A BRADFORD man has set up a local Canicross training group with the hope getting dogs and their owners fit and raising awareness of a sport that started in Scandinavia.

Alistair Young, who grew up in Keighley and lives in Shipley, set up the Bradford Canicross training group and they had their first run at St Ives just before New Year.

"It was our first ever group session and it was an amazing social thing," said Alistair, who added that the sport originated in Scandinavia for the mushing (sledding) community.

"The idea was that Huskies couldn't train in the snow in the summer months, so the owners attach themselves to the dog so they can pull. The dog is the engine.

"The equipment we use is quite specialised. We use a bungee lead that helps generate force.

"A normal lead doesn't give, but a bungee lead protects the dog from over-pulling and overexerting themselves.

"It's very competitive and some competitors use very traditional Husky commands."

The Canicross season runs from November to March because Alistair says the summer is too warm for the dogs.

Alistair, a PE teacher who is also trained Dogfit instructor, and his working Cocker Spaniel Leo are very competitive in the sport as the pair are ranked second in the UK in the Canicross National Championships.

"We're in an open category and Leo is up against much bigger dogs.

"For his size, Leo does extremely well. He's by far the smallest dog but he makes up for it with his enthusiasm.

"The next race is this weekend in Leicestershire and we could move into the number one spot with a victory.

"We're doing very well at the moment but we've got a long way to go.

"I've been letting people know about Canircoss because it's allowed when I've done Parkruns at Roberts Park, the Chevin and Myrtle Park.

"It's good for people's fitness. For people who don't have a lot of time, they can combine walking their dog with their own fitness.

"It's also a brilliant social activity and good for mental health. Anyone can get involved, from children to older adults."

He estimates there are around 100 members on the Bradford Canicross Facebook group.

"I'd love to see the sport develop for 2022," said Alistair. ""It's a long-term aim but I would like to bring the Canicross National Championships to Bradford in late 2022 or early 2023."