Feel The Burn: Canicross In The Snow

Are you and your dog looking out the window at a winter wonderland? Got an itch to go dashing through the snow? But you have a problem… you’re missing a sled, and your skis are in the shop (or you just don’t have a pair). Does that mean no dashing for you? Nope! You can prance in the powder by giving canicross a go!

Canicross is the popular sport of running with your dog. Humans and dogs work as a team to conquer the trail. The team is attached together by a belt worn on the human end, and a pulling harness worn by the dog. With a little planning, you can do this popular sport in the winter for a challenging workout.

Related: Dog-Powered Running: Get Fit With Canicross

Here are some things to keep in mind:

Paws: Winter weather can do some serious damage to your dog’s paws, especially if you live in an area where road salt is used.  Make it part of your routine to check your dog’s paws before and after each run. Routine inspections are the best way to catch and fix minor problems before they become major ones. Regular use of a paw wax will help keep your dog’s feet in excellent condition. Apply the wax by rubbing it between each toe, and on the pads of your dog’s feet. Remember that it’s a wax, so it’s not going to go great on your carpet or furniture. It’s best applied before you head out the door – use a bench or seat by the entryway so the wax doesn’t get everywhere.  It will be absorbed and slowly wear off on your run, but you can still wipe your dog’s paws when you come back in with an old towel.

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While we are on the subject of feet, please take a minute to check the hair situation on your dog’s paws. Hobbits should have hairy feet, not dogs. That extra-long hair doesn’t keep them warm; it actually collects ice balls, which are irritating and painful.  Do your dog a favor, and get him a little haircut, for his feet.

Dress for the weather: This applies to both people and dogs! You will be generating a fiar amount of body heat, so plan to dress for temperatures that are at least 10 degrees warmer.   Wear sweat wicking materials, to keep the moisture away from your body!

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Most dogs will be able to get by without wearing a coat, but thinner coated breeds or dogs who are older may have more trouble.  A thin running coat can be purchased from most any mushing supply company. Why a mushing supply company instead of a regular pet supply store?  These are the people who are in the business of selling gear for active dogs. A canicross dog needs a coat that is able to offer a full range of movement. My dogs usually don’t need a coat to canicross, even in the coldest of Canadian winters.  But when they do, I switch their harnesses to one size up to ensure a proper fit over the coat.

Related: Exhilarating Workouts For You And Your Dog

Scout out the trail: Know before you go! When I plan to canicross a new trail, or a trail that I haven’t been to since the last major snowfall, I always plan to take it a hiking pace first. I want to scout out the trail to make sure it’s not all post holed or beaten up before I decide to run on it. (Post holed is trail slang for when someone has walked along a nice snowy trail, on a warm day, and sunk in as they walked, leaving huge holes in an otherwise beautiful trail).  I am also on the look-out for icy sections. With the added power from running with a dog, I certainly don’t want to be going faster than I can stop! Stick to multi-use trails only; if it’s a ski trail or trail designated for another winter sport, go somewhere else.  There are plenty of options of trails to run on, and this will help you avoid conflict with other trail users.

canicross-CramponsCrampons: A real life saver! There are a variety of crampons out there, so make sure you get a style for runners, as some are more for tackling a glacier. The ice climbing ones have huge, sharp spikes on the bottom, which make them are a little tricky to run on. Look for crampons specially designated for running, sporting a lower profile and that will fit comfortably on your running shoes. This style often have small chains or smaller metal cleats, giving you the traction you want, but also allowing your shoe to still make contact with the ground.

Take the shorter days into account: Canicrossing in the winter means you are working with less daylight. But with a little planning you won’t be left in the dark. Ensure that both you and your dog, are dressed in reflective gear. There are plenty of options for harnesses out there, so made with reflective material.

Those little dog tags that glow don’t cast much light. Instead, opt for a dog collar made with LED lights.  The more LEDs it has, the brighter and easier you’ll be.

Lastly, get yourself a headlamp.  The best ones for running are the smallest ones, with a narrow beam.  A compact headlamp is less distracting to wear, plus the narrower beam is more appropriate for running down the trail.

With a little planning, you and your dog can experience the beauty and physical activity the winter has to offer.  Off you go, enjoy the snow!

kev-robertsKevin Roberts lives for adventure. Together with his pack of rescue dogs and his husband, he spends as much time outdoors as possible. Kevin lives by the motto: “Get outside and play with your dogs!”


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