting out and about with our four-legged pals.
Do I need to be super fit?
No!! We have a massive range in fitness levels at the club, from people who can complete a 5k in 17 minutes to those of us who probably have 17 minutes’ worth of rest breaks whilst doing a 5k. All of our club runs have a ‘tail runner’ to ensure no-one gets left behind and we take rests for as long and as often as the slowest runner needs. Our weekly run on Thursday evenings is open to all. If we schedule a training session for a faster, more challenging run, or for members only, this will be made clear on the Facebook post.
Do I need to be a member?
We realise that as a new sport, a lot of people won’t know if it’s for them until they have had the opportunity to give it a go, so we are happy for people to come along for 3 runs as non-members before they decide whether or not to join the club.
Annual membership costs £15 (payable through Entry Central: https://www.entrycentral.com/club/107647) which covers club insurance and goes towards canicross events.
What do I need?
- A dog harness – one that will allow your dog(s) to pull without restricting their movement or breathing. ‘No-pull’ harnesses or collars are not suitable.
- A canicross line- essentially a lead with a bungee section in it to absorb any sudden pulls/jerks on the line.
- A running belt (for the human)- you can get simple belts which clip around your waist which are ok if your dog doesn’t pull very much, but it can get very uncomfortable on longer runs or with a stronger pulling dog. You can also get dedicated canicross waist belts which sit lower around your hips and are more comfortable to wear for longer and with a stronger pull from your dog.
More information about equipment and links to useful websites can be found in the files tab of our FB page.
Do I need my own equipment?
Not necessarily, but if you do have your own please bring it along. We have a small club kit bag which contains a variety of items we can loan out for runs. Please note however that we can’t guarantee we’ll have something for every shape and size of dog and owner.
What do I need to teach my dog?
There are three basic commands that you can start with: 1) ‘left’, 2) ‘right’, and 3) ‘run on’ or ‘on by’ i.e. to turn left or right and to ignore/run on past something (passers-by, an interesting smell, or another dog). You can use any words you like for these commands as long as both you and your dog know what you mean and you are consistent! You will eventually want to add in other commands to encourage your dog to go faster (‘hike hike’) and slower (‘steady’ or ‘whoa’). Don’t worry if you don’t have all of your canicross commands nailed down at your first run as the dogs very quickly learn from the others in the group and will tend to follow the dogs in front.
To find out more, there’s a great article by k9trailtime that covers everything you need to know about canisports commands: https://k9trailtime.wordpress.com/2017/03/23/voice-commands-who-what-why-when-how/
What if my dog’s nervous?
Canicross is excellent for nervous or reactive dogs and we have a lot of dogs in the club that struggle with crowds, new dogs, or other people. Most owners find that participating in Canicross really helps to build a dog’s confidence and give them focus. Some owners choose to run in a muzzle, but this must be the basket/greyhound type which allows the dog to breath and drink without restriction.
What if I’m nervous?
Please don’t be! (We know that’s often easier said than done!) If you are very nervous about running in a group, whenever possible, we will arrange for a club member to meet you and your dog for an informal one-on-one session before you join the group. It can be less daunting for first-time canicrossers and it will give you and your dog the chance to have a go at your own pace and in your time.
What if my dog just doesn’t pull?
Some dogs take longer than others to catch on to the idea that they’re allowed to run out in front and pull. They have probably been trained not to pull up until now, so please be patient with your dog if it’s not the quickest on the uptake - this is a confusing time for them!
Below are some rules, tips and tricks that might help, but the key to success is patience and positivity:
- Joining an organised group session can be extremely useful for training, especially if you position yourselves to the back of the group, as your canine companion will be motivated by the other dogs.
- Normal harnesses (even those not advertised as non-pull harnesses) are not designed to encourage pulling, so invest a canicross-specific harness to help your dog feel more comfortable when pulling.
- If your dog isn’t pulling, DO NOT tell them off for it, they won’t understand your frustration and all fun will be lost. Use positive encouragement every time your dog runs slightly ahead of you. When your dog does get ahead, don’t immediately speed up; you’ll only make them think they did the wrong thing and that you would rather be in front. Stay back and continue with positive voice commands each time they run ahead, and give lots and lots of praise when you feel tension on the line as they start to lean into the harness and pull.
- Reward with your voice, not with treats, toys, or sticks. Carrying a toy or treats on you during a run will not help, as it only encourages your dog to look back towards you. Also worth mentioning here is that sticks and canicross do not mix – please don’t allow your dog to run with a stick in its mouth, it’s a recipe for disaster.
- Phone a friend! Asking a friend to run in front of you and your dog can be a huge help, especially if your dog knows and loves that person. Following a familiar face (or backside in this case!) will help your dog focus on going straight ahead and become more “forward thinking”, and getting praise from both of you at the end is fantastic encouragement.
- Avoid feeding within 1 hour prior to a run and don’t let them gulp large amounts of water down before or during exercise – nobody wants to run on a full belly.
- Ensure that your dog has the chance to toilet before a run.
- Most importantly, if your dog halts for a sniff, a drink of water, a cool down in a puddle, a toilet stop, DO NOT pull them away or yank on the line. Canicross is not about your personal best time, it’s about the running partnership between you and your dog – you’re in this together. It’s a pest when you were on track for a PB but hey, that’s life. If your running partner is hot and thirsty, let them cool off in that stream! By all means use your voice to encourage them to run on, to ignore that smell, or to ignore that puddle, but remain positive and patient. In canicross, the dog's welfare comes first and the race result comes second.
When do you meet?
We generally have a weekly 5-6k run at Countesswells Woods (on the edge of Aberdeen city) on Thursdays evenings. Please check our Facebook page for exact timing and location each week (it can sometimes be weather or sunlight dependent). This is often the best run for new people to come to as we will always have the ‘Club Kit Bag’ at this run, so if you don’t have all your own equipment we can lend you something of ours. It’s also a good quality wide path with almost no obstacles to get in your way!!
If you want to come along, the run will be posted as an event on our Facebook page a few days before. Please read the event description carefully and MARK YOURSELF AS GOING so that we know to expect you and don’t set off without you.
We also organise other runs, some ‘unofficial’ which are usually just a couple of club members heading out for a casual run. There may or may not be spare kit available at these events, please check the event description on our Facebook page for details.
What if I live far away from the regular run locations?
We know that there are a lot of people keen to join but who live in various and sometimes remote areas of the beautiful Aberdeenshire countryside. If you find that most scheduled runs are taking place far away from you, please get in touch. Our club members and run leaders live and work all over ‘the shire’ and if we can organise a run near you, or just meet for a one-on-one session, we will. We are a relatively new club, run by enthusiastic volunteers, and we are always on the look-out for new running routes. If you have any suggestions of good locations to host a run near you, let us know so we can check it out and add it to our repertoire! Head over to the Contact Us section of our site.