For many of us, the joys of running are made even greater when shared with others. It’s great to have a chat while toiling away on the trails, catching up on all the latest news and gossip. Sometimes though, our mates aren’t available for a trot. But there’s one reliable friend that’s always keen for a run, our pooches! If you have the right breed and prepare them for it, dogs make awesome training partners. To get the lowdown on all things ‘canine running companion’ we caught up with an expert on the subject, dog trainer and behaviourist Lara Shannon. She also happens to host the TV show Pooches at Play, so definitely knows her stuff.
Which breeds are best for distance runners?
Well, to start with, lets rule out a bunch. It’s best to avoid brachycephalic dogs. These are the ones with the squashed faces like pugs and French bulldogs. Also, it’s best not to run with a puppy as they’re still growing. Generally you need to wait until they’re a year-and-a-half at least. Breeds worth considering are weimaraners, the different pointers, huskies (If in a cold climate area), cattle dogs and Dalmatians. However, just like people dogs have different personalities. Some will be keen to hit the trails, while others may not!
Where do you start?
Just like you need training to be a better runner, a dog will need some practice to get use to it. Start by getting them use to loose-leash walking. That way they won’t be dragging you along while running, and instead will happily run beside, just behind or in front of you. On this, you really do want to get them to a point here they remain on one side. This will help avoid them tripping you over if they crisscross the path or clip your heels. Also, keep in mind there will be all sorts of distractions out there. So you either need them to be very disciplined or have great recall. So as soon as you say their name or give a command, they react accordingly. Treats can also help by making it more rewarding to run with you than chase that rabbit that darts across the track or the dog they meet along the way.
How far can you go?
Well, it all depends on the fitness of your dog, its age, breed and realistically, how far it wants to run! Like a human, they need training. Start with short jogs of five to ten minutes. Do this every couple of days for a week or so. Then gradually increase the duration, similarly to how you would with your own training. Add five minutes a week, and in a couple of months you’ll have your mate alongside for an hour or so. Eventually, you’ll get a feel for what their limitations are. Once they start to get tired they’ll pant excessively, slow down or even stop. Ideally, you don’t to get them to this point. So try not to push the envelope too much.
What else do I need to be aware of?
Here’s the key points:
- Avoid taking them running on hot or humid days
- Make sure they get ample water. Typically, they need more than you.
- Start and finish each run with 5 minutes of walking. It’s essentially a warm up and cool down.
- Always obey the rules. Only let them off-leash in areas it’s permitted and if they have very good recall.
- Occasional breaks are recommended, to not only let them have a bit of recovery, but to go to the bathroom too.
- Always clean up after them!
So there you have it. Choosing the best pooch and getting them to be your training partner is a lot like life as a human runner. You just need the right genetics and to give them a bit of training.
Catch Lara on Pooches at Play, screening from July 20th at 2pm on Channel Ten.
For more tips for life with your dog, visit her website: http://www.poochesatplay.com