Oldie but goodie: A new kind of running partner

In honour of anniversary week at I Eat Therefore I Run, I’ve decided to recycle one of my most favourite posts I’ve ever written. It’s all about my favourite running partners: dogs. Hope you enjoy it!

Running with your dog can be a great way for both of you to get your exercise in one go. My in-law’s have two Working Cocker Spaniels and a German Short-haired Pointer, which are all featured in this post, and are very active breeds. In the past, I’ve run with their dogs, but have found that I can’t always take them with me depending on my route and the environment I’m running in. The canine runners:
Brio, the old ‘retired’ German Short-Haired Pointer, who relaxes at home instead
Gille (pronounced ‘Gilly’), Spaniel runner #1
Chae, Spaniel runner #2 and Gille’s little half brother
By the way, when I refer to running with dogs, I mean running with them off-leash. Here are some guidelines you should consider before taking your dog on as a new running partner.
A run in the hills

1. Where to run: Avoid busy roads with many intersections and traffic, both pedestrian and vehicle. The best places to run are forest trails or country roads with little traffic, parks or even the beach. This eliminates much risk for you and your dog. You should also know your routes. It’s best to leave your four-legged friend at home if you’re tackling a new running route for the first time as you never know what surprises it might bring. You also need to take into consideration that you may have to call your dog. Will it be able to hear you wherever you go?

2. Time of day: Peak times are best to avoid due to traffic. When running at night, you know you need reflective gear; so does your dog. You can get reflective vests and collars from any pet supply store, and there are even collars with flashing lights available. Keep both yourself and your partner safe!

3. Your dog’s breed: Active breeds, like gun dogs and working dogs, who require up to two hours of exercise a day, will benefit and be able to run alongside, or even ahead of you. If you have a toy breed, like a little Bichon Frise, it’s best to leave it at home and cuddle with it after your run. For a complete list of breed types and descriptions, (including recommended amounts of daily exercise), click here.

 4. Your dog’s age: If your dog is older and seems quite stiff when it first gets up, or is even arthritic, it’s best to leave it at home. You should also leave your dog at home if you have a puppy. General walking rule of thumb for puppies is 10 minutes of exercise per month of life; if your dog is four months old, it should get a maximum of 40 minutes exercise a day. If you have a large breed puppy, this is even more vital to adhere to as its bones are still growing. You can only begin taking your dog for runs after it’s a year old. A puppy won’t have as much obedience training as well, which goes with my next point. Compare it to a young child: you wouldn’t take a five year old on a run, so why take puppy?

Brio in a field of barley

5. Is your dog obedient? Being able to sit and stay is good, but can your dog do that when you’re twenty feet away from it? Can your dog run at heel or at least stay with you? Does your dog come when you tell it to? If you’ve answered ‘No’ to all of these questions, then you should reconsider taking your dog running. The last thing you want is for it to run off and get lost. I know with my in-law’s dogs that, even though they run ahead of me, in and out of the bush, zig-zagging past, they will obey the commands I give them when the time comes. They will also wait for me where trails intersect to see where I’m going. Another major point you need to seriously consider is the fact that dogs are predators. As obedient as my dogs-in-law are, the Spaniels can’t help but chase after rabbits, pheasants and even deer when we’re out running or walking. But I know that if I shout ‘NO! Come here!’ they will. Is your dog able to do that if it spots some prey? If not, then leave it at home.

Gille’s crown of sticky willow and bleeding tongue

6. Is your dog fit enough? Is it unrealistic to expect an unfit person to go for a four mile run? Yes. Is it unrealistic to expect an unfit dog to accompany you on a four mile run? Definite yes. No matter your dog’s age, if it’s not used to longer walks, is overweight, or isn’t walked regularly, it’s not fair to suddenly expect it to run with you. You should also speak to your vet if you’d like to begin taking your dog on runs.

So excited!

7. Can you trust your dog? This is the most important thing you need to think about. Regardless of age, fitness and breed, you need to be able to fully trust that your dog will listen to you and stay with you, otherwise you could spend your allotted running time searching for your dog instead, or even worse, get into a dangerous situation.

Above all you need to keep in mind the level of risk involved for both you and your dog, and this can greatly be diminished by following these guidelines. If you’ve found that your dog fits much of this criteria, then congratulations, you have a new running partner! If your dog fits bits and pieces of the criteria, or none at all, it’s probably best to leave him or her at home.

And when it’s cold and wet outside, be sure to dry off the dogs before coming in.

Poor wet dogs!

 Keep in mind post-run that your dog will require lots of water! I’ve also noticed that when the Spaniels are running a lot with me, up to 15 miles a week on top of their regular walks, they require more food intake as well. This is especially true for Gille, the smaller of the Spaniels, who is typically a weird eater, (won’t eat his food when it’s put in front of him like the other two dogs, and will only eat if someone is standing in the kitchen with him). He never begs for food, but when he runs with me regularly, he’s got a very good appetite and will beg if we’ve not fed him enough!

Happy running to you both

 *Thank you to my sister-in-law Annabel the vet, dog owner and 4 hour marathon runner for her feedback and input.

If you’re serious about running with your dog, want to race, and live in the UK, check out the Canicross UK website.

On a side note, I think I’m having problems with my email subscriptions and FeedBurner, and as far as I know, email subscribers haven’t been receiving emails of my posts. If this applies to you, please leave a comment or email me at ieat.irun@yahoo.ca and I will try to take care of it. 

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