Canicross and bikejoring in the UK are relatively new sports and they have been filtering in through the mushing world, where sled dog sports have recognised them for a number of years. The popularity of the sports have grown because people have realised that to participate, you don’t need to have a team of huskies and most family dogs enjoy accompanying their owner for a jog or a bike ride.
The recent development of the sports has meant that many people involved have a background in either dogs or running/biking, but few can claim to have vast amounts of knowledge in both combined, as the disciplines are ‘new’ in the grand scheme of mans’ working relationship with dogs. However, my point in writing this is not to criticise anyone, but to demonstrate how with an open mind – people with the experience of both dogs and running/biking, can combine their knowledge and help to secure the future of these sports in the UK.
For example, until recently, the manufacture of the harnesses used for canicross and bikejor has predominantly been in the USA where the x-back harness has been tried and tested in many long distance sled races. The Europeans have been busy, not only producing different style harnesses to suit dogs of a different breed and shape to the sled dog but also specifically for the sports of canicross and bikejor, as Europe is where the sports have seen their biggest growth in popularity. There are also dogs in Europe which have been bred specifically for these sports known as ‘Euro hounds’ and they too are a product of the increase in interest in canicross and bikejor.
I personally have been involved recently in promoting bikejor and our races have taken us to places where mountain bikers use the trails regularly and have been in awe of us attaching our dogs up front for the extra adrenalin rush. The mountain bikers have been full of questions about the sport but I had lots of questions for them too. Not having had much experience on a bike, I even went for a half day training course with one of the UK’s top female downhill riders because there was so much to be learned from the perspective of the bike rider.
The same applies to running, as there are running clubs set up all over the country for all levels of experience, to allow people to learn from other more ‘seasoned’ athletes and to train with people who will encourage each other to improve. The discipline of canicross can learn a lot from club runners and I think there is a future for organised training canicross runs to help encourage new people into the sport.
In essence if you are a runner – you can canicross and if you ride a mountain bike – you can bikejor, it just takes a bit of adaption to move from being a single body to a ‘team’ where you not only have to think about what you are doing but have the added of complication of a dog or dogs who also think for themselves and might not make the same choices you would on a cross country course.
I think we can learn as much for the sports of canicross and bikejor from people who have been involved in running or biking clubs, as we can from people who have been involved in other dogs sports such as agility and dryland mushing and don’t think we should dismiss any knowledge at this stage of the sports’ development. Input should be welcomed from all fields of expertise and I believe with the combining of this knowledge and promotion of our sports, they cannot fail to grow in popularity as people realise they can involve their dog in their favourite activities too.