Reflections, articles, videos and more on topics related to canine conditioning
A couple months ago I started training my Malinois Knoxx for canicross. My goal is to build up his endurance and obedience via canicross before transitioning to the bike for Bikejoring. Since I’ve been getting a number of questions regarding our training, I thought I’d give you an update and share some observations.
Being in excellent shape for one activity does NOT necessarily transfer into other activities!
I know that the majority of the work I’ve been doing with Knoxx is interval training and sport specific French Ring training. He gets some great cardio workouts during the week. Transitioning to a new type of cardio workout, however, can be very enlightening! I knew Knoxx needed aerobic conditioning, but I didn’t realize just how badly we needed it until I started doing canicross!
We typically do more anaerobic activity with shorts bursts of energy, and the longer interval cardio work includes a few laps around the soccer field. This is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from aerobic activity where your dog trots or runs at a steady pace for 20+ minutes without stopping. I already KNEW this, but it really hit home the first time I took Knoxx out for a canicross run. Knoxx is in great shape for sport work and interval training, but this does NOT mean he is in great shape for longer, more aerobic activity (with pulling)!
Are you transitioning to a new sport or activity for crosstraining? If yes, look closely at how the new sport / activity differs from what you usually do with your dog.
In canicross, Knoxx is a newbie! Not only is he now transitioning to more aerobic activity vs. anaerobic activity, we are now incorporating resistance training into the workout. During canicross, there are some moments (but not the entire run) when he is pulling me. One MUST take this into consideration when developing a weekly training plan for sports like canicross and Bikejoring!
How far do I run? How long? How many times per week?
This is where I get the most questions from people. When developing a training schedule for their dogs, they always want to know how frequently and for how long (or how far) should they train. The answer is TOTALLY dependent on your own dog, your dog’s current physical condition, what you typically do during the week, and what your end goals are.
How did I get started?
I started by introducing Knoxx to his harness and getting him used to the concept of running ahead of me, stopping on command, and turning right and left. I did this in the backyard and would do a number of short sessions where he would pull me to a ball at the end of the yard. Not only did this allow me to work on general obedience and commands for sports like canicross and Bikejoring, it allowed me to start to integrate some resistance training into his weekly routine. We did this for about 3 weeks over the Christmas holidays, adding it to his other weekly activities. I did the resistance training about 2-3 times a week, kept it short, but also worked on “right” and “left” almost daily (with no pulling).
What did the first canicross run look like?
My weeks of preparing Knoxx for our first run together paid off!! The first time I attached him to my own canicross belt and took off down a dirt path, he handled it like a pro! He adjusted his pace nicely to me, and he listened very well when I gave him commands. We did a very short distance, only about a ¼ mile. I did this to keep his motivation high and to also slowly build up his strength and stamina for pulling and running. We did the route both walking and jogging. He loved it!
How did I progress with our next runs?
The first couple weeks, I only did canicross twice a week. I would typically run ¼ - 3/4 mile with some walking breaks as needed. I could definitely tell the difference in Knoxx’s stamina when running freely versus when he was pulling me! After a couple weeks of this, I then transitioned to longer runs but incorporated multiple walking breaks into the run. The second month of training we were doing canicross for about 25-30 minutes, but we still incorporated walking breaks.
When building endurance, it’s really hard to do it when only running your dog twice a week. When we first started our training, Knoxx was progressing but slowly. To do a better job building endurance, I increased our canicross days to three times a week. (Remember, we are still doing other things, including French Ring!)
The past two weeks I’m noticing an improvement now that we are doing canicross more frequently... BOTH of us our getting better! We are running the same distance, but I’m now taking out some of the walk breaks and am also increasing the intensity of our runs. We are still building our foundation, and so I won’t increase his miles until we can consistently go 25-30 minutes at a strong, steady pace with no walking. I’ll then add the bicycle to add more speed and intensity before increasing mileage.
Stay tuned for updates and happy training!
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Photo of Knoxx running © Bad Wolf Images, All Rights Reserved