CaniCross | trailrunners


cross country running with your dog

CaniCross is a dog powered sport as the dog is harnessed and attached to the runner. The sport started with mushers training their lead sled dogs when there was no snowSince then the sport has developed into a recreational and competitive sport. All abilities of humans and most types of dogs can participate. 

How to CaniCross 

5 top tips for beginners

Learning to CaniCross should be really good fun for you and your dog. 

Your dog must be fully grown (at least 12 months old) to start CaniCross but there is no upper age limit as long as your dog is fit and healthy. Care should be taken with brachiocephalic breeds such as Bulldogs but if you have any concerns about whether your dog should participate, please consult with your vet​​

Your dog's CaniCross experiences should always be positive so before you hit the trails, read our 5 top tips for CaniCross success below.


Ensure your dogs harness fits comfortably

To encourage your dog to pull into harness, it's important the harness fits well and is comfortable for your dog. Harness recommendations are the most common questions we get asked at trailrunners and its a difficult one to answer as there are so many variations of size and shape of dogs just within one breed! We believe there is no such thing as a 'perfect harness' but there is the perfect harness for your dog.


Check out our video below to learn what to look out for when fitting a harness on your dog, 


Get to know your equipment

To CaniCross you need a harness for your dog, a belt for you to wear and a bungee line to safely connect you both. Having a bungee or elasticated line is really important as it acts as a shock absorber between you and your dog. 

Equipment will wear with use so get to know your equipment so you can check for any damage before heading out on the trails.

For information on the types of lines and types of line connections, check out our video below.


Keep the run short and exciting

Find an exciting trail such as a single track in a wooded area so your dog has a clear defined path to follow. This will encourage them to run in front of you and pull into harness. 


Try to avoid hard or gravel pathways which will be less comfortable for your dog to run on. It's important that all of your dog's CaniCross experiences are positive. 


When starting any new activity it's important that you and your dog build up your training gradually so your bodies have time to adapt to forces being placed on it.

Start with a short interval of 50 -100m to encourage your dog to pull into harness. Then if you can, free run your dog for the rest of your run or walk them on lead.

You can find a free beginners training plan in the CaniCross Clinic Hub which gives you a step by step guide on how to safely build you and your dogs fitness to running 5k continuously. You can also find a whole heap of resources on CaniConditioning such as how to effectively warm up your dog before exercise. 


Reward your dog for pulling into harness

Some dogs will naturally run into harness. But if your dog is unsure about being allowed to pull here's some tips on how to encourage them:

> Roll a ball in front and treat reward
​> Run with a friend who is running very slightly in front, encouraging the dog to run along. Or have your friend in harness and you run slightly in front
​> Run with a CaniCross group. You can search for your nearest group or club on on our community page here>

When your dog is pulling, put a verbal cue in such as 'yes', 'good boy/girl' or 'go go go' so that the dog associates that word with the feeling of pulling in harness.

At the end of the run always reward your dog with verbal praise and attention so it's a positive experience for them.

If you need some more help on how to encourage your dog to pull into harness, check out the tips in our video below. 


Teach your dog directional cues

When you're out on the trails it's important to give your dog clear voice cues so they feel confident in the where they're going. A lot of CaniCrossers use mushing terms such as: 

Gee - right

Haw - left

On by - ignore keep going

Hike on - use more pulling power to carry forward

Lets go - speeding up or starting to go

Steady - slow the pace

Whooa - stop

Stand/line out - stand still facing forward

But you can use whatever words you like as long you and your dog both know them! You can start teaching directional cues whilst out on a walk, so when your dog approaches a right turn, say the word 'Gee'. If they look back at you, put your right arm out as a directional cue. As soon as they have taken the corner, reinforce with either an 'ok' or 'good boy'.

You can also reinforce it at home by holding a treat in your hand either side of your dog and rewarding them if they go to the correct hand. Just ensure if you're asking them to 'gee' that it's your dog's right!

We hope you and your dog have a fantastic time out on the trails.

If you have any questions about the sport check out our  FAQs  for commonly asked questions or have a chat with the trailrunners community on Facebook.

Clubs and groups are a great way to start CaniSports. 


Explore our community here>

Join a club

Search for CaniSports events worldwide with the trailrunners' race calendar.


Find an event  here>

Find a race

Our free training plans will get you and your dog running better and having more fun on the trails.


Get a plan here>​​

Free training plans

We're here to help if you or your dog need some 1:1 support with our Canine support program and Personalised training plans.


Find out more here> 


1:1 distance support

We run workshops and training days across the world to help educate best practices of CaniSports. 

Find out more


Check out our  FAQs  for commonly asked questions

or have a chat with the trailrunners community on Facebook.

Got a question about CaniCross?
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Do you want to get better at CaniCross?

Find your nearest trailrunners workshop here>

Race guide

5 tips for entering & competing


Finding a race

The CaniCross racing season is usually Sept – May and most events have 1 or 2 dog classes. You can race with a multitude of breeds, just be sure to check the events race rules for eligibility.


Cutting through the jargon

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Race start

 When waiting to start, give your dog plenty of space as it's a really exciting environment.

In open events, self seed and start nearer the back if you have a nervous dog - this will give them confidence. 


Out on the trail

When overtaking, call ahead, clearly indicating the side you are going to overtake on.

When being overtaken, move over to one side of the trail so they can pass easily. If necessary bring your dog into your side.

Be respectful of other competitors and the public.


Race makers

There will be a series of markers to direct you around the course. 

Turns are marked in red and are placed on the side the turn is.

They are then followed by a blue confirmation marker. Blue markers also indicate straight on.

Yellow markers indicate a hazard on the trail.

NO ROW marker means no right of way for overtaking teams. You are nearing the finish.