So, I know I preach a lot about getting physical activity as a great path to emotional wellness. I also talk a lot about involving your dog in your activity regimen to add a bonus of having a better relationship with him or her. A lot of times people are hesitant to take their dogs with them on runs or walks with them because of the worry of how they will react to other people or squirrels outside. My answer to that is, you have to start somewhere right? So, below are five ways to get started with being able to successfully run with your pup, without creating extra anxiety.
Obedience training! How many of you already knew I was going to say that? I know I sometimes sound like a broken record, but obedience training is so going to help you and your pup work better together. They HAVE to know that you are the alpha, otherwise they are just going to do what they want and never listen to you. Before you know it, you can't take your dog anywhere in public because they chase people and squirrels and take you along for the ride. I promise it is worth your money and your time to properly train your dog.
Practice walking your dog first. Once you get some of that training out of the way, I'm sure the trainer will discuss loose leash walking or having your dog "heel" before you start walking. Whatever method you decide to use, you have to make sure that your dog is completely focused on you when you are out on the trails. It's okay for them to look forward a majority of the time, but they should also be looking back to check in with you every once in a while.
Get a hands free leash. This will be a life changer for you and your pup. A hands free leash is simply a belt that you secure around your waist, and the leash clips onto it. This will allow you to maintain a better center of gravity to run more efficiently, as well as keep your pup right next to you. The nice thing is that most of these leases have a bungee installed so you can reach down and make quick corrections if you need to (that one unruly squirrel chase).
Add some accessories to your leash. You don't want to get caught out on the road without a few essentials to make you and your pup more comfortable. A collapsible water bowl and waste bags are helpful incase your running partner needs to stop for a quick squat or gets a little thirsty along the way. This leash has a little pouch attached to it to store anything you may need for your run.
Start local. Don't go off to some far away trail that you know nothing about for your first run with your pup. You want to do shorter runs and close to home when starting out, until you can gauge your pup's fitness, water and potty needs, and tendencies to chase squirrels. You'll also have to figure out pacing, as your dog's height will have an influence on how slow or fast you can go. Sometimes your pace has them in this weird half-trot half-run type thing and it just freaks them out a little bit. So play around with the paces and well and find one that works for the both of you. Once you get the hang of it with shorter distances feel free to explore!
I hope that this helped you gain a little clarity into better ways to get your dog involved in physical activity. I really do believe that with a little training and patience, you can have an amazing companion that will be up for doing anything you want to do at a moment's notice, just because they love to be with you. I can't wait to hear all about everyone's adventures with their pups.
Stay safe out there, and as always, be well and wag on!