Hitting the trails with Fido: Spice up your next trail run with a furry training partner!

by - 10:59 PM

Quite frankly the woods and dogs go together like peanut butter and jelly!  Our four-legged pals love a good hike… even better?  Try a trail run, it’s the closest you will ever get to being in a dog’s dream!

This doodle is super energetic and athletic, he remains one of my favorites to run with...  are you looking to add to your pack?  Check out these cuties at puppyspot.com, there is some serious cuteness here!
And, I mean that.  Once you’ve run with a dog in the woods and notice their ears flying, their nose working, the fresh air, the scenery, you will know what I mean, it’s spiritual!  I've written about this untethered joy and know it myself.

By running in the woods with our furry pals we are providing a lot of what a dog naturally craves… being part of a pack, and the need and desire for roaming and exploring. Not to mention that everyone gets the exercise, it’s a win-win!

I should mention that I am not a trainer or vet, but, I do have a lot of experience with all types of four-legged friends as part of an awesome team of dog walkers as well as owning (or should I say being owned…) by a number of them.  As a runner I find trail running an enjoyable activity.  If you are game to give it a try here are a few points to consider…

The mighty Lucy!  Fastest dog I have ever hit the trails with.  She also owns a very powerful nose, be prepared to stop when running with a scent hound or control the pace when they hit an exciting scent.
  1. Start Slow - If you are an experienced runner remember that your dog may not be.  Even though they run around the back yard or at the dog park doesn’t mean they have endurance for a long trail run.  Runner’s World has a good training program for getting your dog up to speed if you need some ideas on how to start.  

    If you already run regularly with your dog and going out to the trail is new for them starting slow will help them get used to the pace and new environment.  Short distance is beneficial for this. If they are lagging behind don’t push it but keep the exercise consistent and they will soon be flying on the trail.  Some of the best words of wisdom from veterinarian Dr. Justine Lee is “If your furry friend is running behind you and not in front or at your side that’s dog speak for - ‘I don’t want to run anymore.’”
  2. Know your dog’s energy - I have run with a variety of dogs, even some that don’t “look” like runners.  Working dogs are the best runners and maybe your dog isn’t in this class.  Don’t worry, if the dog has high energy running is a perfect exercise for them.
    Some of the best trail running I've done has been with Jake & Molly!
    Despite their short legs Corgies are great runners and these two are fast!
    Fly like the wind little Corgi!
    Runner's high for the powerful Molly!
  3. Know the trail - Your comfort level with the trail is important in instilling confidence in a new dog runner.  If you want to try a new trail, going out on your own might be best before bringing Fido along.
    Don't forget to stop for the scenery... you might not have a choice!
  4. Respect the power of four legs - Those legs can go and go fast!  Most dogs can out run us.  We all know a greyhound can easily do it but on the opposite spectrum a spritely little Jack Russell Terrier has endless energy and can get up to 20 - 25 mph!  

    Once you have set out on the trail you should set a comfortable pace for you and the dog. If they get so excited that they start to run ahead immediately slow it down to a walk and restart once your buddy calms down.  A powerful dog at speed can pull you down and that could be the end of your trail running.
  5. Beware of the heat - Dogs can seriously overheat well before you are feeling it.  Choose to run in the morning or evening in the summers and bring water for both of you or run near a water source so they can cool off.  Skip it all together if it’s too hot, there’s nothing wrong with a walk on the trails!
    Choosing a trail with a water source will keep your buddy cool in warmer weather.
    Benson is an energetic runner but short snouted dogs overheat quickly, beware!
    Rolling in the grass is definitely a way to recover after a good trail run!
  6. Pay attention to trail conditions - Trail running conditions can change quickly.  What may be rough gravel one minute can turn to slippery and wet grassy terrain.  Once I was running downhill with one of my favorite buddies and the trail turned quickly to wet grass.  It was sunny out but had rained for days before.  I slid about 10 feet downhill, feet out from underneath of me after hitting the mud and grass.  I was having so much fun on that run that I neglected to stay aware of trail conditions. I ended up injured, the dog was fine.
  7. To leash or not to leash - You should know how well your dog’s recall is before hitting the trails if you choose to unleash.  However, keep in mind the excitement of running out on the trail with you might change that recall.  In most instances I run with a leash (especially if the dog isn’t mine!) but there are a few cases where running without the leash worked out fine.  In that instance the dogs knew the trail well and had amazing recall, something that took me quite a while to trust.  Choosing to run  with a leash means you don’t lose the dog and will allow you to control the pace, something to think about with an excitable dog. Of course, trail rules prevail over any decision you have about leashing!
  8. Have fun - ‘nuff said… go hit the trails!  

National Dog Day is this Saturday, August 26, do something special with your best pal that day and celebrate your four-legged friend!  Do you run with your dog?  Do you know all the ways dogs can improve our health?  Check out this cool graphic to find out… thanks Puppy Spot!

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