When I lace up my running shoes Tippy goes on alert. An Aussie/Border Collie who can pratically read my mind, Tippy knows that most days I run alone or with my husband, but sometimes, when the mileage and my mood mean I want a furry friend to come along, he gets to go too. Silently he waits, his eyes tracking every move, his ears perked with anticipation. If I reach for the leash he jumps at the invitation and gives a happy bark, like an exclamation point. Then he wiggles with excitement, struggling to sit long enough for me to slide the leash over his nose. I think, perhaps, he loves to run more than I do.
Here’s what I’ve learned about running with a dog:
Know Your Breed and Check with the Vet
You know how every exercise program under the sun tells you to consult your doctor first? This goes for Spot too. Just like people, not all dog breeds are built the same. Some breeds can run for miles with Kenyan-style efficiency and enthusiasm while others should probably stick to leisurely strolls around the neighborhood. If your dog is prone to hip dyplasia or wheezes a lot, for example, running could be cruel. So, ask your vet during Spot’s next checkup. Not only will she know the genetic health issues to consider, she can give advice based on your furry friend’s age, weight and current condition.
Finish basic obedience first
If you and Fido haven’t mastered a well-mannered walk or the “come” command you aren’t ready to run together.
I learned this the hard way with my former furry friend Mattie, another Aussie/Border Collie. When I went for my first run with Mattie she was anxious-to-please but didn’t have a clue what to do on a leash because I hadn’t taught her yet (or she hadn’t taught me). When we both turned the same way to dodge an obstacle on the sidewalk we tangled feet and fell in a heap. My poor pooch broke my fall with a yelp but I still bloodied both palms and knees. We limped home and didn’t try it again until we’d had more practice walking and heeling.
Consider Some Helpful Gear
Of course, it’s always best to use a leash and carry a poop bag, but there are some other nifty gadgets that can make your run more fun.
- Two-dog Running: I love my coupler, a short Y-shaped leash extension that allows me to attach one leash to both beasts. They stay side-by-side where they’ll automatically match each other’s pace without any tangling of leads. It’s perfect when you can’t bear to leave one dog home while the other runs.
- Pull-free Running: I use a nose harness with Tippy so he doesn’t pull or yank, even if he sees a squirrel. Like the name implies, it has a piece that goes over his nose and attaches to the leash behind his head. If he does see a squirrel and pull it pushes his nose down and he immediately stops before I’ve felt the tug.
- Hands-free Running: You can slide the leash handle over a running belt, or purchase one designed for that purpose.
- Hydrated Running: I haven’t used it on a run yet because I don’t take Tippy more than 4 miles, but when we hike I carry a water bottle that has an attached cover that’s essentially a small trough.
Make Sure It’s Fun For Everyone
When Tippy runs with me I have a companion and protector who casts adoring glances at me. In return I watch to make sure he’s hydrated and happy, that he has opportunity to relieve himself and doesn’t over-exert or over-heat. And if I lifted the leash and Tippy didn’t get all excited, I’d leave him home. I also leave him home on long run days, when I’m running with music and when I want to go for a particular pace. It’s not that he can’t keep up. He’s faster than I am. But if I need to concentrate I’m not giving him the attention he deserves. Afterall, he’s my best friend.