We have three dogs in the house.
One LOVES to run and runs with me. One loves to run but can only go for short bursts, and one is for a recovery super slow stroll (The OG Roy the Bulldog) .
Manny the rescue dog came into our lives right at the start of the first national lockdown. Bless him, he was from a very rough background, had obviously been badly treated by humans, and saved from a Kill Shelter in Romania. When he was found he had been poisoned and had teeth kicked out. He was so terrified upon arrival that he wouldn’t even stand up. Scared of most things, had never encountered stairs, or had a toy, or even his own bed. It took time and patience, and slowly he realised (with the help of my other two dogs) that life could be lots of love, walkies, decent food, dog treats, and an overpriced dog bed. As we got to know each other it became very clear; this dog loved to run.
First steps to running
After those first few weeks of getting to know each other, we finally had to pluck up the courage to take the lead off. The second we did he ran as fast as he could away from us until he was a dot (!!) After a heart stopping few seconds, he turned round and ran as fast as he could back tail wagging. A few more goes like this (and a couple of sessions with a dog behaviorist) we were happy to take him off the lead for longer and longer periods, and I began to run around with him during walkies to burn off some of his energy. After a bit of encouragement from friends, we decided to see is we could build him up to run with us.
It became clear the first thing we needed was the right harness. The fab people over at Dog Fit UK helped advise me. His harness doesn’t restrict his leg movements and hold him securely when on the lead.
We started off with a 1.5 mile out and back run walk on the lead to get him used to it. We built him comfortably up to 5k within a month. Using the same strategy as you would a new runner his training was run walking, building up to running for longer periods. Almost all of this was on the lead at the very beginning so he understood it was different to a walk and got used to running on lead.
Keeping track. We were so used to other two dogs staying withing sight and close by on walks that it was rather alarming to have a dog disappear off into the bushes or run off like the clappers after something that caught his eye. So we invested in a tracker that gives you a live feed of exactly where he is in relation to you. He wears this all day long and it counts his activity time. It’s called Tractive and it’s kind of like a doggy Strava. There are leader boards, heat maps, and most importantly we feel totally reassured about where he is at any time.
He was up to running around 4-5 miles in about 10 weeks. He’s really happy off lead, but I only take him off in an area where I know there is no road access for a long distance, or things are safely fenced. Fortunately we live in a rural area and there are lots of spaces suitable for off lead running. Manny loves to dart in and out trees whilst I run on the trails. He gets easily distracted by birds and squirrels. I just stand and wait for him to pop back out again.
Comparing our data post run he often runs about half a mile to a mile further than me and is considerably better than me up hills. I am putting this down to twice the amount of legs.
Staying happy running. He gets rest days and only runs about 3 or 4 times a week. Most of his runs are about 3-4 miles but occasionally he will come on a longer run with me and can comfortably run 9 or 10 miles now. If he could he would probably run every day, but he’s only got little legs, and just because I run almost every day, I have to be mindful he needs rest. We make sure we have water if it’s a warm day and snacks if it is a slightly longer run (more than 5 miles)
He hurt his paw a while back so we took him off running for a couple of weeks and I had to put my socks and trainers on outside the house when I went out to run as he would be so desperate to come along!
I absolutely LOVE running with him. I’ve come to understand that if I am taking him running, it will almost certainly involve stopping a bit for him to do his dog stuff, sniffing, weeing, trying to chase a flying bird. If I want to do a more dedicated run session it’s not with the dog. He has definitely got me out the door to run on days when I perhaps might not have, and more than anything it’s been the biggest joy to see him so very happy in his new life. The bonus is it stops him trying to dig a hole in the sofa in the evenings as he is well exercised. We have just entered our first virtual race together!
I would highly recommend visiting the experts over at Dog Fit UK who provide all the information you could want about running with a dog, including training plans, harnesses and events for you and your pooch.
(not at all sponsored, they were a great resource for me!)
all pictures by @the_phbalance