Friday, January 4, 2013

Running With the Big (and Little) Dogs

My facebook friends will tell you that I post a lot of this sort of picture.
I often comment that this guy naps on people like it's his job.

So, would it surprise you to know that I have increased my activity level 
since he came to live with us?

And I don't just mean all the trips in & out the back door.
(although, those totally count)

Each & every day I clip Ruger's red leash on him and we make our way around the block.  The first trips were iffy... Ruger wasn't convinced that we should leave the garage and I used quite a few treats to convince him otherwise.

Then he'd get tired & drop down for a nap before we made it back home.

(Actually, I understand that feeling.  It's what I want to do on most 10-mile runs.  
Unfortunately for me, I still worry that the neighbors might think I've been drinking 
if I drop down for a nap in the street. 
 Ruger has no such worries.)

When he got tired I'd scoop him up & carry him home.  
There's nothing like carrying 10 lbs of beagle uphill to get your heart rate up.

These days he can make it around the blog twice (1 mile total) so that's what we do.

Since I'm still doing my own workouts, this means that I have added at least a mile a day to my activity.  Occasionally, we go for an additional evening walk if I think the puppy has some energy that needs burned.

I am not alone in my love for canine companionship out on the road.

My friend, Heather was a committed cat person.  I recall reading many posts on her running blog where she flipped out complained about unruly dogs on her running route.

But when her husband and kids ganged up on her begged her, she begrudgingly agreed to add a dog to her family.  I don't believe she promised to like it.

Who knew she would be helpless against this face.

Heather will tell you that she is in love with Sam because he does not do the things that she finds annoying in other dogs.  He's not a drooler, he doesn't shed much or jump on people or bark excessively.

Personally, I think Sam is brilliant.  
I think he reeled Heather in by doing the one thing with her that her cats will never be able to do.  
He is her running partner.
I asked Heather a few questions about Sam & running with him.  Here's what she had to say.

1. What kind of dog is Sam?  How old is he?
He'll be a year next week!  Well, we don't really know when his birthday is, we just made one up because we got him from the ANNA Shelter. A person had come in to turn in an older dog and mentioned he had a bunch of puppies he was trying to sell...the ANNA Shelter talked him into surrendering the puppies, too. (Lucky us!).

We were told he was a Golden Retriever/Newfoundland mix (that's what the guy told the ANNA Shelter), so we named him Samson (Sam for short), expecting him to grow enormous. To my delight, he stayed fairly small (a Newfie wouldn't have been a good dog to run with -- too large). We were so curious about what he was that we did a doggie DNA Test and the results said his parents were a Golden Retriever/Rottweiler mix and a Golden Retriever/Brittany mix.  

He has the most characteristics of a Brittany  --  shape & size, hair, and stamina. He has the temperament of a Golden and a Brittany -- very sweet and loveable; easily upset/ashamed by any kind of scolding. 

2. How old was he when he became your running partner? 

He was probably 8 to 9 months old by the time we actually started running -- just a mile or two, jogging slow. Before that we mostly walked. Only in the last couple months have we started actually running together. 

3. How far do you generally run with him?

We don't usually go more than 3 miles right now. 
He's done a little longer mileage, but I try not to take him too far. They actually say you shouldn't run with them at all until they are a year old, but that was for very large dogs, I think.   If he had his way, he'd probably do 20 -- and then still drive me nuts at night. ;-) 

We probably run together 3 times a week now. 
Sometimes Dan (Heather's husband- also a runner) will take him one night, too...
depends on how busy we've been that week (how cooped up the doggie has been!).
Heather & Dan took Sam along on their annual Christmas morning run this year.
4. What makes him a good running partner?

He's got a runners body -- medium-size stature with a lean build, like a husky. He's also non-aggressive (I had a lab that would fight with every dog who ran out at us), he's got a ton of energy, and he picked up on the leash thing very quick (he's obedient). That said, he's usually at the end of his leash, slightly in front of me, but I won't allow him to pull. I do use a choke collar when we run.  

5. Any tips for people who are just starting to run 
with a 4-legged partner?

* From day one, make the dog always stay on your left. Every time you walk, run, go anywhere, he should be on your left side and he should stay there. If he's crossing or weaving into your path, correct it immediately because if he does that when you're running, you're both going to get hurt. If the kids walk the dog, be sure they know he has to stay on the left. 

* From day one, teach him "leave it." Don't let him sniff things, stray into the ditch, or cross your path to bark at a dog across the street. A firm "leave it!" and a snap on the choke, teaches them right away that when you're running, you're running -- you'll tolerate no messing around, chasing birds, or stopping to smell the roses -- unless you say so, of course.  

* If you run in the dark, invest in a light-up collar and leash. This was important for me because Sammy is black. I paid big money for a light-up collar online, but now they sell them at Walmart. 

* Dogs will run much longer than they should, so don't take your cue from the dog. He'd run for hours if I let him, but I know it's not good for him to go more than a few miles now. 

*  I would caution that it's not easy...and it will take time to get a dog who knows what he's supposed to do (never cross in front of you, stay on the left, leave a little slack in the leash). It's actually pretty exhausting to run with Sam because I get an upper body workout just keeping him in line. There are days I really just want to go run on my own, but...he sees me in running clothes & gives me those puppy dog eyes that I cannot resist. 

* Use the collar that works for you/your dog. I use a choke when we run because he is virtually unmanageable without it. A running friend just told me that she uses a harness on her dog and puts it on backwards (with the buckle on the belly, so if the dog goes ahead, he's pulled right into her side. I haven't tried that yet.  Some say choke collars are "cruel" and I should use a  "gentle lead" (goes on their nose), but every dog trainer out there scoffs at gentle leads & says they provide zero control over a larger dog. 

* As for leash length, I have a shorter leash (4 foot) and a longer one (6 foot), I prefer the longer one when we run alone on our country roads (not much traffic, etc.), but I used the shorter one when we go to the peninsula or another place where I need him to stay closer to me. 

* Don't forget your doggie bag. Stinks (literally) to have to carry a bag of poop with you on your run, but it's rude to leave it behind ...and Sammy almost always has to poop after the first 1/4 or 1/2 mile. I've started running in one direction for a 1/4 or 1/2 mile, then we circle back and I drop the "package" off at my house as we continue on in the other direction. 

Exercising with a dog isn't for everyone, but if you are a dog person like me (or a former cat person like Heather) they can really be great partners.  They're never too tired or too busy to head outside.  You can chat about whatever you like and they'll never disagree with you. 

As I write this, Ruger is (once again) napping on me.  But I'm certain that he'll wake up with loads of energy and flip out when he sees me putting my coat on. 

So tell me, do you have a canine running partner?

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