A runner’s best friend

  • This was printed in July of 2014 in The Madera Tribune, a newspaper in Madera, California. This was the 61st installment of my weekly column, Mind Over Miles.

On “Easy Peasy Fido Friday” with my running group, we run at a leisurely pace for an

hour — 30 minutes up the Eaton Trail at Woodward Park and 30 minutes back — and

whoever has a ‘running dog’ brings him or her.

In my opinion, all dogs are running dogs. But like humans, some are slower, some are

faster, some enjoy running and some don’t.

My dog, a 6-year-old, 33-pound black Labrador/dachshund mix (I think the weenie dog

snuck up on the momma Lab while she was sleeping?) is just like me — he loves

running, and he loves running fast.

Bringing Buster along for a run is the best thing I do for him. I know it’s good for him,

physically and mentally, just as it is for me.

But for research purposes I Google “Is running good for your dog?” I quickly realize this

wasn’t a good idea — the internet knows nothing about MY dog.

First I click on an article called “How many miles can you run with your dog?” The

writer, a veterinarian, is obviously not a runner. I figure that out in the first paragraph

when she explains that she watched a marathon and realized she never wanted to run one.

She was turned off by people crossing the finish line “limping, hobbling and sobbing.”

Her non-runnership is confirmed when she remarks, “…take it very, very slow when

acclimating your dog to your torturous hobbies.” Torturous? Seriously, lady?

The writer explains that, unlike humans, not all dogs were bred to run. Muscle-y breeds

like pit bulls and Boxers prefer to sprint, and smooshed-faced dogs should only jog short

distances. “If your dog’s legs are shorter than his body height, he’s probably not a great

runner,” she wrote.

Ha! I think of my short mutt (I call him my midget lab) jogging, running and sprinting

about 20 miles a week and it makes me want to call up the writer and say, “Your

argument is invalid.”

I move on in search of another article, preferably one written by a runner.

Ah, Cesar Milan! I remember reading a Runner’s World article on the famed dog trainer

who runs for hours with as many as 50 dogs at a time.

I’m kind of disappointed that the article on Milan’s website, entitled “Safety Tips for

Working Out with Your Dog,” is not written by him. Bus somehow I trust the article

more, especially when it directly contradicts the veterinarian’s piece. Pit bulls, the writer

(not Milan) says, are long-distance runners, not sprinters.

Another click on Google and I’m reading an article called “Jogging with your dog

improves overall fitness and health.” Yup, that’s what I want to read.

The author calls dogs “by far, the best running partners. They will run any distance,

anywhere at any time, and are always happy about running.”

I concur! Tell me more.

“Dogs love to run. They were born to run,” the author continues. That’s what I thought!

Go on.

“Running will help maintain your dog’s weight, improve muscle tone, maintain a strong

cardiovascular system, and build endurance…Running is also beneficial to your dog’s

mental health. Running makes dogs happy. It allows them to explore the world through

sights, sounds, and smells.”

I think of Buster darting after cottontail bunnies, leaping over shrubs, charging into lakes

and streams and sniffing every interesting thing in his path. Every time he runs with me I

hear someone remark, “He’s so happy!” or “He loves it out here!” Yup, that’s my dog.

The article (found on http://www.whole-dog-journal.com) offers information on when a dog

should start running with you, (one to 1 ½ years, after bone growth plates have closed),

and how far, how long and how often (many breeds are capable of running 25 to 35 miles

a week).

The editorial also pointed out that running with a dog is ideal in cool weather and on

shaded routes. Dogs don’t wear running shoes; their pads can burn on hot pavement.

However, the article also warns: “The shorter the dogs legs, the faster he’ll have to move

them to keep up, meaning he’s working harder than a taller dog would at the same speed.

Limit your mileage and keep your speed slower when running with small dogs.”

Yeah, tell that to Buster, who sprints to the front of the pack of 50 or more runners in our

group — and stays there. “Slow” and “limited mileage” is not part of his vocabulary.

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