Guest Post · running

Part Two: Running With Dogs and Succeeding (Guest Post)

Paloma wears a jacket when the weather's cool
Paloma wears a jacket when the weather’s cool

 

“She looks like a rat. Or a gremlin. A gremlin rat dog.” My husband had just met Paloma, a Chihuahua that had happened to come to live with us after a series of unfortunate and unbelievable events. I never would’ve chosen a Chihuahua. I was an athletic person. What could you do with a Chihuahua? “Maybe she can hike with us, if I get a backpack to put her in,” I said, as cheerfully as I could muster. I searched the Interweb. “Look, here’s one that’s not pink!”

We soon learned that most of our assumptions about having a small dog were wrong. To my delight, Paloma loved running. A tiny gremlin dog who weighs just 7 lbs. (3kg) became my running partner.

In my previous post, I talked about how running with your dog can go wrong. Here, I’m going to talk about how to get it right.

Walk Before You Run

Before you run with your dog, your dog should understand how to walk next to you on a loose leash. The basic principle of loose-leash walking is this: Your dog should learn that walking next to you is more awesome than forging ahead or lagging behind. Reward your dog for getting it right! Your dog will associate good things happening to him when he walks next to you and repeat that behavior.

Though she was three years old when she came to live with us, Paloma didn’t know how to walk on a leash. She caught on to loose-leash walking quickly, as she learned that walking next to me meant that yummy cheese would jump out of my pocket and into her mouth. You can learn more about loose-leash walking/running here.

Use the Right Equipment

Never run (or walk) with your dog on a choke or prong collar. These devices stop the unwanted behavior of the dog pulling on the leash by causing pain to your dog’s neck. These aversive devices have also been associated with behavioral problems such as fearfulness and aggression. You wouldn’t want to be choked or pinched for running too fast or too slow, would you?

Suzette Nicolini (CPDT-KA)* walked her Mastiffs, dogs that can grow to be 200lbs (90kg), on a flat buckle collar. She emphasizes the importance of teaching loose-leash walking, “The size and power of a dog shouldn’t be a factor in choosing a collar—the collar is just a tool for leash attachment.  Pulling is a training issue.  So, we should learn how to teach our dogs to want to walk with us.”

Avoid retractable leashes. The risk for injury, to both humans and dogs, is high and they make it more difficult to control your dog and keep her safe.

Paloma runs on a flat buckle collar. If we are running on hilly trails, she wears a harness where the leash attaches at the back, right over her shoulder blades. Front-attaching harnesses should not be used for running, as the straps can compress the shoulders in a way that can cause tendonitis. Head collars should be used with caution, as stopping suddenly can wrench a dog’s neck and cause injury.

During Your Run

Pay attention to the weather and terrain. Your dog will overheat before you will, and your dog’s paws are sensitive to hot sidewalks, snow, ice, and salt. Plan water stops if it’s warm.

Remember to ask these two questions:

  • Is my dog feeling safe?
  • Is my dog having fun?

Cindy Rich (KPA-CTP)**, an expert in training small dogs, also offers this advice, “Be aware of what the world looks like from your dog’s point of view. Know what may startle your dog.” This is especially important if you’re running with a small dog.  Your feet may look like an AT-AT Walker to a small dog.

Reinforce your dog’s good behavior and reward your dog for getting it right. These days, I run with a treat bag that holds a small bag of cut-up cheese and poop bags. If you want to skip the treat bag, cheese sticks tuck nicely in the waistband of running shorts or under a sports bra strap. Though it’s a mild inconvenience, it’s worth it to continue to make running fun for my dog.

After Your Run

Dogs are prone to the same kinds of ailments as human athletes: muscle soreness, fatigue, and dehydration. Check paws for sores or foreign objects.

You may have heard this adage in some form, “A tired dog is a well-behaved dog.” While it is true that dogs need exercise, an over-tired dog is likely to be cranky and have less tolerance for life’s little frustrations. Be careful not to over-exercise your dog.

Paloma the Un-Princess

Paloma loves running so much that once we start, she doesn’t want to stop. At crosswalks, she obnoxiously barks her head off. “LET’S GOOO! Stopping is BORING and TERRIBLE!” She loves to move and be outdoors. She’s hiked through the Gila National Forest. She’s run the rocky beaches in Oregon and the streets of Los Angeles. She’s hiked some short trails at The Grand Canyon. I never did buy that doggie backpack to carry her around. She’s not the dog I expected her to be. She’s so much more.

*CPDT-KA: Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed.

**KPA CTP: Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner.

Both of these designations are conferred by organizations that promote humane, ethical, science-based training.

