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Dogs of all shapes and sizes come to Moncton for 6th annual Fast Fox Race

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It started before the sun had even fully come up on Saturday, but the early morning didn’t slow down any of the athletes at the 6th annual Fast Fox Race in Moncton, N.B.

“Most dogs, most breeds, love doing this and then certain breeds, live for this,” said Alex Brennan with Halifax Harness Hounds.

“Our dogs as soon as they see the harness they’re jumping around, they’re excited, they love doing it, they love running.”

As part of a harness dog sport event, a series of classes took place that are designed for dogs and their owners to work together to complete the race.

People had the option of running, biking or using a scooter to compete.

“All of the running classes are one dog, so you have one dog attached to a belt, kind of like a rock climbing belt that is around your waist and then there is a bungee line that is attached to your dog and the dog pulls and you run so you have to work together to achieve something you could not achieve on your own,” explained Sarah Peel with the Moncton Dog Runners.

For the wheeled classes, people can enter with either one or two dogs.

Earlier this week, Moncton Dog Runners made the decision to shorten the race from a five kilometre track to a 3.4 km course due to higher humidity and higher temperatures.

Peel said despite the condensed event, they were still able to match the turnout from last year and had a total of 117 starts and 62 individuals racing.

“I’ve been involved with MAHDS since its inception and it’s amazing to see the growth from like a membership of 20 to a membership of almost 200,” she said.

“We have, this year alone, our Moncton club by itself, has almost 80 members.”

A dog owner pets her greyhound at the 6th annual Fast Fox Race in Moncton, N.B. (Alana PIckrell/CTV Atlantic)

The day brought out dogs of all shapes and sizes and dog runners from all over the Maritimes and Quebec.

Peel says typically a club from the United States also attends, but weren’t able to this year.

“You build friendships and this incredible connection with your dog that just, it’s hard to put into words because you can’t do it when one of you is not into it,” she said.

“So if your head’s not in it, it won’t be the same. If they aren’t a thousand per cent ready to go and engaged, it’s not the same, so when you both have those days when you’re both on and you’re both excited it’s like you kind of become one and it’s just something you can’t do alone.”

Maude Lapointe came from Quebec for Saturday’s race, bringing just two of her 12 dogs this trip.

She’s been involved in harness dog sports for the last 15 years after owning a French spaniel that needed something more than just running on a leash beside her.

“I think for the dog it’s the combination of doing something physical and mental, like you’re really asking them to do a job, so the dog comes home and he’s very, very tired, and for the human it’s very nice to develop the team spirit with the dog,” she said.

During the “on-season” she says her dogs need to train three to four times a week and she trains four to five times a week for herself. While she admits it’s a big time commitment, she says it’s worth it.

“The community is special,” she said.

“People [who] enjoy being outside, people [who] love animals, of course, and so we develop really great relationships, so it’s very nice too.”

Those involved say the sport is growing in popularity as well regardless of what province you’re from.

“In Quebec when I started 15 years ago, we were like 10 during races, 10 people, and now in Quebec there are events where there are like 200 people,” said Lapointe.

It’s also designed to be welcoming, fun and very inclusive. Every dog is welcome if it’s something they love to do.

“There’s a lot of Australian shepherds and Doodles and German shepherds and little tiny dogs,” said Peel.

“We have, in the canicross sprint, we have a dachshund. It’s awesome. You can do it with any dog. The dog you have is the dog you need.”

She says typically people start out with the dog they have at the time, but it isn’t uncommon to get dogs that are bred for it down the line.

“We have two euro hounds, so they’re a German shorthair pointed, husky, greyhound mix, so the idea is the GSP (German shorthair pointed) for drive, the greyhound for speed, and the husky for endurance,” said Brennan.

He got into the sport just a few years ago as a way to combine his love for dogs and his love for being active.

“I started with canicross, so running with the dog, and now do biking, scooter, sled, skiing, anything I can do,” he said.

At the moment, he says that the Halifax Harness Hounds group has around 15-20 members, but there are a number of other groups in Nova Scotia, and they’re always looking to add more members.

Saturday’s event was just a taste of what harness dog sports has to offer. Peel says in Moncton the group runs together at least once a week bringing people with common interests and their four-legged athletes together.

Click here for a photo gallery of the 6th annual Fast Fox Race. 

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