Mum and I have been running together since I was just over a year old. We’re a bit sporadic – mum’s not run me over the summer months (or herself, to be honest) as it’s too warm, and we’ve never entered a canicross race. We just do our own thang, working on the basis that it kills two birds with one stone, so to speak. Mum doesn’t want to take herself off for a run, then have to take me for a separate walk. It’s all about working smarter, not harder these days, no?
So although mum has been a runner for well over a decade, including numerous races from 5km to marathon distance, this post is very much from a ‘fun runner’ point of view. It’s also a l-o-n-g one, so you might want to grab a cup of tea and a sticky bun before settling down for a read. You can run it off later.
A few lines about lines
We’ve tried a few lines over the years, and mum’s a recent convert to a shorter one.
We started with the Ezy Dog Road Runner lead, which clips around your human’s waist and has a bungee element near the lead attachment point for your dog. This is a great bit of kit for someone new to running a dog, as it’s not too expensive and will give you a good indication of whether you – and just as importantly – your dog enjoy running together. It’s a waist belt and lead all in one, so an excellent choice for a first timer.
The minus point with this is that it attaches round your waist, rather than your hips. Despite the bungee, it can be quite jarring if your dog suddenly puts on a spurt (the word ‘squirrel’ springs to mind here). And after a few months the bungee became quite stretched, reducing shock absorbency.
We then tried an Arctic Wolf two metre running line, when we upgraded to the Rock Empire EuroLite canicross waist belt.
This running line has served us well – despite my habit of having a chew of the line before we start running, it hasn’t degraded at all. The bungee element is still in good condition despite months of use. It also has a grab handle near the lead attachment point, which for some reason mum rates as essential should you need to bring your dog in close and securely.
We’ve not done a parkrun as I’m quite (very) excitable in crowds, and can lean towards being anxious in new situations. If we were to do one – and there are plenty of venues to choose from near where we live – then we would need a shorter bungee line, as that is one of the stipulations of running dogs at parkrun.
Enter the Non-Stop parkrun line. At just one metre long mum was a bit dubious that we’d be tripping over one another and she really wasn’t sure she’d like it. Well, she does. In fact, it’s our line of choice now.
There are several plus points with the Non-Stop line. It’s made of really durable webbing, and it’s elasticated throughout its entire length, rather than just having a foot or so of stretchy bungee. This really helps the shock absorbency.
I often don’t pull out too far in front on a longer line, which means mum has to pick up the slack or risk tripping over it as it drags on the ground (which has happened). We’ve also run either side of a lamp post, and twanged to a comedy stop in front of two old boys having a chat. Oh, how mum laughed!
With the shorter line neither of these things are an issue, which saves her a scabby knee or two, and a little of her dignity. The grab handle is also very easy to get hold of (more so than with the Arctic Wolf line).
There are a couple of negatives she can think of with this line. The first is that that grab handle is also elasticated, so there are a few inches of ‘give’ if I try make a run for it. Mum says it would be better if this handle wasn’t stretchy, just to give her that extra bit of control without compromising the shock absorbency of the rest of the line.
The second is that because it’s a shorter line, there’s not much margin for error if I spy with my little eye something that begins with s (squirrel, in case you were wondering). If I veer off to the side at a rate of knots, mum’ll be following hard on my heels whether she wants to or not!
We’ve also invested in a Non-Stop Panic Snap.
This is a nifty bit of kit that enables you to immediately detach yourself from your dog, should the situation require it. It also makes it much easier to switch lines over, without faffing about with untying one line from the hip belt and replacing it with another.
Why a waist belt?
We’ve seen people run their dogs holding the lead in their hand, which I’m sure works fine if you have a dog that happily trots beside you on a loose lead. However, in ‘proper’ canicross, your dog is meant to pull out in front of you when you run it, so a waist belt is the way to go.
Mum uses a Rock Empire belt. It has leg straps to prevent the main hip belt from riding up to your waist, while a small waist belt prevents the hip belt sliding to half way down your backside. The key here though, is to have the small waist belt as tight as you can put up with. Too loose and you’ll be forever pulling up the hip belt from around your bum cheeks.
Mum would suggest going to a specialist shop so you can try various belts to find the one that suits you best. You want it to be comfortable, with no annoying niggles that make running your dog a chore rather than a pleasure.
Harnessing the fun
And finally, of course, there’s the question of which harness to use for your dog. It’s essential to use a running harness rather than running your dog on a collar. Mum went for a friend’s recommendation – she ran her two vizslas in a Zero DC Euro Short, so mum chose the same for me.
It has suited us well – other harnesses may suit us equally well, but until this one is no longer usable it meets our needs just fine. It just needs a quick rinse in the shower to get the mud off and it’s left to dry in the garden. There are no signs of wear or abrasion and we’ve been using it for a good couple of years now, so it seems a sturdy piece of kit.
If you walk your dog in a harness you might think about using the same one to run him or her. We’d caution against this – running harnesses are specifically designed to allow your dog the full range of running motion, without putting stresses and strains on their joints and muscles.
Also, you will want to encourage your dog to pull into its running harness, and my guess is that when you’re walking your dog you want it to walk to heel. If you use the same harness for both, your dog may become confused if one day you want it to walk on a slack lead – but then the next you want it to pull out in front. Using a different harness means your dog will learn to understand which harness means ‘yeah, I can pull!’ and which means ‘right, gotta walk nicely to heel’.
Where to buy
We’ve bought all our dog running kit, apart from the Non-Stop line and Panic Snap, from K9 Trail Time. This is a brilliant online store, with loads of information about running your dog, and participating in other dog sports too, such as scootering and bikejoring.
The Non-Stop line and Panic Snap were bought locally from Absolute Canine, which is where I (whisper it) get groomed. Owner Nikki White runs her two spaniels, Ronnie and Reggie, and stocks only the Non-Stop range. Definitely worth a visit if you are local to south Hampshire.
We are recreational runners, and in no way experts. The kit we have outlined here suits us, it may not suit you. Do your research, ask questions, try stuff out. Bear in mind also, that some breeds are better suited to running than others, certainly when it comes to longer distances. Ask your vet for advice if you are in any doubt (and your GP if you are new to exercise yourself).
We were not gifted any of the items listed in this post, they were purchased by us at normal retail prices. All opinions expressed are genuine, and not influenced in any way by any external party.