With spring temperatures finally coming around on the northeast coast, you might be eyeing those running sneakers from winter and your dusty New Year’s Resolutions. Is it time to finally lace those up and hit the streets or trails with your dog? As an avid runner myself, I say ABSOLUTELY! Like many runners, I'm on a relentless search for the perfect training partner. My requirements are strict: my partner must show up on time for workouts, be eager about the idea of hill repeats (even at 5 a.m.) and must listen sympathetically to the latest crisis at work or at home.
A runner's worst fear, a dog, can also be a runner's best training partner. A K9 running partner offers many benefits for a runner. A dog adds a sense of security, especially on those 5 am runs. A dog is always ready and willing to run. A dog never criticizes your running form. A dog does not chatter on about personal problems. A dog does not mind running the same boring route every day. A dog does not complain if you spontaneously change your daily route. A dog that burns off energy is a happy and good dog. A dog accustomed to a running routine may shame an unwilling partner into a pair of running shoes and out of the door. My German Shepherd Maximus instantly knows that we are going running by the clothing I wear. You can see his excitement as we walk down the stairs and ready to run. Each time is like it was his first time. He instantaneously runs for the drawer that holds his running collar and leash and you can almost hear him cheering. It is his absolute, most favorite thing to do.
BUT, not all dogs are born to run! A great running dog depends on three things: genetic temperament, socialization, and training. Some dogs are born with easy going personalities. That's how some people get away without training or socializing their dogs. But if your dog doesn't have the "work" temperament, you've got an uphill battle ahead of you.
The best running breeds include Labs, Retrievers, working dogs, such as German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers, and herding breeds like Collies, Shelties, and Heelers. Although the breed has something to do with determining a dog's ability as a runner, that isn't necessarily the first criteria. Generally, any dog that's been bred to work athletically and to respond to people is likely to make a good running partner. Know your breed! Check out Runnersgoal.com to find out what breeds are good for long distance. Certain breeds of dogs are better suited than others for distance running. Build up the distance gradually. Just because you can go for a 5-mile run, doesn’t mean your dog can do the same. He needs to work his way up and the pads on your dog’s paws are sensitive and must be toughened up with a gradual increase. Be aware of the running surface, debris on the side of the road can cause injury, just like it could to any human.
It is important to have the right collar and leash while running with your dog. One problem is some of the collars with plastic, clip-type buckles. Plastic is not the strongest, most durable material out there. If there happens to be a small crack in the clip and your strong dog decides to lunge after a squirrel, that plastic clip could give way. Then you have a loose dog. I tend to go with a metal prong collar, that way you have the most control over your dog. Leashes, not quite as important, but they should be comfortable, durable and long enough. You want enough leash for both you and your dog to have room for your running stride without bumping into each other. Most six-foot leashes are adequate for this. Four-foot leashes are too short in my opinion.
Stay hydrated, make sure your buddy has water before and after your run. If you plan on running a longer distance, make sure you bring water for you and your pooch. Also, listen to what they are saying with their body language. If your dog is slowing down, panting heavily or foaming at the mouth, this could be a sure sign that he needs a break.
And most important, bring a doggie bag!
Written by Christine Van Guilder, Siren Luminary
Follow Christine on Instagram! @dox222