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Running with the Pooch – Tips for Training Fido for Running

Posted Sep 07 2010 6:29am

Last year, we brought home a little pup from the pound. Cute as button and rotten to the core, our doggy soon began family’s best friend.

When we purchased Otis we did so with the idea that he’d:

  1. bring enjoyment to the family
  2. provide love to the children
  3. run with me

Trust me, I was psyched about number three. I’d wanted a running companion for a while, and since I hadn’t found a human kind I thought the four pawed variety might be perfect. For one thing, dogs love to run, and they can go fast or slow depending on the type of dog and the person directing the dog. For another, I do some morning runs, getting out just before daybreak, and while I feel safe in the neighborhood and I carry along my weapon of choice – pepper spray – to ward of potential attackers (which in my neighborhood could actually be fox and dogs), having along a furry companion would make me feel utra safe.

Then, when Otis hit six months, I took him out for a spin.

And Otis put on the brakes.

The dog refused to go further than our driveway for the longest time. He wouldn’t even walk with us, much less run; and heaven forbid we open the door in the dark: He stood on the porch, the hair on his back rising, his head cocked to every single noise he heard. Then he raced back inside without doing his business.

The dog was afraid of the dark.

Thankfully, six months later he loves to run. I take him out now for up to four miles, early in the morning or sometime during the time my kids are in school. He goes and goes and goes. In fact, I think he’d still go, but I’m leery about running too far with him. So, here are my tips for running with Fido.

Be Patient

While dogs are natural born runners, they do so for fun, not for sport. They want to stop and sniff; they have to stop and go. Also, they don’t understand the nuances of training for pace and distance, so while Otis may think he has to stop every few feet and sniff and then run a blazing 8 minute mile, dragging me along behind him, I have other ideas. Which leads me to . . .

Take Time to Train

Chances are you aren’t going to put the leash on and watch Fido run the way you want him to. You’re going to have to give up some runs to train the dog or you’ll never have a good working, or running, relationship. For one thing, make sure he understands this isn’t stop and sniff time. Dog has to go to the bathroom, so those are necessary stops; but Otis would stop every single minute if I gave him a chance. I often have to run him in the middle of the road now to stop him from doing this. He’ll learn, and he’s getting better, but it’s a process.

Set the Pace

Just like teaching Fido not to pee on your floor, you have to be the leader in the run. Don’t let him get so far ahead he’s dragging you (and if you find you are dragging him, reconsider running – maybe it’s too taxing on his legs and feet and body). You need to make sure Fido is running beside you, not ahead. This goes back to practicing with your dog. It takes time, but if you keep the leash tight against your hand so he can’t stray far ahead he’ll get the concept and begin running with, and not ahead, of you.

Heed the Heat

Up until last week I’d stopped running as far with my buddy, opting for one and a half miles or two miles instead. Summer heat is brutal on humans and can really hurt an animal covered in fur. Make sure your dog has plenty of water. Don’t make him run on hot pavement, which can burn the pads of his paws. Opt for grassy trails if you aren’t running in the cooler hours of the day. Test the pavement with your hand first. Watch for signs of overheating, such as stopping and laying in the grass. I’ve read if the temperature goes above 85, particularly in humid places, Fido should sit the run out.

Do you run with your dog? If so, please share tips and stories! And if you send in a picture of you and your faithful doggy companion I’ll be sure to post on the site!

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