Once it was exercise enough to walk the dog. Now increasing numbers of owners are being taken by their pets for a vigorous run instead.
Although canicross — where a human is strapped with a bungee cord to a dog in a harness as it races across fields and woodland trails — has been slowly growing in popularity, there has been a huge jump in participation in the last 12 months.
Demand across the UK for equipment has quadrupled, while for training classes it has nearly tripled. Record numbers are also signing up to running events that allow dogs.
In response, a plethora of canicross training companies have sprung up, offering to teach joggers how to direct their dogs while running and ensure the pet’s pace is appropriate for its age and fitness level.
At DogFit, around 4,000 people have taken part in training classes over the past year alone, which is 2,500 more than last year.
“Participation is at record levels,” says co-founder Gail Walker.
She estimates that over the same period sales of her canicross equipment kits have quadrupled. “At Christmas we were inundated,” she said. “It’s definitely been the busiest year for canicross equipment that we’ve seen,” says Adrian Ward, owner of Innerwolf.co.uk, a Web site that sells canicross harnesses for dogs, waist belts for humans and leads made from bungee cords, to protect dog and owner from sudden changes in speed or direction.
He has seen demand “at least double” over the past year, he says.
“It’s exposure, I suppose. More people are hearing about it and, because most trail running events now incorporate a canicross category, there is more availability at races now as well.”
Canix, which organizes canicross racing events all over the UK, is putting on 15 percent more races this year and signing up 10 percent more runners for each one.
“The sport is definitely becoming more popular. We’re seeing more interest from beginners all the time,” says spokeswoman Dawn Crook-Richards. “I think people are more aware of the need to keep themselves and their dog fit. Compared with a lot of other sports it’s cheap — and people really love it.”
Mark Tasker, a dog trainer at the Dog Academy in Hertfordshire, decided to start offering canicross taster classes last month after requests from his clients.
“The first session was sold out and the next one is sold out too. Customers are looking for extra things to do with their dog,” he says.
Canicross appeals because dog owners like the idea of getting fit while strengthening their bond with their pet, he adds. “Plus, if you run with your dog, you are learning a new skill, and actually, it’s easier than running on your own because you’re working as a team.”
At Cani-Fit, another canicross training company, founder Lindsay Johnson says her clients and their dogs particularly enjoy the social aspect of the weekly hour-long training runs.
“We get a lot of people who wouldn’t attend a gym or a running club. They use the dog as a crutch — they tell themselves they are doing it for the dog. As for the dogs, they love running with other dogs.”
It’s a great way, she says, for nervous dogs in particular to safely socialise with other dogs.
“When they all face the same direction, there doesn’t tend to be any intimidation.”
Since it is best for dogs to run long distances on surfaces which are naturally bouncy and kind to their paws, canicross runs typically take place on trails, rather than pavements.
“When you’re running the types of trails we do, you’re going on a real adventure,” says Johnson. “You’re running off-piste, through woods and streams, over fallen trees. It’s like going back to your childhood days, when you’re out playing in the woods, but you get to do it with your dog.”
To run along such trails together, owners must work with their dogs.
“You achieve a different level of understanding each other because you’re having to pick up on different senses, touch and positions. You get such a stronger bond, and such a sense of achievement with your dog,” she adds.
One of the reasons canicross has become so popular so quickly is because it has a high retention rate, Walker says.
“Once people go to a class, most people will continue with it.”
She is particularly keen to stress the impact canicross has had on some of her runners with mental health issues.
“They say it’s been really good for them because they’re running outside, they’re meeting people and they’re doing all that with their dog, their best friend. I’ve been told some lovely, heartwarming stories.”
She will never forget the first time she tried canicross herself.
“It was just exhilarating. You get a little pull from your dog, which you can control using commands, but it feels like you are running with dogs in a pack. They’re excited, they’re enjoying it, and you feed off them. It puts the fun back into serious running.”
Scott Saulters wasn’t sure if his film had just taken one of the two top prizes at a recent film competition. Although Saulters has been in Taiwan for 15 years and is proficient in Mandarin, the award ceremony for the inaugural “Bi Tian Iann” (眯電影) short film contest was conducted entirely in Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese), a language he can’t speak. “I thought I heard it, but I didn’t want to look too excited,” he says. Despite his limited command of the tongue, Saulter’s entry, Wu Yu Tzu (烏魚子, mullet roe), took first place in the amateur category of the
The Taiwan of yesteryear was dominated in whole or in part by the Dutch, Spanish, Qing Empire and Japanese. But is the Taiwanese name for a popular edible fish derived from the Portuguese language? Cheng Wei-chung (鄭維中), an associate research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Taiwan History, says yes. The fish in question is the narrow-barred Spanish mackerel, which was listed in early 18th century Qing local gazetteers as Taiwanese specialities alongside milk fish and mullet, according to Cheng’s paper, “Mullet, narrow-barred Spanish mackerel and milkfish: Multiple contextual developments of three certified seafood specilaities in Taiwan, from the
Since its launch in 2014, the Taiwan Season has increasingly become a “must-see” at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. So, when this year’s three-week Fringe became an early casualty of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Chen Pin-chuan (陳斌全) was determined that the Taiwan Season must continue in some form. Chen, director of the Cultural Division of the Taipei Representative Office in the UK, says that he and Taiwan Season curator and producer Yeh Jih-wen (葉紀紋) had been thinking of ways of growing and adding value to the season anyway. The crisis and the cancellation of the live performances brought those ideas forward as
I didn’t expect to spend more than three minutes out of my car, yet the sun was so brutal I put on my hat before approaching the seawall. Beimen (北門) is the flattest and most sun-baked part of Tainan. It lacks trees and people. In wintertime, the weather is often delightful. It wasn’t yet mid-morning in the hot season, however, and I felt like a leaf shriveling in the desert. Atop the seawall but facing inland, I could see dozens of the rectangular ponds which account for a significant percentage of Beimen’s “land” area. Some, no doubt, were dug to produce