Last week, I went to see Dr. Crabtree at Uptown Natural Care Center for some A.R.T. (active release technique) and Graston (read more about those two things here) for some various aches and pains I have been having.
While at my appointment, we got to talking about his new golden retriever puppy. He asked me how we trained Matilda to run with us. I couldn’t remember much advice to share with him on the spot, but afterwards I took some time to think about it and put together some key pieces of advice for running with your dog that I thought I would share with you here for Tilda Tuesday.
Dogs really do make the best running partners. It seems that this training season for the Outer Banks marathon, I have been running quite a bit more than ever before with Matilda, and honestly she makes a great training partner! In fact, just the other morning, I felt pretty unmotivated to get up and run. I was laying there coming up with reasons in my head not to run but managed to get up. When I grabbed Matilda’s running leash she got super excited, started doing her vizsla crazy spins and I just couldn’t let her down. That’s the thing about dogs as running partners- their joy and exuberance instantly lifts your spirits.
I definitely do not have any running friends who jump around in circles at the opportunity to go running with me…
So, how did we get her to the point where she enjoys running so much?
In order for Tilda to enjoy running with me, I had to enjoy running with her; by this I mean she needed to learn some basic leash skills. Leash behavior is important for running with your dog. A dog that pulls a lot could do physical damage to itself, so its important to work on walking well on a leash before you progress to running on a leash. It’s also important to teach your dog to stay close to you. When I run with Matilda on the trails around the lakes, it could be very dangerous if she veered out in front of other runners or bikers- dangerous for her and dangerous for those people. I try my best to keep her close to me.
It’s time to RUN- not play/sniff, etc.
I think one of the biggest challenges for training your dog to run with you is teaching it that running time is not play time. The thing that has worked the best for me is using a different leash for running versus walking. Tilda knows the difference- when I grab her Stunt Puppy leash, she knows we’re going for a RUN. When I grab her other leash, she knows it’s walk time or dog park time.
“OMG, Tilda- running is SO much fun!!!!”
Even though running is not play time, it’s still FUN. A good way to get your dog to love running is to surround it with excitement and praise and treats and all the good things in a dog’s life! Tilda almost always gets a treat after she goes for a run and I always try to talk about GOING FOR A RUN in a very excited voice. I guess running is mental for dogs too, right? But seriously, I try to praise her during and after a run as much as possible.
Three’s a crowd.
Tilda never joins me when I run with my running club but I do occasionally bring her along when running with a friend or two. I won’t bring her on a run if the group is bigger than that though, as I think it can be annoying to the other runners and maybe to Matilda too.
So those are my basic tips for “training” your dog to run with you, but here are a few other factors to consider:
Consider the breed.
Not all dogs are created equal when it comes to running. Runner’s World published this awesome list of breeds and the distance/speed they are best for running. If you want a running partner, consider a breed that has a genetic predisposition to run. That was definitely one of many reasons we selected a vizsla.
Make sure your dog is healthy and physically fit and get your vet’s clearance when beginning to run with your dog. On that same note, wait until the dog is old enough to run. Our vet recommended that we wait until Matilda was a year old before we started running with her. This age could vary by breed, so be sure to ask your vet.
Have a training plan
Dogs need to build mileage and train just like humans. You can’t expect your dog to get out there and run 5 miles right away. We started with a “run/walk” program with Matilda, building up over a few months. I have read about other runners who would do their own workout and then come back to grab the dog for the cool down miles until it was “in shape” enough to join for a longer or faster run.
..And a few other basic reminders:
I talked about this is my post about tips for running in the heat with your dog but it’s definitely something to keep in mind. Your dog is running in a fur coat, so even if you’re not feeling hot, he/she might be. Be sure to stop for water or bring it with you.
Clean up after your dog
This seems like a given, but not everyone does this. Bring your plastic waste baggies along for every run.
Also, those race day jitters aren’t just for humans….Katie, a fellow vizsla owner who blogs at Prairie Ponderings said it’s important for her to do a warmup with her dog to make sure he does his business before a race vs. during it, which would definitely be a huge hassle!
I have to admit one downside of running with Matilda is those days when I feel like I’m really busting my butt, but she’s barely breathing! But that’s just her pushing me to get closer to my goals, right?
Any other tips to share for running with your dog? Please let me know in the comments!