By Guest Blogger Britany Ochalek
While the first day of spring is not technically until March 20th for many of us the weather has already warmed, the sun is hanging in there a little longer and the time to dust off our running shoes has come. Spring has the perfect outdoor weather. It is cool enough yet that the worries of overheating are not quite there and the sun’s rays aren’t relentless in the afternoons and late evenings.
But as we prepare ourselves for running, hiking, long walks and extended park visits, we must also prepare our pups too. I recently started running with my dog, Archer a husky mix, and he could not be happier, but it took me a while to work my way up to running. Running has always been a solitary activity- just me, my music and the pavement ahead. My pace, my direction, no interruptions. My biggest concern was how to keep running in my control. I was afraid Archer would try to stop and sniff or chase a squirrel in the other direction. Would he understand pace? Would he take off sprinting, dragging me behind or pulling my arm out of my socket because he thinks it’s time to play “crazy dog?”
I have never had any doubts that he could run a decent distance, he is part husky after all- it’s in his blood. But just like a human, I knew he would need a slow transition into running, an activity that is normally only acceptable at the dog park. So, we started exploring all the local walking trails throughout the city. I had two goals during our long walks: get him used to the idea that these walks were all business, we were not to dilly-dally around with sniffing and peeing on every tree trunk and get him used to prolonged, fast paced walking.
For the last several weeks the two of us spent our early weekend mornings walking, our last walk clocked in just under two hours. We were whipping our lazy winter butts into shape! I knew that our time had come, however, to attempt a run.
I picked an obscurely slow time in terms of traffic, both car and pedestrian, to limit distractions. I rigged up Archer’s leash into a makeshift runner’s belt making me hands free. This also allowed my entire body force behind Archer so, if by chance he took off sprinting, I would be able to use my body weight, not just the end of my arm, to slow him. I choose to run him in the same neighborhood loop we frequently walk so most of the smells would be familiar in hopes this would reduce his stopping.
With these precautions, I was ready to head out. I let him pee before we got started (he had already done his other business a little earlier so I knew that would not be an issue) and we started our one mile run.
At first he was beyond excited we were running and was trying to gallop around in circles at the end of the leash. This amplified when we turned out of my apartment complex. But after a stern “nicely” and a “let’s go” he stopped and kept a nice trotting pace next to me.
I was proud of my boy for running so well! I truly expected a worst case scenario but I should have given Archer a bit more credit. He only strayed a few times to sniff but I told him “let’s go” and never stopped, he caught on and was a perfect running mate.
We have since worked our way up to three miles. I still run him early in the morning before traffic and before people. I will eventually feel comfortable running him on the walking trails and at other times of the day, but we still need a little more practice.
I want to attribute most of my running success on the proper preparation. Just as I would not start running three miles out of nowhere, I knew Archer shouldn’t either. Especially for dogs not used to running or performing a lot of sustained activity, allow your dog to make the transition with you, from walking to running, from one mile to two, eventually even four or five. My long walks also helped Archer recognize the times when walking was not about sniffing and meandering, which really assisted his transition into running and understanding why we were not stopping to sniff and pee.
Guest Blogger: Britany Ochalek has been working for Nana’s Pet Sitting and Nana’s Pet First Aid & CPR for over two years. Through Nana’s she met Archer, at the time a two year old husky mix, and adopted him in April 2015.