Running with dogs: it’s an adventure! Do you run with your pets? It definitely enhances the experience of running but it presents some challenges. For example, always keep a tight grip on the leash.
Dogs love to run and explore, frequently in directions or ways that may deviate a bit from the human directional spirit and path. But give-and-take by dog and owner allows for a more mutually beneficial run. Plus, the dog circles add some mileage to your final tally…if you are keeping track.
One of the most enjoyable moments of running with Misty, our English setter, is the breaks to soak up the amazing beauty and inspiration of nature. It could be a sunrise, trees, other dogs, exciting birds that make noise like ducks or geese, or today’s surprise, a muskrat flopping and swimming in a pond.
Remember dogs can smell things that humans cannot. So when your dog’s nose takes you in a different direction, give a little bit of leeway for “sniff runs” (it’s the runner variation upon “sniff walks”, meaning a more extended walk where you give your dog a little limited freedom explore instead of simply walking around the block with no deviations from your intended course.
One example of a “sniff location” for our dog is the “bunny tree” that’s within a block of our house. If we tell Misty we are going there or ask her if she wishes to check for bunny rabbits there, our dog picks up her pace, quickly running to “catch” the rabbits before they scatter, hop, and of course, RUN! Sometimes it’s nice to take the dog for a run without really having a course in mind and together we draw a new running course, ensuring that we have safe footing for dog and owner, avoiding snow and ice and other assorted objects that dogs should not eat.
So my first tip for running with dogs is: 1. Secure the leash and make sure you have it on the right link. If it’s on the wrong link, the dog can break from the leash. This happened to me once before a run and I had to tackle Misty in our front yard. Our neighbors were very entertained.
2. Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise but not too much: exertion but not overexertion. It’s pretty easy to assess how tired a dog gets during a run. Adjust accordingly if your dog is too pooped to continue. You want your dog to be a little tired when you return so your dog will sleep while you do work or take care of other chores.
3. Give your dog water before you run and make sure your dog gets food and water when you return. And a dog treat like a Milk Bone of course.
4. Point your dog the direction of your turn and give the command: Follow me! This helps when your dog wants to wander or go a different direction. You’ll get a little resistance sometimes on the leash but it’s good cross-training.
5. Plan a course to run with your dog but be flexible. If the dog wants to add an extra loop or some dog circles, agree at least some of of the time. Give the dog a little flexible fun on the run.
6. Dogs frequently want to run on grass/softer surfaces. It’s gentler on their paws/legs. Allow that as long as it is safe footing for both of you.
7. Walk breaks and nature breaks (mindfulness moments) are helpful for dogs, especially puppies. Like humans, sometimes dogs get tired and need a little break to catch their breath. That’s okay.
8. Encourage your dog with “Good run Misty!” (substitute your dog’s name) or similar supportive positive messages, rotate as needed.
9. Develop a ritual to tell your dog it’s time to run. I love to say in an excited voice: Let’s go for a RRRRRRRUN Misty!
10. When you return from your run, let your dog rest (maybe run around a little in the backyard but don’t force that if you ran long or fast). Just tell your dog it’s sleepy time. Create a quiet, peaceful environment for your dog to rest. Sometimes rest is best for hounds and humans. Humans can get a lot of work done when hounds are sleeping.
BONUS TIP: Make sure you bring a poop bag with you to dispose of your dog’s waste. Actually bring two bags. Sometimes you will need two.
And if humans can learn anything from running with dogs, perhaps it is that we should run with dogged determination. Sometimes dogs run with more determination than we do. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If both dogs and humans run with dogged determination, runs will be more fun.
Enjoy the scope! Take your dog for a run! And make sure you include a little flexible fun!