A common question we get this time of year is whether you can still canicross your dogs in the dark autumn and winter evenings?
The short answer is YES!
In fact, my personal experience is that the dogs often prefer it, since it’s a much cooler temperature for them. Plus there are more interesting smells at night time and in the dark, especially when running along forest trails.
I tend to get a better pull and the dogs are more willing and able!
Just as walking your dog isn’t seasonal, neither is canicross.
One of the best things about this sport is that you can still go out running with your dog during the dark winter evenings…so long as you are kitted out appropriately and take sensible precautions.
You may be nervous about doing canicross in the dark if you haven’t done so before – a fear of falling over, getting lost or not having an adequate line of sight.
And that’s perfectly understandable.
But these concerns can be addressed very easily by following these simple tips…and believe me, you and your dog will have the greatest fun if you do.
- Invest in a good head torch – one that is more powerful than one you would use for road running. Don’t just go by the lumens stated! It’s easy to go down the “my torch is brighter than yours” road but ideally you should factor in the following:
– Brightness and Beam – are both the power and the beam shape, breadth and tint adequate for the terrain and conditions?
– Battery Life – will it last long enough for a typical run?
– Comfort and Fit – is it comfortable enough that it won’t irritate me?
– Ease of Use – can I use the settings and change the batteries (if needed) easily when out on a run?
There are plenty of good head torches on the market and they don’t all have to cost a small fortune. Ask around for recommendations, research online and try and borrow one to make sure you are happy with the fit.
I also carry a cheaper spare torch as an emergency back-up!
- Build up your experience of running in the dark – stick to routes you already know and choose nice wide paths with good terrain. Not only are your dog’s senses heightened in the dark as they become more alert to the sounds and smells around them, by choosing routes you already know, your dog will also navigate turns much easier as they will instinctively go the right way. It makes for a fun and exhilarating run!
- Wear appropriate attire and be prepared to get wet and muddy occasionally (it’s all part of the fun!). Aside from possibly needing an extra layer and choosing clothing with reflective material, you should wear exactly the same clothing as you would for off-road running in the lighter evenings, e.g. good trail shoes, lightweight close/tight fitting technical clothing that wicks away sweat and a lightweight rain jacket.
- Run with friends. Experiencing canicross in the dark is great fun when you’re doing it in a group, plus it’s a safer way to enjoy the sport. You still need to take the dogs out so why not make it a social run?
- Consider adding something reflective/high viz to your dog’s harness or collar (if needed). Some harnesses are already adequate. This is more for other runners or passers-by to spot all the dogs. Your dog doesn’t necessarily need a flashing collar or torch as your super bright head torch will light the way anyway and help your dog focus on the direction ahead. If your dog requires a bit more focus or their eyesight isn’t perfect (maybe they are an older dog?) then a torch around their collar may help, such as the PupLight.
- Make sure you warm up before setting off at full pelt and ease back into a walk to warm down before you get back to the car.
- Communicate! It’s a good opportunity to practice your commands, such as ‘left’ and ‘right’, and it also alerts fellow runners of your intentions which can be harder to anticipate in the dark.
- Hydration for you and your dog is still important!
- Invest in a fleece or coat for your dog post-run, especially during the colder months (and of course, make sure you have warm clothing for yourself too!)
Just like the fear of falling over, not being able to do canicross in the dark is a common misconception and one I hope I’ve managed to dispel!
By following the tips above there’s no reason why you can’t make this a regular part of your training programme so neither you or your dog miss out over the winter 🙂