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How to canicross mass start?

The starting commotion of motivated dogs longing for a order that will release that pile of hormones. Short look at the opponent and then just full steam ahead... A mass start is a very attractive for spectator and the easiest way for the organizers to start all the competitors at once. It doesn't have to be such a chart for racers and especially for their dogs.

Hromadný start ICF ME - NMNM 2016
Mass start ICF ME - NMNM 2016 / source: YOUTUBE


The purpose of the article is not to address specific situations that have flown through the Internet. The reason is to point out the possible risks of a mass start, which is incorrectly prepared.

What is a mass start?

Definition according to IFSS (International Federation of Sleddog Sports racing rules) All participants in the same class start at the same starting line at the same time. If not everyone fits the line, the racing marshal (judge) will set more starting lines. The starting area must have one starting track for each team. The spacing between the tracks should be approximately 2 meters. The length of the starting tracks should be approximately 80 meters and end at the marked line. There must be at least 10 meters between each starting line, the distance must be adapted to the size of the teams.

For a better imagination I enclose the visualization. A total of 15 teams will start in 3 rows of 5 teams.

It is clear from the previous text that almost no race organizer respects or may not even know the rules of this start. This does not mean that they do it wrong, they only place greater demands on the dog's readiness.

What do mass starts look like?

In best case a group of competitors rushes to a wide meadow where the starting line is indicated. Where the competitor will stand is given only by self-reflection. No one solves spacings, corridors and rows. In the worst case, the competitors are driven into a narrow corridor, where they often do not have even half a meter of space between them. With the start signal, the whole start corridor usually sets off towards an uncertain fate. Contact, entanglement, aggression and falls are quite common.

Why should the rules of mass start be followed?

Canicross is by its nature a non-contact sport and its rules are written in this spirit. A mass start should not disadvantage any team and at the same time should provide enough space for a safe start to the track. Some starts are poorly prepared from the ground up and the risk of conflict is high. Conflict such as attacking at the start, tangling and the like is therefore partly the fault of the organizer and his non-compliance with the minimum requirements for a mass start. The dog and the competitor should not suffer because his opponent failed to start and caused them harm, whether mental, physical or just a loss of time.

Rules for mass start (competitor)

IFSS rules saids If a mass start is organized, all competitors with dogs must wait together behind the starting line. Racer must hold his dog by the collar or harness. If not everyone can stay in one row, the race marshal will set more rows as needed. Translated into common language, every competitor, including the dog, must stand in front of the starting line. Racer holds the dog briefly by the harness or collar.

What do today's mass starts look like?

Any intervention, even if friendly, is undesirable. However, the local unwritten rule tolerates everything except splitting / biting and the associated contact, which is only a distortion of the rules. At the same time, interventions are tolerated where the dog tries to attack, but fails to complete it. Incentives to play and other non-aggressive contacts are also tolerated. All this is contrary to the official rules, which are based on the philosophy that canicross is not a contact sport.

How to train a mass start?

There are as many ways as there are competitors at the starting line. In general, a mass start should be learned by a dog that already has a high value for moving forward. Exactly how you train you can't generalize. Each dog needs a different approach, but a few general recommendations can be applied. However, do not be afraid to contact professional dog trainers.

General lessons

A reactive dog that immediately turns against other dogs and is easily drawn to aggressive reactions should learn to start with dogs that do not suffer from the same problem as him. They should start at a distance where there is no reaction. Over time, the distance decreases over a number of weeks. (It is ideal to consult the training not only with the sports trainer, but especially with experienced dog trainers.)

Fear reaction, the procedure is the same as for reactive dogs, we work with distance. It is important to identify the trigger of the reaction. Is it noise? Is it a violation of the personal zone? It is impossible to proceed without a known cause. Again, I recommend contacting a dog trainer and also a sports trainer.

What should a mass start look like?

At the start signal, your dog will move forward regardless of other dogs and noise. He won't let himself be drawn into a fight, he won't cross the corridor. Each competitor stands at the starting line and has enough space on both sides, 80 meters of his corridor in front of him, 10 meters of space behind him without other pushing dogs. That it is no longer a classic mass start? Yes, it is definitely not a classic mass start, it is safe and coming out of it at the head of the group does not mean not getting tangled, having sharp elbows and a dog that can withstand tingling.


Each organizer can determine their own rules of the race. If its rules do not regulate the behavior at a mass start, then it is not possible to require competitors and their dogs to behave fairly. Until the competitors themselves demand rules from the organizers, it is always up to each of us how it starts.

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