Running as a Pack

It was only a matter of time before one of my blog posts went to the dogs. Running and canines are my two obsessions in life. So this week we’re talking about turning your pup into a running buddy.

Let me begin by saying if you live in Atlanta and run with your dog, I’m sorry. I’m the creepy girl who stares longingly at your dog as you pass. But at least I’m not drooling over you. No seriously, while I can remember your dog’s breed, markings, and collar, I promise I didn’t notice you at all aside the fact that you are either a male or female runner.

Sigmund smiling after his first 5K - the Doggie Dash at Candler Park

Sigmund smiling after his first 5K – the Doggie Dash at Candler Park

My dog Sigmund looooooves to run. He’s also an 8.5 lb. Shih-Tzu, which means he’s more of a short-distance sprinter. And here’s the other thing – he doesn’t like to run in a straight line. Sure, he starts off like a pro, but then goes full speed into figure eights and circles without warning. To run with him is like playing an impromptu game of Skip-It (am I dating myself here?). Because of this endearing quality, he stays home and gets all of his toys out of his toy box while I am out running. We have done a couple of doggie races together though – including a 5K that he really rocked!

Although my own dog is too spontaneous and doesn’t have enough endurance to be my running partner, I have run with plenty of other dogs through some volunteer work. Having a four-legged friend to take out for your weekly mileage is a great motivator, but there are things you should know in order to keep both of you happy and safe. Here are my Do’s and Don’ts to running with your dog:

DO:

  • Start small. If you just added your dog to the family or have never run with him before, don’t make your first jaunt together a 10 miler. Just like you, dogs need to work up to longer distances.
  • Always use a leash – especially for road/city running. Sure, some of you say your dog will stick by your side no matter what. But if something startles your dog he could run off, or even worse, bolt into traffic. Is it really worth the risk? Plus, other runners/walkers/people in general will appreciate you having control over your pet.
  • Have water on hand. It’s important to remember to hydrate yourself and your pooch before, sometimes during and after runs (especially during warmer months). Bring a water bottle along, or make sure your route includes water fountains or doggie dishes along the way. Some neighborhoods are great about keeping water out!
  • Use positive training techniques. It’s a good idea to teach your dog to run on only one side of you. However, it is not a great idea to slap your dog in the head or yank on his leash if he cuts in front of you or does other unwanted behaviors. Positive training techniques work just as well, if not better than punishment and it will make your outings more enjoyable for both of you. Remember to have patience while your dog is learning what you want him to do.

DON’T:

  • Put your fitness needs above your dog’s health. If you are training for a longer distance than your dog can handle, do a smaller loop through your neighborhood then drop your dog off and continue on your run.
  • Use a retractable leash. These can easily harm people and dogs alike. If you’re not paying attention or your dog darts around someone/something unexpectedly, those leashes can really lash the skin/fur. Plus, they make it easier for a dog to mistakenly end up in traffic.
  • Use prong collars. I hate these things, especially for running. One yank and you can do severe damage to your dog’s skin or throat. There are better devices out there, including both back- and front-hook harnesses and head collars. Do your research and find a humane way to stop your dog from pulling.
  • Neglect your dog’s fitness. Not every dog is a good candidate for a running partner. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t need exercise. Every dog needs to be walked – yes, even if you have a yard. Whether you’re training for a 5K or a marathon, make sure you not only get your miles in but also give your dog the exercise and mental stimulation he needs. This helps keep him healthy and reduce the chances of behavioral problems due to boredom.

Thinking about finding a four-legged running buddy? Don’t shop, adopt! You can find everything from purebred to mixed breeds at local shelters everywhere. These great animals are just waiting for someone like you to help them start over in life.

I’d love to see your furry running partners! Tweet me @AtlRnnr!

MeAndSig

Me and Sigmund, the spazzy runner