– tell us a little about yourself …
My name is David, I’m 30. I am passionate about sports, nature and dogs! I was a professional football player for 16 years and judoka for 10 years. Today, I am the owner of Canicross Experience, a company that helps people achieve their fitness goal with their dog and live their dream relationship together through sport. I am also a Canicross Trainer for the FSLC (French Canicross Federation).
– What are your sporting achievements till to day?
During my football and judo life, I was french champion several times. I also practice trail running and usually I rank in the Top 20. Regarding canicross, I’m doing it for the happiness of my dog. I am constantly looking to improve our bond and to understand him better.
– Tell us a bit about your dogs …
Well, I have a team of 3 Brittany Spaniels.
Tango is 15 years old, he is the «Mental senior chief officer». He had been abused his whole life and was litterally dying when we rescued him. Today, he is completely out of danger and recovering well. His courage is an example for me every day. He teaches me the real meaning of mental strenght and forgiveness.
Django is 6 and I love him! He is the perfect smiling, smart, joyful and bouncy spaniel that you can imagine. He enhances our lives with all his good vibes and goofiness. He is such a good partner for Ice but prefers to run free.
Ice is 4, he is my running partner and the most challenging dog I have ever met. He forces me to level up every day. He is tremendously intelligent, unstopable, restless, generous and always ready to give his all, whatever the conditions are. He is my trustful partner and I do my best for him.
– What is your favorite place to train?
I’m lucky to live in the beautiful region of Brittany so I have plenty of great places to train. My favorite is the coastal path though. You boast fantastic views from the cliffs over the ocean, and it’s also very technical and steep. It allows us to work both mentally and physically and forces us to pay close attention to each other.
– How is your regular workout?
Right now my regular training with the dogs is:
– Warm-up: 20 min
– Specific work: 30 seconds running + 30 seconds resting. Repeat that 4 to 6 times x 2
– Cool down: 10 min
– Rest: 2 days 🙂
– What’s your best memory of a race?
My best memory was after a 6 km race in Taupont (Brittany). At this time my dog Ice wasn’t very ready to run 6 km but during all the race he showed incredible courage and kept running and pulling me despite the humongous amount of mud. Sometimes I was so tired that I thought we wouldn’t make it, but he kept running forward and faster. The intensity of what I felt in that moment is undiscribtible. I was in total owe! At the end, I fell on the finish line and took him in my arms. I was so overwhelmed and grateful for his courage that I burst into tears.
– Do you have any advice or other suggestions for people who want to get into this sport?
Starting canicross can be tricky because on one hand, you don’t want to make a mistake that could hurt your dog but on the other hand, you don’t know any better! On my website (www.canicross-experience.com), I created a mini guide for beginners about the 10 mistakes you want to avoid when starting canicross.
The most important is to start with a specific harness for canicross, and to run for 10 min maximum (even if you can do more). Did you know that champions actually NEVER run a race for training? What they do is run for 2 to 4 minutes in a row and repeat that several times. Running long distances isn’t canicross.
Also, you have to avoid at all cost running when the temperature is higher thant 15°Cand don’t feed your dog before running, this could lead to his death.
Paying close attention to your dog to make sure you’re not asking too much out of him. Ask and see if you dog gives. Don’t TAKE. The goal is to have fun together, not to use up the dog.
– What sports do you practice “outside” your discipline or that you practiced before?
Well I played football, I used to swim and I practised judo between the age of 5 to 27. Now, every day I mix between canicross, trail running, biking, swiming, judo, yoga and hiking.
– What was your debut in the race?
My first race was in Pledran (France). I remember all of it. I was a bit shy and impressed at that time because I had no running experience with dogs. I had no race strategy whatsoever! I just wanted to «test the water» see what happened!
The race was amazing and taught us a lot. If you’re still hesitant on whether you’re ready to run an official canicross, don’t be! On that day Ice taught me what teaming up really meant. Despite our total lack of exeperience and some dreadful weather conditions he fought through mud until the end without counting. That sensation you get when you connect with an animal to a deeper intellectual and emotional level is just unforgettable. I will always remember that day as the first time I streched my own limits in order to be the best running partner for him. When you have a dog like that, you don’t want to disappoint! He has quickly become the most formative teacher I have ever come across.
