My dog, Rodney, turns nine years old this spring. In “dog years,” this makes him an old man. But Rodney, who is a Weimaraner and weighs about 100 pounds, is fit and fast, healthy for the most part and still able to run for miles without a break. As a runner, Rodney has been my main training partner for years. Since 2003 — when he was a pup and I was a budding marathoner — the dog and I have run side by side collectively for thousands of miles and on harsh training days up to two hours straight. I’ve learned a few things along the way. From the experience, I offer these “10 Rules of Running with Your Dog.” Follow my tips to get the most out of training with a pooch leashed at your side.
1. Your Run, Not the Dog’s — As a serious runner, I think of my training runs as my own time to get in shape and practice my sport. The dog happens to come along. In other words, I am not “taking the dog on a walk.” I am going for a run (and my dog is coming with). There’s a fundamental difference.
2. Don’t Stop to Sniff — Continuing on the above “control” theme, don’t let your dog rule your run. Don’t let him or her stop to sniff fire hydrants and trees. That kind of activity can be reserved for walks. On the run, the primary activity is. . . running. You want to keep your pace and maintain a steady rhythm. Your dog will learn to love it, don’t worry. They are born to run, and all the sniffing and marking of territory can be saved for another time.
3. Be the Alpha! — Teach your dog to run at your pace and follow your lead. Don’t let him pull you or drag behind. Teach him to heel and observe your pace, your starts and stops, and your commands. This is your run, not the dog’s. You’re in control. Dogs love to follow the Alpha in the pack. Be the Alpha!
4. Keep Your Hands Free — Set up your leash system so that your hands are free. You need to be able to pump your arms and run naturally, so holding a leash in hand is a no-no. I wear a thin nylon belt with a plastic clip buckle. An end of the leash is looped around the belt, keeping the dog close and at my side. My setup is homemade. But companies like Ruff Wear Inc. and Stunt Puppy make belt-type leash systems ready to buy.
5. Short Leash — Your most natural running stride will be accomplished with the dog heeling close and running at your side. My dog runs about two feet to my left, and he’s on a short leash that does not allow him to wander. It takes some training, but most dogs can learn to run at your pace right along side. It is an efficient system for both runner and dog.
6. No Pull — Dogs love to pull, but on a run this is super annoying (and detrimental to the human getting maximum exercise). Do not let your dog get in front of you and pull. Establish this as a rule with your dog early on.
7. Corrective Collar — If your canine cannot resist pulling, look into a corrective collar. I use a “choke chain”-type collar on Rodney with short, dull spikes. If he pulls too hard off course, there’s a “corrective sensation” that quickly gets his attention and puts him on track.
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