You are currently viewing K9 Trail Time Myth Buster Number 3 – You need a big dog to take part in canicross

K9 Trail Time Myth Buster Number 3 – You need a big dog to take part in canicross

Terrier owners who disagree you need a big dog for canicross

We often hear people saying that they can’t take up running with their dog because people can’t run with smaller dogs, this is absolutely not the case! In all the years we’ve been canicrossing, we’ve seen loads of people running with their smaller dogs, just because they’re little doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy the benefits of canicross with you too. The only thing you need to be aware of is that you don’t push your dog beyond what they are capable of but this is the same for any size of dog and as long as you build up your distance and intensity slowly then you should be fine.

Tinkerbell the canicrossing Jack Russell Terrier

To help us dispel the myth about small dogs not being good for running canicross style with we asked three of our friends who run with their terriers to give us their stories, first up is Tinkerbell who runs with her owner Claire.

“Tinkerbell Aurora Belle (to give her full name) Mostly known as Tinks or The rat, is a 6kg Jack Russell. We got her from a rescue as a 12-week old puppy for my daughter who was then 6 years old as she wanted a dog she could run with and control herself. Tinks started off running in harness with Elsie my daughter in the kids’ races which were about a mile long, she loved it and would scream at the start.

Tinks (now 7) still occasionally races with small kids just starting out. She mostly free runs with me and the bigger dogs these days as she likes to go off hunting, she gets put on the line for roads and livestock. We usually run 2-3 times a week, anything from 5K to 15 miles and her little legs keep up. I do have to be sensible with her now she’s getting older as being a terrier she will never admit to being tired! Her little legs have to full-on gallop to keep up with the 6-7 min mile pace of the bigger dogs. If she has run with us she always gets more food that night as I feel she’s put in 5 times the effort of the rest of us.

As a typical terrier, she does “hop” occasionally and will run for several minutes with one leg held up and will then alternate it to the other one! The vet has fully X-rayed her and she’s fine, it’s just one of those terrier things! With regards to harnesses, it took us a few attempts to get the right one for her because although small she really does pull and the original harness we got her started to choke her.

As with any dog it’s important to have regular vet checks, Tinks has a heart murmur which is being monitored but at the moment she is super fit and always raring to go!”

Betty the trail running Border Terrier

Our next pint-sized dog and owner to give us their opinion on needing a big dog to canicross with is Betty and her owner Andrew who says this about their running partnership…

“Betty is a Border Terrier, a breed I discovered when out running in the Lake District and loved the fact they were hardy independent dogs that enjoyed the rugged terrain. Initially, I was after a buddy for exploring the local trails but happened across canicross in the Forest of Dean and she loved it so decided to take it further. We go out running most days of the week depending on what event we are building up to, for ultras we will often run 5k to work and then 10k home.

We have had some amazing adventures, but the one that stands out for me is when we competed in a half marathon 2 years after we had started running together. The bigger dogs all raced off, but I could tell Betty was determined that day with her ears pinned back. By 5 miles we were catching others up and at 10 had gone into the lead, and eventually winning, proving a little pooch can take the big ones on. I’d say don’t underestimate a smaller dog, they might not have the same pulling power as a larger dog but have their advantages, coping brilliantly with steep, twisty technical trails and distance is definitely not a barrier.”

Patch the adventure Patterdale Terrier

Finally, we asked journalist and Pet Publicity Expert Rachel about her dog Patch and her experience of canicrossing with a small dog

“Patch is a Patterdale Terrier. We had him DNA tested and he is Parsons Russell, Jack Russell, Border Terrier and Wire Fox Terrier. He’s five and he weighs around 9.5kgs. I used to go running with my old dog Daisy, she was a terrier and had no recall but lots of energy, and running was a way to make sure she got the exercise she needed.

When I adopted Patch it was around a time when I was connected to people in the Canicross world and I wanted to do things properly. I’m ashamed to say I ran with Daisy on a collar and a Flexi lead but I know much better now. Before lockdown, I joined a Canicross group and I try to get there when I can but I would love to do more.

I first started running about 12 years ago to get fit and when I got a dog, it seemed like something we could enjoy together and I’ve really enjoyed learning more about Canicross. I run probably at least three days a week and it ranges from a couple of miles up to five miles, but I am building up to running more as I have signed up for the Great North Run. Patch won’t be doing it with me, but I will need to build up the miles! It’s for a brilliant charity called Wag and Co who provide friendship dogs for people up here in the North East.

My great achievement with Patch was not running but we climbed up Helvellyn in the Lake District. It was scary and we had to carry Patch at some points. We had his Canicross harness and belt on thankfully which made us feel slightly safer and it was an experience for sure. When we got to the bottom he was still raring to go!

I love running with my small dog. I can’t imagine what it must be like to run with a larger dog as Patch is small but still pulls me along and is very strong. He absolutely loves going to Canicross and wants to be up at the front, but unfortunately, he has me holding him back.

Definitely don’t feel like you can’t run with a small dog. As long as they are healthy and it’s appropriate, you can have so much fun. The first Canicross group I joined didn’t have many little dogs but there are a few at Geordie Canicross so he fits in. Be sure to build up with them and make sure they are wearing a harness that fits – lots of groups will help you with this in a taster session. And enjoy it!”

In conclusion

In this short blog, I’ve shared with you just 3 of the many, many stories I know of people running with smaller dogs and in particular Terriers, because they seem to have that strong work ethic that goes hand in hand (or paw in paw) with being dogs who really enjoy the challenge and fun of going out running the trails with their owners.

If you have any concerns about running with your dog you can always consult with your vet to check there are no physical limitations for your dog specifically which might hinder your progress, but otherwise, our advice would be just to get out there and give it a go.

If you’re looking for advice on running harnesses for small dogs we have another blog for you that may be of interest here:

Happy Trails!

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