– Why did you choose this sport?
I was looking for an intelligent way to redirect the energy of my hyperactive dogs and reinforce our relationship with a fun activity. So we gave it a try and it was an enlightment moment. I fell in love with the sensations and the bond that was created with my dogs. Seeing their happyface afterwards, I knew we were onto something special.
– How do you feel when you’re “in-action” with your dogs? I feel alive. I feel I’m flying. I feel an unshakable bond with my dog.
– What do you think it is the greatest benefit of this sport?
It’s hard to pick just one because they’re so many benefits for the dog and the owner. The greatest benefit for me would be the complicity between us. We learn more about each other every time we run together.
– Do you think your dogs like this sport?
Oh yes they adore canicross! I wouln’t consider continue running if my dogs wouldn’t like it. As you know, Brittany Spaniels have an hyperactive mind trapped inside of an hyperactive body, so they constantly need to learn new things and discover new ways to express themselves and liberate their energy and their full-on capacity. Canicross allows just that.
It’s also a fun outdoor activity that you can practice in family. It provides dogs with a goal and a way to achieve it. Afterwards, it leaves them with a calm state of mind so that they can enjoy their life at home with us because their energy has been balanced and they don’t suffer from boredown or hyperactivity anymore.
– How important is the “harmony” between you and your dog?
Harmony is the key. It’s the single one element that allows this sport to exist. Without the willing participation of my dogs I cannot practice this sport. I cannot force them into anything. Without my dogs I wouldn’t be the person I am today either. Without harmony and complicity it’s not called canicross, it’s called selfish explotation and domination of a magnificent creature.
– What is your state of mind before a race?
I remain very calm and very focused on my race. I isolate myself from the crowd and the noise of others and I begin to create a relaxed bubble with my dog. I try to maintain this focus and relaxation until the starting line. By doing so, I’m sending my dog all the signals that he can trust me and rely on me. I create the conditions where he can feel comfortbale to unleash his power during the race. When we arrive on the starting line, he has not felt stressed and has not barked once! I’m in control of my body and my mind and I visualize our race. I’m obviously competitive but the most important thing for me is to team up with him and do my best for him. That why I prepare the race like that.
– What are your strengths and weaknesses?
I see everything as an opportunity for success. Really, I think that anything is possible for anybody and that people can achieve anything they put their mind to! That positive mindset is so paramount for me.
Knowing my dog very well and being grateful for having such an ideal compagnion in my life is also an advantage because it puts us in a state of mind of mutual respect and trust. And that is the fisrt step towards growth.
On the other hand, being a football player for such a long time means my running techniques are naturally very different from canicross. Basically when I started canicrossing, I had to learn how to properly run again and retrain my brain to do so. But I took a coach, and everyday I put the work into it so I could become the best running partner for my dog. I am not the fastest runner for now, but as long as I make all the efforts to meet my dog’s needs, I feel fulfilled.
– What has been your greatest joy and your worst disappointments?
My greatest joy was our participation in the French Championship last year. Ice and I teamed up like never before. Just like a rider and his horse, we became one for the time of the race.
My biggest disappointement was actually something I didn’t anticipated and coud never imagined. It was during a night race. Usually you run in the dark with your own head-light, but this time the people organizing the race had put fluorecent lanterns all along the way. Ice was so scared of those things that he stopped in front of every one of them! At first, I was angry at myself for not having anticipated such a reaction but I reversed my thinking and transformed this situation into a lesson. Now I know I have to train my dog more often at night and prepare him for the most unexpected things that can happen.
– How often do you train?
I train the dogs for canicross 3 to 4 times a week. I workout alone 5 more times a week. And we walk together for 20 to 30 min each day.
– I know both are important but if you have to choose between “aptitude” and “motivation” to running race, what would you prefer?
