Learn How to Run with Your Dog
Photo credit: Sergey Nivens / Bigstock
It is true that you have to learn to walk before you can run, and this applies to your canine companion, as well. Sure, he knows how to run, but unless you want to get dragged or pulled in random directions, he will need a little training. You are responsible for helping him learn to be the best running companion possible. Remember, he cannot read your mind, and will not understand why you are so frustrated when you can’t keep up. Investing a small amount of time into training will ensure you both enjoy every minute of your run.
Master Walking First
If your dog already pulls, lunges, or feels the need to leave a message at every tree for the next canine that comes along; this is not going to get any better when you are traveling at a faster pace. Your four-legged friend needs to be comfortable walking at heel position. So, if you generally allow him to do his own thing on a retractable leash, he will need to get used to being on a shorter leash. Take him for a few walks on this leash first; this will already be quite an adjustment for him to get used to.
Gather the Goods
You will need a 6-foot leash, water, and a collapsible bowl. Your dog will be as thirsty as you, so bring twice as much as you usually carry when you run alone. Avoid using a harness, unless it is designed for skijoring. Most harnesses are comfortable for walking, but will rub behind the front legs when the animal runs. A slip lead or Martindale collar may be needed unless your perfect pooch is a master of the heel position.
Taking your dog on your regular 10-mile route the first day is not a good idea. He will need to work up to this distance, just as you once did. If you are a beginner, then you will both be going through an adjustment period together.
Walking him for a bit first is recommended. This will give him time to get his initial burst of excited energy over with, and eliminate, if necessary. When you begin running, he should be in heel position, so his shoulder or head will be lined up with your thigh. Keeping his collar high on his neck, just beneath the chin will give you more control. If it slips down, he can gain more control because the lower portion of his neck is stronger.
Grab the leash in your left hand, and hold the slack in your right hand. Your left hand will only be a couple feet from your dog’s collar. Again, this gives you control. Your right hand is basically holding on, in case your left hand drops the leash. The lead should always be loose. If it tightens, it will encourage him to resist.
If your dog gets distracted and wants to lunge at the squirrel that just played chicken with him, or he feels the need to chase the bike that just blew by you, then you might need to stop and put him in a sit-stay. You should not start running again until he is calm, the lead is loose, and his attention is on you.
Running with your dog is fantastic exercise for both of you. It may take a few times for him to learn what is expected of him, but once he does, you will both enjoy a rewarding experience. Make sure you are familiar with the signs of heat stroke, and keep his paws off hot pavement in the summer. If you have a large breed prone to bloat, he should not be fed just before or after exercise. Also, do not allow him to get so thirsty that he quickly gulps the water down when you finally give him some. This could allow too much air in, which can cause bloat. Become familiar with the symptoms of this deadly condition, as well.