Picture it. You’re getting fit, exploring the great outdoors, armed with an awesome excuse to shop for new gear, and if you’re really lucky, you’ll find someone who enjoys running with you. A running partner is really special sort of friend - they let you mooch off their water bottle, don’t judge how red or sweaty you get, know the right level of encouragement and quiet, won’t get mad when your snot rocket lands on them, they stand guard if you need to pee in the woods, they listen to bitches and brags about your work, love, boss or spouse. You develop a special language, riddled with inside jokes that are so not funny to anyone else. Dogs. Are. The. Best. (Also, the handfuls of humans who tolerate this behavior from me and keep coming back for more. Mad, crazy and forever love.)
And, Here Come the Excuses
But, I’m no good at running. But, my dog is too fat, old, young, naughty, big, small, barky. But, I don’t have time. I don’t have a dog. Throw your excuse at me, I toss back a solution (you can get better at anything you put effort to, start easy, go slow, replace “run” with “any kind of movement,” dog stroller, hire a coach/trainer, actually try, how you spend your time is a choice/everyone has time, bajillion shelter dogs could use exercise). What else you got?
Here’s the thing. I’ve been coaching novice running for the majority of my adult life. In the last 9 years managing the fitness department for Madison School & Community Recreation, I’ve coached upwards of 400 runners, from 5k’ers to marathoners, kiddos to 87 year olds. If I had to make a list of my top 5 skills, coaching new, apprehensive, sometimes (very) crabby adult runners probably takes the top spot. I am confident I can help you like(ish) it, if not love it. And, I’m really sure, dear dog person, you’re gonna have fun with your creature and in return, your dog is going to love you something extra if you make fitness a priority.
The good news is that if your feelings on running spur from the memory of some torturous 1 mile effort in PE class, repeated attempts at the ‘Couch - 5k’, regrettable minutes on the gym treadmill watching crap tv, I’ve got something better for you. Plus, your dog gets to come along.
*Evilly taps fingertips to one another* I can make running your gateway drug to inspire you to move more AND take your relationship with your pup to the next level.
The Real Deal
Just like dog training, fitness doesn’t come in any magic form. There’s no quick fix pill; you can’t lay down cash and get instant results. This involves that dirty ‘w’ word. WORK. WERK, if you’re nasty. But follow me down this path for just a sec: work, with a dusting of fun, is actually just a game. Who doesn’t like to have fun and play games? Literally, no one.
At this point, I’m gonna give you skeptical Sallys and Steves an out. There are cute dog pics below, but we’re leaping, both feet/all paws in, to the “hows” of running with your dog. To proceed with this blog, you should have an eyebrow raised with a “this might be for me” attitude.
First Things First
Like any physical activity, you and your pooch need to be healthy and cleared by your doc and vet, respectively. Seriously.
At minimum, you’ll want a dog with decent leash-walking skills. If you presently have a wild Marlin on the end of your leash, hop in a dog training class or hire a trainer to work on walking politely on lead.
Time to Shop! For the human, you need running shoes. Not lawn mowing shoes. Not basketball shoes. Running shoes. Go get some good shoes so your body holds up (because you’re about to have so much fun that you’ll want to do this for all eternity). An interval timer is also great. You can use a watch or specific interval time like Gym Boss - it’s a phone app too, if you prefer to use that.
For the Dog
Investment Estimate: $200+/- to outfit you and your dog
Now that you’ve stimulated the economy, let’s talk about what you’re going to do with all this new shit in your closet.
I use run/walk intervals to teach all newbie, crabby, injured, returning and basically all runners. Some hang onto these intervals for all eternity (I do). Others have a hang up about running nonstop and venture in continuous running direction. Cool either way. Do you.
Here’s the madness behind this method. Firstly, intervals are just effective. Mix periods of “go” with periods of “stop or easy” and repeat. It’s used is all realms of fitness and sport training. After 10 years of competitive running and racing triathlon, unaddressed injuries caught up with me in a wicked and debilitating way. Surgery after surgery changed my entire way of life, but running is such a passion to me that I was willing to, literally, do anything - even *gulp* walk.
What a fool I was! Now, after using intervals for the past 10 years, I have put out faster times, I am never sore after a run, and my head doesn’t play tricks on me like (eh, 2 miles is good enough...when I planned for 4). Most importantly, I can run more consistently. I can’t imagine running any other way now.
Then, I started running with my dogs and found that intervals were incredibly useful for teaching my dogs to run well. Clearly, our dogs know how to run - but without training, it’s a free-for-all of spastic starts and stops, pee breaks without warning, hard pulls to sniff and crisscrosses until we’re all tangled up and I can speak only cuss words.
Goal Setting & Journey Enjoying
Go big. Go small. Stay where it’s comfortable. The choice is yours. But as you dive into your running journey with your pup, always remember, this run isn’t about you - you and your dog are a team. Your success is built together, so current runners need to be conscientious to not push it too hard - if running is new to the pooch, having a dog who is annihilated post workout is totally inappropriate for your animal in a mind, body and spirit way. For the newbs, just enjoy without pressure or expectations. Breath the air; Love the slobber.
Wanna Get Racey? There is this beautiful sport of canicross that involves you and your dog running trails. We, in Wisconsin, are pretty lucky as we have a rather active canicross calendary. Check out Kenosha Running Company’s Canicross Site - they offer seasonal (fall - spring) canicross races. From experience, they are low-key, friendly and awesome for all levels - walk, run fast or slow.
Interested in learning more? Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m currently offering individual or small group private coaching for canicross training and working on a mini-sesh workshop this spring.
Local Dog Adventure Blog
Join me and my 3-dog crew as we share our stories of training and adventure. Whether you're a newly leashed dog guardian, veteran handler, weekend warrior, cuddle on the couch sort, got yourself a fancy AF purebred or filthy, little mudblood, all are welcome in the Local Dog Tribe. If you want your pooch to think you're the coolest thing since sliced hot dogs, read on!