So on Monday I talked about how to get started running with your dog. It may seem like a lot of work to get there, especially if you’re just starting out, but if you can put in that time, it’ll be so worth it in the long run. My husband and I used the time Sheba was a puppy and not yet ready to run to train her in the basic commands – sit, stay, no, leave it, as well as how to walk properly with a lead (here’s a guide). By the time Sheba was ready to hit the pavement, we’d already trained her on most aspects of what was needed, so all that was left was to teach her how to run. If you’re starting with an older dog, one already ready to run, then it may just be a couple training sessions to get him/her out there with you.
One of the things I mentioned on Monday was that having excellent dog supplies and gear was a great way to ensure a successful run. And I know you were probably all wondering once you got a glimpse of Sheba! “Oooo, what is she wearing?!” LOL! She’s a pretty good lookin’ runner, isn’t she? Okay, her eyes are a bit devilish in this picture, but she looks so freakin’ cute!
Now, can you run with a dog without all the bells and whistles? Absolutely! But for those interested, here’s the running gear I use and why:
My lovely little Sheba has two wonderful things going for her, which make her an excellent running partner: 1) she’s a working dog and 2) she’s high energy. She wears her dog back pack for those two exact reasons.
Sheba needs mental stimulation, so giving her a job to do helps fill that need. Her “job” is to carry the back pack. Even with absolutely nothing in it, she is working and in turn mentally stimulated. Sheba also needs a great amount of physical exercise to burn off all her energy. So by adding weight to the back pack, my 3 mile run becomes 7 miles to her (don’t quote me on that math, I just know it adds miles!). Please keep in mind though, that just like running for the first time, weight needs to be added slowly. I started off with just the back pack, then added empty water bottles, then slowly added water. You can add sand or something else, water just made sense because we have to carry it anyway.
Note: It’s recommended that your dog carry no more than 25% of their body weight in their dog pack. If your dog is new to dog packs, start with a light load and work up to a heavier load as your dog gets accustomed to wearing the pack (source).
2. slip leash
As a working dog Sheba loves to sniff. Snif, sniff, sniff, everywhere, all day long. However, when she is on a run her “job” is not only to carry the back pack, but to focus on me (her pack leader) and the job at hand, which is running.
I always let her do her business before a run, so most of the time she does not need to go to the bathroom on our run. Using the slip leash, particularly as a figure 8 leash (pictures and directions below), has helped us tremendously in keeping and maintaining her focus. The second she begins to lower her head to sniff, I give the leash a tug. With the figure 8 configuration, it pulls her whole head rather than just her neck as the original design would do (note: the original design did not work for us in trying to get her to stop sniffing). At first she sniffed all the time, now she only ever tries it maybe once during a run. This leash was also helpful in getting Sheba to walk properly next to us rather than ahead. If you have a dog that’s constantly walking ahead or sniffs the ground incessantly, I recommend trying this figure 8 leash. It was a lifesaver for us.
When she’s older though, I will use the figure 8 leash less for running (I will always use it for walking) and move on to gear #3.
I don’t find holding the leash terribly cumbersome, but I usually only take Sheba for 3-5 mile runs. For longer runs, I’d definitely recommend working up to the hands-free leash as soon as you’re ready.
As I said, Sheba is still young and still in training, but once she’s ready (perhaps in another year or so) I’ll move on to the hands-free leash. This will also be about the time that I start taking Sheba on longer runs which will make the run a bit more effortless (with regard to the leash, that is).
4. water bowl
So you’ve got the back pack and you’ve got the leash, now all you need is a water bowl. I like this one because it’s collapsable and fits easily into the back pack, but of course any one will do. Oh, you’ll probably want to bring along a couple plastic bags as well, you know, just in case!
5. very cool t-shirt
How could I forget? You’ll also want to get a really cool running t-shirt! I have this one from Gone for a Run; it’s just so fitting!
And finally, here’s a quick how-to on the figure 8 leash. Let me know if you have any questions!
- Use any rope slip dog leash.
- Place the leash around the dog’s neck.
- Giving some slack underneath her neck, twist the leash so it makes a crisscross.
- Place the leash over and above her nose.
- Adjust as needed. The crisscrossed section will rest under her mouth near her neck.
- Assuming, the dog will be on your left, you want the ring pointing toward the left and the leash coming through the ring toward you on the right.
- Make any adjustments so the ring for the leash is resting on the back of her neck.
- Pull the stopper close to her neck, but leaving about an inch of room.
- Voila, you’re done. Enjoy your run!
What gear do you and your dog(s) use?