I love running with Charlie! However, it was not always fun and easy. Getting Charlie to the point where he could run 5 miles with me and not get tired, distracted, or simply be annoying took time.
I took Charlie to obedience classes as soon as I could. Obedience class taught me how to simply walk Charlie on a leash without him pulling (this took FOREVER!) I do not like shock collars (I know that is a touchy subject so I will not elaborate on that) so I had to be patient and use positive rewards to get him to walk with me. The moment he started to pull on the leash I would give it a quick yank and he would re-focus.
This is the day I brought Charlie home. OMG he was the cutest puppy I have ever seen. I would carry him around the house like a baby for as long as I could. Sadly it did not last long because he grew quick, and now weighs too much!
So what happens when he sees another dog? This too took time (and is actually still a work in progress). Charlie LOVES the dog park and playing with other dogs, but when he is running/walking with me he becomes very territorial. As soon as I see another dog nearby I start to tell Charlie “no” before he spots the dog. For some reason, this keeps Charlie calm and we can continue our walk/run.
Here are some helpful and important tips if you want to run with your dog:
- Make sure your dog is leash trained. By this I mean make sure you can go for a walk with your dog without them pulling, getting easily distracted, or trying to lunge after other animals. This is very important because when you are running you do not have as good as a stance on the ground, and can easily get pulled down or knocked over if your dog decides to pull or lunge at another dog.
- Have your dog stay on one side of you the whole time. I run/walk with Charlie on the left side of me. If you change up sides it can confuse your dog, and they may decide to switch sides mid-run, therefore tripping you and causing an embarrassing, and possibly harmful fall.
- Think about the weather. I am very conscious of the heat/cold when I take Charlie running. I did not take him running much this winter because of his feet. Even though he has a lot of thick fur coating his body, the pads on the bottom of his paws are not protected. The same for extreme heat- hot cement can cause a lot of pain and damage to your dog’s paws. During the summer I run early in the morning to avoid the heat for myself, and for Charlie. Dogs cannot tell us when they are thirsty so it is up to us to keep them hydrated.
- What type of breed do you have? Not all dogs are suitable for running. Small “toy” dogs are typically not the best for running due to their short legs. They would have to work extra hard to keep up with a runner, and that can have negative effects on their heart. The same for large dogs such as Great Danes. While their hearts may be able to keep up, their large skeletal frame may be compromised. In those cases it may be better to take your dogs for walks instead of runs. Charlie (German shepherd) is a great candidate for running, as are many other dogs. You should consult with your vet before running with your dog.
- Do not run too far with your dog. This is very important to remember because dogs will continue to run as long as their owner is running, regardless of how they feel. I allow Charlie to run no more than 5 miles with me. I have talked with my vet, and that is a distance that we feel comfortable with. He is prone to hip dysplasia, so a further distance could have a negative effect on him later in life. However, if I took him for a 10 mile run he would attempt to run the whole thing (dogs just want to please their owners) so you must be very aware of your distance and your dog.
- Start slow! When you take your dog for a run please start with a slow pace, and a short distance. Just like us, dogs need to build their endurance and speed. When I started running with Charlie we began by going out for an easy 1 mile jog. This allowed him to get use to the feel of running versus walking, and to allow him to build his endurance. We gradually increased his mileage, and now run 5 miles together. Also, do not expect your dog to be able to run as fast as you. Charlie is a terrible pacer and starts out fast, and by mile 2 he is tired! With that being said, I use a retractable leash so he can job several feet behind me and keep his own comfortable pace. If you use a retractable leash you must be extra aware of your surroundings because your dog might not always be at your side.
- Praise your dog throughout the run. I am constantly talking to Charlie while I run (I’m sure people think I’m weird.) I make sure to tell him “good boy” and positive things like that. Dogs need to be rewarded for good behavior in order for them to keep performing the good behavior.
- Stop and give your dog breaks! When I run 5 miles with Charlie we often stop for a break. If I notice he is getting tired I stop and let him catch his breath (he usually wants to get right back to running) and take a breather. Like I said earlier, he would probably run forever if I let him. However, since he can’t express verbally that he is tired I am extra cautious and make him take breaks. Also make sure to have plenty of fresh, cool water for your dog when you return home.
(This is Charlie on a break during one of our 5 mile runs. He seriously loves running with me!)
With all that being said, running with your dog can be very rewarding for you and your dog. I often run early in the morning when it is dark, and Charlie gives me a sense of safety. I feel safe when I am running with him because he is naturally a guard dog, but also knowing that he is getting outside and getting his exercise makes me happy. I’m already obsessed with my dog, but running with him makes me appreciate and love him even more!
However, I do not always run with him. If I want to go out for a fast run (meaning sub 8 minute miles) I will not take Charlie because I know that he can’t handle it. If I am running 6-8 miles I won’t take him either. However, when I get into longer runs for marathon training I often run loops (meaning I will run a 5 mile route 2-4 times) therefore I can take Charlie for one of those loops. The days that he does not get to run with me I make sure to take him for a walk though. Dogs (especially large breeds) NEED their exercise!
After running, Charlie will lounge all day…