We crossed an exciting milestone this weekend. It was the first real run with the pupster! This may be no big deal to countless other dog owners, but for me, it opens up a bunch of new run options. Having a companion, even a furry one makes some of the isolated runs in the woods more enjoyable. And besides who does not like running with their dog?
So what did we do and how did it go? Unfortunately I didn’t have my Garmin with me so I don’t have specifics for pace or distance, but I can ballpark that we did around 3 miles at around 8 minute pace. This is by no means flying, but I wanted to let the little guy lead and see what he could do out front. He was so impressive given the conditions and the fact that he had no idea how far we were going for. Haha, imagine going as hard as you can but not knowing when it will end? Luckily I was going slower than he wanted to and held him back some. Another area that he impressed me in was the conditions. It was snowing out and there was about an inch on the roads. The pooch of course choose to run mostly in the deeper stuff on the sides, always looking for the perfect tree to write his name on.
As fun as the run was I did realize that there are a few things I need to work on with him. For starters we almost ended up in a tangled heap a few times. When his nose caught something there were a few abrupt stops. Add in snow; slippery conditions, and a modest pace and there is a recipe for disaster. Luckily the dogs owner possesses the reflexes of a cat so accidents were averted. Another thing we need to work on is left and right. With people on the sidewalk, cars, other dogs, you need to steer your pup. I believe dog sledders have basic commands to let the dog know which way to run. This will be very important for times when he may be drifting into harms way. In my head pulling the leash in the direction and saying the command seems to be easy enough it will just take repetition. The same is true for speeding up and slowing down. Because the dog does not know how far you are going, you need to set the pace. There is nothing worse than running with a dog choking himself out by trying to pull you along at double the speed. In fact I came to a complete halt a few times just to reset the pace and his focus. I am sure there will be many many more learnings in this area as time goes on.
Regarding gear, there are too many options available. Harnesses, collars, boots and more. You can outfit your dog for just about anything these days. For our first run, I kept it pretty simple. Standard dog collar with a Ruffwear bungee leash. (Running Leash) I have to say that having run with my previous dogs, or at least tried to, this was a game changer. The give and stretch from the bungee was the key difference. And although I held the leash for most of the run in the busier areas, being able to go hands free with the waist clip is tremendous. It cannot be stressed enough that a running leash is a great choice. As for the collar vs. a harness? This was a quick trial to see how he did. He is still young at seven months, and I didn’t want to over do it. I wanted it to be a lot of fun so he wants to do it more. Because I was still holding the leash up most of the time getting tanlged in his legs wasn’t really a problem. For the running we will do later on I will use one of his harnesses but we just aren’t there yet. It wouldn’t hurt to use now, but it is one more thing to put on.
Overall it was alot of fun. There is something amusing with seeing a Cocker Spaniel trotting down the road, ears flopping, nose twitching like we are hot on the scent of something. For a medium sized dog he did great on a variety of conditions, and coming down some of the bigger snowy hills, I am pretty sure I was having a hard time keeping up.
Recovery for him was pretty simple. Cool down by laying in snow in the yard, followed by a bowl of Acana dog food with some pumpkin mixed in. The rest of the afternoon was focused mainly on finding cozy spots to curl up in a dog ball. As it should be, he earned it after all.