Lazy Dog Running
For several years in the 90’s I had the best running companion- Rocky. He was a small, stocky, overactive Jack Russell, and he loved to run. He was so sensitive to my running, that if he was in the backyard and I was inside the house, I just had to look at my running shoes and I would hear him whimpering- ‘don’t forget me’. And he was a good little runner, he liked to stay in front and he could run for miles and miles. He was an amazing little dog, that he even got a mention in my running book- Lazy Runner- where he was given the distinguished mantle- Rocky the Wonder Running Dog!
Humans, dogs and horses are the only known animals who run for fun…all other animals have a far more important reason to run- they run to get food or to not become food!
If you have a dog and think he is going to be your next best running buddy, make sure you consider a few important tips first
- * Like humans, not all dogs are the same and have different abilities and talents. Certain breeds of dogs are natural runners (like our Kenyan counterparts) they can run for a long time without having to stop or suffer injuries- but other breeds can have problems with running. Most dogs can run shorter distances, however, the long distance dog runner breeds are mainly working dogs-or younger, short haired, large dogs with long noses- so breeds like hounds, setters, retrievers, herders etc. Smaller dogs with short noses and legs and long hair are not such good runners- so pugs, bulldogs, dachshunds etc. Dogs under one year (puppies) shouldn’t be trained to run long distances (5km or more)- just like kids it’s not their thing, running 5km or more is something teenagers or adults should do and dogs are the same. And don’t put your poor old (10 years or more) arthritic mutt under the pump to run a long way- it could be quite painful for them and cause further damage to their condition.
- *Your dog needs to be trained to run. Did you run 5km on your first outing? The answer is more likely to be no and your dog won’t be able to do it either. He may run out with you, but it could be very awkward when you have to carry him back for 2.5km! Try training your mutt around ovals or loops, or 1km repeats to get a feel of how far he can run. Then extend the distances by a loop or km each time your take her out…and like humans, don’t be tempted to run the dog every day, its tough stuff and hard on the body. Alternate running and walking days.
- *Dogs do not handle heat the way humans do. Our skin is fantastic for cooling us down, but fur and hair is not so good. Dogs have one way to cool off and that is by panting and getting fresh air onto their tongues. Let your dog have a drink at least every km. I always knew when Rocky wanted a drink, he would pull on the lead and start sniffing the air- this is a good sign for you to start looking for water. Scooping water from a tap into your hand and letting pooch drink it is fine...it’s not so much getting lots of fluid in, it’s the cooling of the tongue and mouth that helps.
- * Choose shade over sun when you run. Rocky was a little wall or fence hugger...as soon as the sun came out he was looking for shade constantly, so I knew he was not a sun worshopper- luckily I don’t like running in the heat either. So be nice and run in the cooler hours of the day- early morning and evening or run in shady cooler areas- and the warmer the weather the more drink stops you should add in- if you feel hot or thirsty on your run, you can bet your poor pooch is far more hotter and thirstier.
- *Control your dog when running. This is not just for the benefit of others; you and your dog will enjoy your run far better if you exert some firm control over their behavior. Keep the dog on a firm, shorter lead- insist it run beside you or a little in front(they do like to lead) but not too far in front that its zig zagging in front of you and tripping you up.
Teach your dog to stay in the one position and run forward, so don’t let it keep crossing your path. This may take a few runs to sort this out, but be persistent and after a while your dog will realise its place in the run and stay there.
Also try to control its pace- no doubt at the start, he will want to take off and run as fast as he can, but of course we know from our own running experiences that never ends well! So don’t let her constantly pull on you, if she keeps doing this stop her from running and start her off again, keep doing this until she gets the message- slow down.
*Do you stop and wee at every tree when you run? I’m sure you don’t (at least I hope you don't!), so don’t let your dog do it either. You will not get very far and become really frustrated if you are constantly letting your dog sniff trees, with the view to cocking the leg. Be firm, say no when he looks like he is about to sniff- it’s not being cruel, it’s just teaching him good running etiquette.
With Rocky, I would walk him around for a bit first before the run started, let him get all the sniffing and weeing and pooing out of his system and then off we would go. I would not let him stop for the rest of the run- initially he would give me the stink eye, but he soon got used to the fact the running had no pee stops and he wouldn’t even try it. However, when walking he would go straight back to sniffing every tree. Teach your dog the difference between running and walking- so she knows what is required of her when she is out there.
If you train your dog to run and treat her well out there on the course, you will have a wonderful running buddy.