Training Your Best Friend to be Your Running Co-Pilot
Five and a half years ago when we got Maya, our beloved canine, my mind went wandering. I envisioned that she and I would be outside every day running side-by-side. She would be my companion, my cheerleader and when I needed it, my pick-me-up.
Then reality began to set in. On the first day with her, I soon realized that she was afraid of everything. She wouldn’t get in the car and when I finally got her home, she refused to walk up the two flights of steps to our apartment. (Let me tell you, carrying dead weight up two flights of steps is no fun).
Then she started to loosen up. I thought I had a good idea of her hang ups and I had sensed from observing her play that she had the potential to be an excellent runner. So we went out for our first run. We got out to the street and I started running. She was so excited that she took off pulling me to the point that I almost ate the pavement. As I tried to slow her down, she didn’t understand and she took my cues as me wanting to play. So she jumped at full force on top of me, knocking me off balance. As I fell to the ground, her lease released and she ran in very quick circles. I got up quickly and caught her, but I was visibly injured. With pants ripped and brush burns strategically placed around my body, I limped back to our apartment with her. I took off her lease and told Joe that this was the end of our running career together.
I hung up her lease for almost five years, but this past week something inside me said that it was worth another try. However, in not wanting to repeat past mistakes, I revised my plan. This time was going to be different. Not surprisingly, having a plan resulted in great success. We ran a little over a half a mile together in the way that I had always dreamed. We were side-by-side matching in tempo and she remained within 3 feet of me at all times. So how did I do it? Below you will find some tips that helped.
1. Exercise Before You Exercise- Counter intuitive as it may seem, if you walk your dog a bit before, they will be much more mellow when you pick up your pace.
2. Baby Steps- You couldn’t run a 5K the first time out the gate so don’t expect your dog to either. Dogs need to be slowly eased into a program. Add on a half a mile each time. If your dog is huffy and puffy, take some walk breaks.
3. Invest in a Halter or Dog Back Pack- The best behaved dogs are ones that have a purpose. If your dog feels like he/she has a job, they are less likely to rain on your running parade.
4. Praise Your Pouch- If the dog warrants praise, give it to them. Small things count. Positive rewards yield repeat behaviors.
5. Recovery- Take at least a day off in between runs so that your dog can recover. Their muscles tear and reshape just like ours. The first day I took Maya out last week, she slept the entire afternoon when we got home.
I’m so glad I gave this another shot and I’m hoping that this is the start of a long running partnership between the two of us. Until next time, happy running!!