Paloma at the Grand Canyon
Paloma at the Grand Canyon

 

Joan Forry earned her Ph.D. in Philosophy from Temple University in 2008. She is an independent applied ethicist who writes about feminism, sports ethics, and animal ethics. Her current work in animal ethics is concerned with how humans develop meaningful and mindful relationships with dogs. She is an amateur dog trainer who aspires to go pro someday. She documents the travels of her dog, Miles, at www.facebook.com/milesonhydrants.

Guest Post · running

Part One: Running with Dogs and Failing (Guest Post)

Mulligan, happy and covered with duckweed after hunting for frogs, an activity he prefers to running.
Mulligan, happy and covered with duckweed after hunting for frogs, an activity he prefers to running.

I have been a runner for sixteen years. When I adopted my first puppy from the humane association, I had grand, romantic visions of running side-by-side with my new best friend, a big wonderful dog. I mostly had visions of people leaving us alone to run in peace. In every place I’ve lived, I’ve been harassed while running. I’ve been cat-called, mocked, propositioned for sex, chased, groped, and had bottles thrown at me. Surely a big wonderful dog would be a buffer against such horrid behavior. I was sure the Pointer/Labrador Retriever mix I’d brought home would be that big wonderful dog and we’d run many miles in peaceful bliss. I named him Mulligan.

When he was old enough, we tried running. I naively thought that running would be easy. Dogs love to run, right? I was wrong. He’d run with me for fifty meters or so and then try to play tug with his leash or stop to sniff. Once, we made it almost a full three minutes of continuous running when Mulligan leapt in front of me to sniff something. I accidentally kneed him in the ribs as I toppled over him, skinning my hands, arms, and legs on the sidewalk. Mulligan was confused, scared, and bruised. I had gravel stuck in my palms for a week.

I’ve learned a lot since then. And, we added two more dogs to our active household. Sharing athletic endeavors with a dog can be wonderfully rewarding. But, they should be undertaken with care. Running successfully with a dog is a learned skill, for both you and your dog. I’ve witnessed people getting it wrong, sometimes even endangering themselves, their dogs, and others in the process. I’ve even been guilty of getting it wrong myself.

Is Running a Good Fit for You and Your Dog?

Make sure your dog is old enough and fit enough for rigorous physical activity. Your veterinarian can give your dog an orthopedic exam to identify any physical problems.

Know your dog’s activity preferences. Just as one form of exercise might suit you, but not your friend, one activity might suit one dog, but not another. Your dog’s preferences depend upon breed and physical characteristics, prior experiences, and your ability to manage their present experiences.

It turned out that Mulligan, a blend of two hunting breeds, much preferred scenting around the neighborhood, nose to the ground, with the occasional sprint or game of tug, than running at a steady pace. He found running to be boring. He missed out on all the things he was galloping past: the smells, the sights, and the textures.

But, it was more than that he was bored. He was also worried.

This is where I most profoundly failed my dog, Mulligan. In any activity you undertake with your dog, you must pay attention to your dog’s well-being by regularly asking these two questions:

  • Is my dog feeling safe?
  • Is my dog having fun?

Your dog may be technically safe in a situation, but what’s more important is whether your dog FEELS safe.

Mulligan was worried about all kinds of things in the environments where we ran: the trashcans that magically appeared on the curbs on Thursdays, loud traffic, parking meters, flags, and awnings. Awnings loomed over Mulligan, their fringes gently waving without reason. Once, he bolted into traffic to escape an awning, dragging me fifteen feet on the asphalt and dislocating my shoulder. Thankfully, he was not hurt.

Mulligan did not feel safe, and he certainly was NOT having fun. Here was a dog who paid meticulous attention to his environment. Everything in his world has to be methodically considered and assessed. Instead of supporting him, I’d rushed him, forcing him to go where I wanted to go, at the speed I dictated. He trusted me to keep him safe from all the bad things and I’d failed him.

Mulligan and I don’t run anymore. But our relationship has healed. We embraced a science-based, force-free training program that incorporated desensitization and counter-conditioning to help him be less worried. You can learn more about this kind of training at fearfuldogs.com. We hike, we walk, we play games, and we explore. Though we might sprint out of sheer joy every now and then, we don’t really run.

I finally found my canine running companion in the most unlikely dog: a rescued Chihuahua name Paloma. Seriously, a Chihuahua. More on that adventure in my next post.

Joan G. Forry earned her Ph.D. in Philosophy from Temple University in 2008. She is an independent applied ethicist who writes about feminism, sports ethics, and animal ethics. Her current work in animal ethics is concerned with how humans develop meaningful and mindful relationships with dogs. She is an amateur dog trainer who aspires to go pro someday. She documents the travels of her dog, Miles, at www.facebook.com/milesonhydrants.