Why running with my dog is the most rewarding thing I have ever done
Updated: Oct 19, 2019
Your best running accessory is a four legged friend!
The first time my daughter and I saw Moxie we knew he was something special. Moxie was running amuck exploring while his litter mates were all nervously huddled together under the old fashioned sink in his breeders kitchen. He bravely greeted us with a big sniff. "He is the one Mommy!" My daughter declared. "He is the biggest and strongest so he is $50.00 more," the cattle farmer explained. "Seriously?" I asked myself. Sucker that I am I paid the extra money. After all it was obvious, Moxie was special!
Moxie is an amazing athlete. He is as fast as the Flash, and when he leaps into the air he almost touches the sun. He is the equivalent of a canine Albert Einstein and his beauty rivals that of Rita Hayworth. The problem with my dog is that he is kind of an asshole. He is an arrogant showboat. He doesn't think his shit smells; in fact he thinks it tastes good. He thinks every other dog in the world is beneath him, and from their highly irritated reactions to him, he must not make any "dog" bones about trying to hide it. If he was human he would wear yellow Pumas and drive a red Ferrari. Despite all of this, I love him! He is my ass, my BFF, and my furry son.
Neighbors walk by my house to be entertained by "the crazy sheltie" that spins in circles for hours.
Early on I knew I had to find a way to channel Moxie's enthusiasm for behaving badly. Obedience class was not the answer because he was a model pupil. He mastered his commands immediately. I'd say, "sit". He would quickly sit. He stayed. He shook hands, rolled over and heeled. Heeling was his super power. He had a gait like a prize Peruvian racehorse and instinctively knew how to make his hair blow in the breeze like he was on the cover of a romance novel. Watching him heel was a thing of beauty. I am pretty sure he wanted everyone to stop what they were doing and watch him as he puffed out his chest and strutted his stuff. At home he ate trash, stole our shoes, destroyed our furniture, attacked our pant legs, terrorized the neighborhood wildlife, chased cars up and down the alley and refused to sit still or cuddle. My dog was incorrigible and my house was in chaos! Finally I came to the realization that my poor dog was bored. I could fix him, he just needed a job and a purpose. What was an exhausted Mom to do? I racked my brain. Finally the solution came to me; I needed to train my pup to be my #runningbuddy
Every Sunday at noon the eerie sounds of a grieving wolf can be heard disrupting the normally peaceful borough of Camp Hill Pa.
Of course, there are no actual wolves in Camp Hill, but there is the crazy spinning #sheltie in my backyard that will just die of heartbreak if he doesn’t get out on his run immediately. I have tried to figure out how he knows that it is almost our #running time. I jokingly remind myself he is a canine Einstein. When his outdoor howling gets to be too much, I let him back into the house where he runs circles around me and barks incessantly. His barks sound oddly like the human words, "Hurry up Mom. Hurry up Mom. Hurry up!” I know it all sounds terribly annoying but his passion and excitement fill my heart with incredible joy. He is a furry little dynamo vibrating with energy. Each time we run he proudly trots out in front of me announcing to every passer by, "This is MY human and we are on an amazing adventure!" From time to time he will turn around and look at me as if to say, "Yippee! running is the best Mom!” or, “ Faster Mom! Please, cause I’m the fastest creature on the planet.” We both smile the entire run. At the end of each run I crouch down beside him to tell him what a “good boy” he is. He throws his head over my shoulder and presses up close to me to give me a hug. He has become the most amazing hugger. I kiss him and he kisses me back. The look in his eyes is pure euphoric love. For the next few hours he doesn't want to leave my side. My non-cuddling puppy has become the “World’s Greatest Cuddler”. He doesn't need human words to communicate to me how grateful he is. His body language and eyes say it all, "Thanks Mommy. I love you!"
People often ask me how I trained Moxie to be my running buddy. When Moxie was 15-months-old I called our Vet to ask her if he was a good candidate for distance running. She responded, "Absolutely! Have fun!" He was now old enough. He had giraffe-length legs. He was already in great shape. Most importantly, he met the number one criteria, he loved to #run.
We started training by reviewing our heeling lessons from obedience class. I took him for walks in the neighborhood and made sure to concentrate on the following commands, “sit, stay, heel" and "leave it.” We did this every day for about a week and then we moved our training sessions to the back yard where I added short bursts of jogging into our sessions. We circled the parameter of the yard varying our commands. I easily exchanged the word “walk” for “heel” and the command “stay” for “sit”. I used the command “OK” to begin our runs. We also use “OK” as our release word at meal time. It did not seem to confuse Mox. He knew the difference between being released to eat and being released to run. In about a week we took our “walk, stay, run” sessions into public places. Our first run interval was 7 minutes long. Our second was 10 minutes. From there we added five minutes a session and were running 3 miles in less than a month. This part of the training was a piece of cake. Our biggest struggle was that Moxie occasionally pulled on his leash, still chased squirrels, and when he felt he was being dissed, he got into fights with other dogs.
One of the best investments I made was purchasing the Hands Free Hipster Running Leash from @outwardhound The leash is securely attached to my waist and keeps Moxie from pulling. https://www.amazon.com/d/Hands-Free-Leashes/Hands-Leash-Hipster-Outward-Hound/B000UTDATE
Doggy 5ks are the cherry on top.
After training for about 6 months I decided to sign us up for a #Doggy5k Moxie seems to enjoy the extra attention and energy on race days, but they do pose their own unique challenges. Although I am a competitive person, I will not jeopardize his safety or well being for anything, not even a place ribbon. I will let other runners pass us if he needs to go to the bathroom or get a drink. Too many individuals in one space can cause Mox anxiety so we pull over and take a break if a trail becomes too congested.
We are now four years into our running partnership and Moxie has finally mellowed. When a pesky squirrel taunts him his ears and tail pop straight into the air. I proudly watch him fight his instinctual nature to ambush his tormentor. Although he mostly ignores other dogs, he still gets lippy if one invades our space, but overall his behavior has improved immensely.
Running with my little bud has obvious physical behavioral and emotional benefits for both of us. Recently Mox received an A+ physical from his Doctor, and at 52 years old, I am still dedicated to completing my weekly runs. I know that no human or beast loves me more, and the love I feel for Moxie makes every day better. I am sure he is my biggest fan, and I his. The reciprocal love and joy makes running with Mox one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.
Tips for running with your furry friend
Check with your veterinarian to see if it is Okay for your breed to run with you. It is not recommended that all breeds run with their human companion, especially those with short legs.
Your dog should be at least 1 ½ months old to begin distance running with you.
Be sure your dog has mastered heeling without pulling on the leash.
Train your dog to stay on one side of you while running by delivering treats to that side.
Beware of hot pavements, salt from snow, ice and warm humid conditions. (They make running shoes for pups)
Carry water and poop bags.
Take frequent breaks.
Clean your pup’s paws after runs.
The golden rule. Listen to your dog. He will push to please you so be aware of signs of fatigue.
Do you love running with your dog? Share your experiences and tips with me?