Friday, March 9, 2018

Going to the Dogs

I love running, and thankfully so does my dog. If you follow the adventures of Marvel on Instagram (and if you don't already, why not start?), then you know that Marvel is my main training partner, and thank goodness for him. You can't possibly resist going out for a few miles when your dog is nearly peeing himself with excitement just because you're wearing running shorts. Having a dog accompany you on your daily run can be a seriously life-affirming choice.*

Before I get all rainbows and unicorns on you, I will share a caveat. If your dog hasn't been conditioned or trained properly, you may bring yourself to tears. We'll cover conditioning later, but as far as training, your dog should have some reasonable leash manners. I'm not expecting a perfect "heel", but being able to get your dog's attention and having a reliable "leave it" command will save you a lot of grief. Also, watch for your own feet. If you trip and your dog is chugging along ahead of you and not paying attention, they may literally pull you to the ground. I have the scars to prove this one.

Still interested? Awesome!

If you are serious about running with your best four-legged friend, be prepared to never be able to leave the house for a solo run ever again. Let's start with conditioning.**

Conditioning
If you're like me, you may have initially gotten into running through a couch-to-5K program. We're using the same principles for this, and basing our start off of a seriously couch-bound canine. If your dog is reasonably fit, you'll be able to skip ahead a little bit. With that said, limit your dog's intense exercise until they are about 18 months, or close to full grown (this will vary based on the adult size of your pooch), to avoid undue strain and stress on developing limbs. Each week is based on running 3 times a week. You can do more or less based on your own weekly mileage, but you should definitely start off slow. This is the pattern I followed to get Marvel up to 5K distance:

Week 1: Walk 30 minutes (I said to start slow!)
Week 2: Walk 10 minutes, run 2 minutes, walk 2 minutes (alternate x5), walk 10 minutes
Week 3: Walk 10 minutes, run 5 minutes, walk 5 minutes, run 5 minutes, walk 10 minutes
Week 4: Walk 10 minutes, run 10 minutes, walk 10 minutes
Week 5: Walk 5 minutes, run 15 minutes, walk 10 minutes
Week 6: Walk 5 minutes, run 20 minutes, walk 5 minutes

After 6 weeks, Marvel was up to the 5K distance with no problem. Now, that's the base for all of our runs. He comfortably covers up to 5 miles at a time (not bad for a 30-pound Westie/Shiba mix), and usually joins me at the start of each long run. He's not quite up to running 10+ miles in one go, and I'm not quite up to carrying him when his paws hurt too much to go on.

Gear
You really don't need anything fancy for this, but sometimes it helps to splurge on certain things. For me, it was a hands-free leash that allowed me to run without having one arm pulled on or held in a weird position. You may feel more comfortable holding a leash in your hand, but that's up to you. Experiment and find out what you like best. If you run on roads where people put down salt in the winter, you may want to invest in a pair of booties to protect your dog's sensitive paw pads from chemical burns.

Does this not look like the happiest face you've ever seen?

Do you already run with your pooches? Or are you planning on trying to share your love of running with your best friend? Let me know in the comments if you do!

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*Despite how this is worded, it really works best if the dog you run with is your own. If not, you might cause some raised eyebrows and awkward questions (some of which may include "Is that my dog?")
**I'm really not referring to grooming and shampooing, but I can't help but imagine running along with a dog with hair like Fabio

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