Without doubts I choose motivation. You can work on attitude but not on motivation. Motivation is inside the dog, inside my dogs. It’s what puts a smile on their face and makes their heart jump of excitement. Motivation is a mix between the happiness of doing something they love and the courage of doing it whatever happens. You can’t force an animal to do something he’s not motivated to do. What sparks joy creates abilities.
– What do you need to practice your sport? I mean equipment but also attitudes, abilities, skills
I think humility is the key. You have to be humble in order to understand that you’re gonna learn everything you need to know from your dog. The dog is a guide and also mirror of yourself. My wife always say «We don’t have the dog we want, we have the dog we deserve.» And that’s so true. Taking ownership of your flaws and having the humility to understand YOU have a lot to learn from your dog is the beginning. If you are willing to put the efforts into the relationship, you’re gonna win. Otherwise, you’ll end up in a dead-end zone of frustration with your dog. So humility, respect and understanding come first for me.
Then, all the fun happens outside of your comfort zone! So you also want to be willing to step out there and do what’s best for your dog and for you. That’s when magic happens, you never know the good surprises life has in store for you. And dogs are so rewarding.
Patience is also very necessary because sometimes progress can take time and you have to allow you partner to learn and grow (and yourself too!). Going fast is going slowly.
– Is it possible to practice your discipline even with small dogs?
Of course absolutely! Often times small dogs have a lot of energy unrealesed but we reduce them as little creatures when, in reality, they are so capable and powerful in their own way. They enjoy themsleves and have so much fun in canicross. Have you ever seen a Jack Russelracing canicross? It is pure joy to watch!
– Your sport must be considered “individual” or “team” sport?
Both! To me it is an individual sport in which you have to team up!
– How long have you been practicing this sport?
I’ve been canicrossing for 3 years now.
– What sparked your initial interest?
That’s a good question! It’s my wife!!
She kept asking me to go running with Ice in order to drain his overload of energy. So I went and then I realize it was the perfect combo for us: speed, dog, and outdoor activity! We loved it.
What kept me going was seeing the smile on his face and the outcome on his behavior at home.
– Why should people play this sport?
Because it is a one of a kind opportunity to make your dog happy, have fun with him, share quality time and stay in shape the easy way. It’s an easy an effective way to improve your life and your relationship with your dog. That’s why I created Canicross Experience. I wanted help everyone achieve their goal with their dog, and give everyone an easy method towards happiness.
– Do you remember your first time “attached behind” a running dog?
Oh yes… It was… FAASSSTTTT!! At that time I didn’t know anything so I tried to run as fast as I could. It lasted only 3 minutesbut my dog and I experienced really good vibes. For the first time, I knew I this sport was going to become my full-time job.
– What breed are the dogs you run with?
I run with Brittany Spaniels #brittanypower 🙂
– What physical characteristics do you look for in your dogs?
Honestly you can run with any dog if your goal is to have fun together. However if you are looking for a specific dog because you are already a good runner, search for a strong back, strong rear legs, a large amplitude and more importantly: an always happy face. Hunting dogs are naturals at canicross. However you have to keep in mind that they are also VERY challenging at home (outside of canicross time). So be prepared for that, and don’t underestimate their level of energy.
– What mental or emotional attributes do you think is important to look for a dog that will make your sport?
Excellent question. State of mind is everything. It will lead you anywhere or nowhere at all.
Dogs are very much like us. Their mentality is what propel them towards life. I see that with my clients. The best dogs are those who have:
– the natural «will to go»
– the need to always learn something new
– the curiosity about anything and no fear of the uncertainty
– sparkly enlighted eyes
Emotions with animals are a bit trickier because they usually reflect the owner’s own emotional state. You can turn a perfectly balanded dog into a submissive fearful and stressed creature just by not aknowledging your own feelings inside. Again with my clients, the easiest dogs are the ones who:
– trust in their owner and want to please him
– always have a happy face
– love being outside and are interested in fun stuff
– are independant, stable, but not lonely
– know how to remain calm and don’t beg for attention
– If you could create your ideal dog, what are the characteristics that you would like?
I don’t need to create it, I have the ideal dog at home!