Getting started in canicross: conditioning to the running harness

Welcome into this new blog series: how to get started in canicross. Some of the tips can be applicable to other mushing sports for sure. We will document Bolt’s learning of canicross and give you our experience on the steps to take to get you and your pups to enjoy the sport.

The first step to take with your puppy or your dog, is getting used to the running harness. No matter what brand you chose, what shape, whether it is a X back or H shape, or others, the shape of the harness will be different from a regular walking harness. 

Your dog can have two reactions: either be completely fine with it, or completely freeze. We got lucky to experience both with our dogs.

The first thing you can do, is present the harness to the dog, and reward any interaction with it. Whenever the dog comes and touches the harness to smell it, reward with a treat. You may have to do it a few times before putting the harness on.
Then put it on gently. It can be tricky to figure out how to get the harness on at first, so if you can’t figure it out don’t force it, try again later. 

Call your dog from one side of the room to another, and reward with treats. What you want here is your dog to move with the harness on and figure out that he CAN move with the harness. I would recommend doing it a few days on short sessions at first.

Then you can try to leave the harness on for a bit longer, and leave your dog live his regular life with the harness on. Let him be, wander around the house, go get some water, lay down. Leave it on for 20-30 minutes, so the dog realizes it’s just normal to have the harness on. 

You should see some progress and once your dog is comfortable with the harness, you are ready for the next step!

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