New fitness craze involves being tethered to a dog

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IT’S an unlikely new fitness craze that has got tongues and tails wagging in the Capital. “Cani-cross” – or cross-country running while harnessed to a dog – has taken off in the city’s parks.

The sport which sees owners tethered to their dogs with bungee ropes, is already big in Europe. But now it is becoming increasingly popular with dog owners from Edinburgh representing Scotland in the upcoming World Championships.

Alison Wyllie, who set up Cani-Sports Edinburgh last year, said it was great exercise for dogs and their owners. The group, which meets three times a week, has hundreds signed up with regulars going on runs in Dalkeith Vogrie ­country parks and Longniddry beach.

She said: “It’s basically a running club with a difference – your dogs get to go too. It’s great for giving them the exercise they need and for owners to get fit at the same time.

“I think it’s really popular as anyone can do it. We have members ranging from eight-years-old to 55, it is open to anyone and any dog.

“We go and do a normal cross-country run but with our dogs so it’s great for anyone who likes the outdoors. A lot of people have seen the group running through the parks and thought it looks fun and asked to join in.

“The dogs absolutely love it, they think it’s great and get really excited before they run.” Dogs are trained to follow commands such as “left, right, slow and quick” to make sure they keep pace and direction.

A two-metre cord, attached by a harness to the dog and owner, acts as a flexible lead and pulls the runner along.

“It doesn’t matter how fit you are really, it’s just about having fun,” said Alison. “It is a way of running without realising you’re doing it. Focusing on the dog takes away from the pain you are experiencing and people tend to have a giggle while they’re doing it.”

A Scottish team, with a dozen runners from the Capital, will go to the Canix World Championships in Wales later this month.

Alison, 32, who races with Hungarian Vizla, Jasper, said: “It’s growing by the week and I think we’ll be coming back with medals.”

Doggy dos and don’ts

There is no handicap for the breed of dog as, regardless of breed, most dogs can run faster than their human team-mate. Grass and trails are the best for dogs, followed by sand, wood chip and crushed gravel. If your dog is unfit, give them lots of breaks and gradually increase your distance and speed. Carry water or ensure your route will take you past streams or lakes.