If you read the rules for any true canicross race, you'll notice a few things.
1. The line must be attached to a dog's harness - NOT their collar.
2. The line must have a bungee that attaches to the runners waist belt.
Why should your dog wear a harness? Why not just attach the line to their collar?
First, a harness helps to make your dog more manageable and allows him to be much more comfortable. A well trained dog will listen to their handler and obey the commands given, and a harness helps aid in that manageability. A harness also allows your dog to move more freely.
Second, and more importantly, when a dog is pulling from their collar, they are at high risk for neck injuries. Like humans, a dog's neck contains the trachea, oesophagus, thyroid gland, lymph nodes, jugular veins, and more. Neck injuries can include bruising, whiplash, headaches, and damage to the body parts listed above. Additionally, studies have shown that a dog pulling via a collar can cause both eye and ear injuries as well.
A normal collar and lead will restrict the dog's breathing when he's pulling while a harness allows the dog to move in a more free, natural motion. Some people feel that running with the leash attached to the dog’s collar offers more physical control over the dog’s head. While this may be true, it comes at a cost - the increased risk of injury. The same level of control over your dog’s head can be established mentally, as opposed to physically with a collar. We are talking about training. The idea here would be to work on commands with the dog as a control management tool instead of restricting their breath as a control mechanism.
Yes, you want your dog to pull, but you also need your dog to listen and obey commands. If you cannot handle or manage your dog at the start line or along the course, you will struggle to be successful in the sport. Dogs get excited, and that is a wonderful part of this sport. But, we, as the handlers/trainers need to be able to keep our dogs safe and training is always a better option than physical force.
What does the bungee leash do? Why do I need a waist belt?
The waist belt allows you to run freely without having a leash or lead in your hand. It allows you to use your core and entire body to control your pup, and it allows you to maintain proper running form. Canicross is a sport that has increased risk of overuse injuries, as poor form is exaggerated by the pulling of a dog. A waist belt helps in that it allows the human to come closer to anatomically correct running form.
The bungee leash helps reduce strain on both the human and canine, by reducing shock from pulling, specifically on the lower back.
What gear do we recommend?
Freemotion Harness: https://www.shopnonstopdogwear.com/product/freemotion-harness/
Running Belt: https://www.shopnonstopdogwear.com/product/running-belt/
It may take a few runs to get it adjusted how you need, but once you are comfortable with the fit, you will find it allows for great mobility for both you and your dog.
DogRunner - Non-stop dogwear USA
Canicross is meant to be fun for both human and canine. Getting injured, for either you or your dog, is anything but fun. If you are struggling to get your dog to respond to commands or to listen to you on the trail, take a step back and start from the beginning. Work on basic turn commands such as gee and haw. Make sure your dog understands woah, easy, and on-by. Take the time to help your dog learn what you want from him. The two of you are a team, and the more you learn together, the better you'll be on race day.