Let’s face it - running with your dog can, at times, be the most rewarding experience and, at others, the most frustrating. In fact, in the course of a single run, it can be both… twice over. So why, you might ask, do we do it? For me, the simplest answer is that it makes me happy and, more importantly, it makes my dog happy. It’s hard work and requires a lot of sacrifice on behalf of the human, but I promise you it can be worth it.
My dog Maxine and I started running together nearly 4 years ago and, over the course of those years, we’ve learned a lot about each other. She has become my most trusted training partner and has helped me to progress from your casual road racer to an ultra-marathoner, transforming mundane training miles into daily adventures with my best friend.
From my experiences, I do know a thing or two about training
for big goals with your four-legged friend and can share tips on how to get
started. Give it a try! It can make those miles so much more fun.
How to Get Started:
Don’t Force It: This is probably the most important point to get into your head. Just because you love to run and you have a dog does not mean you have a guaranteed running partner. The drive to run varies greatly from breed to breed. Some breeds are built for distance, others for short, fast runs, and others still aren’t good for running at all. Do your research and know what you want and/or need before you adopt a dog. Remember, though, that every single dog is different. I run very long distances with my labradoodle, Maxine, but my sister has a labradoodle (from the same breeder) who refuses to run even a mile with her. She just sits right down and refuses to budge. She doesn’t like it, and that is her right.
Plan Ahead: Running with your dog requires some careful planning. Make sure to choose routes that have his/her best interest in mind. Try to run before the high heat of the day. Gravel or dirt is always better on paws than asphalt. If you are doing a trail run, try to incorporate lots of water crossings where your pup can take a dip to cool down. Also, make sure you scout out potential “bail outs” along the way in case either of you are having a rough day.
Fuel for Two: As runners, we spend so much time and effort thinking about our own nutrition needs on a long run, but we often forget that dogs have needs too. Maxine has accompanied me on runs of up to 18 miles, but it is my responsibility to make sure she’s fueled and having fun. Pay close attention to your dog’s behavior on the run and react accordingly. Take regular water breaks and bring along a snack to keep their energy up. There are lots of great options out there for healthy energy snacks for dogs. Find something your pup likes and stock up! There’s no excuse for letting your dog crash on a run, so don’t do it.
Gear Up: Making sure you have the right equipment to run with your dog can be the difference between a run being good or terrible. It could be as simple as finding a dog leash you like (I prefer hands-free), or you may need to invest in a running pack for you or your dog. Maxine carries her own water, bowl, and snacks on a long run (anything over 8 miles) and it helps a lot. I make sure to carry a first aid kit for us both. Everyone’s needs are different, but the right gear can be crucial. Don’t ever leave something behind that your dog might need because you don’t know how to carry it.
Be Flexible: My last tip was the hardest for me to embrace, personally. I run because I have big goals to accomplish, but Maxine runs for the pure joy of it. It can be very frustrating when she wants to take a sniff break in the middle of an interval, but I’ve learned to let that go. I also plan structured breaks into my longer runs with Maxine in mind and/or I run loops so I can drop her off if she’s struggling. Don’t worry about what your Strava data will look like, and instead work on embracing the joy of running, just like your dog. I can tell you from experience that my race results have not suffered, but my love of running has certainly been renewed. Let it all go and let your dog show you how it’s done.
Melanie White and her husband, Kevin Goldberg, are avid trail runners and outdoor enthusiasts. Recent transplants to Colorado from New York City, they can be found most weekends exploring the mountains with their faithful labradoodle, Maxine. Together, they chronicle their adventures via their Instagram account, @melvinonthemove.