Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sporty Sunday: Running With Your Dog - Why?

Every morning, before work, I take Jasper for a four-mile run. This may be the best, and most successful, habit I’ve ever undertaken. If you’re thinking about running with your dog, here are a few reasons why I think it is so great:

Motivation. On dark, cold mornings, I’d rather drink coffee and blog, but Jasper is pawing at the front door, ready for our run. Left to my own devices, I might rationalize skipping the run with plans of eating nothing but salad all day (to offset those calories not burned) or an evening Zumba class (that, to be honest, I’ll skip in favor of a few glasses of wine). But there’s no way to convince myself that Jasper doesn’t need his morning exercise. I run for him, if not for myself.

Accountability. I’ve tried many methods of accountability (workout logs, buddies, teams, pre-paid classes), but no one calls my bullshit like a dog. Who hasn’t been secretly glad when their human workout partner cancels on them? “Ah, the pressure is off. Time to sleep in and eat pancakes.” Jasper, on the other hand, never cancels. (But he isn’t averse to pancakes and a nap afterwards.)

Good Behavior. Nearly every dog trainer’s response to behavioral issues is, “What kind of exercise is Fido getting?” Young and/or active dogs need at least an hour of aerobic exercise a day. If they don’t get an hour of heart-pounding, tongue-panting, tail-thumping activity, they’ll find other ways to spend that energy. Cue tales of dogs eating through drywall, digging craters in the backyard, or strewing trash through the house. As soon as Jasper was cleared to run, all behavioral problems ceased. (My behavior is better after exercise, too.)

Connection. Running with Jasper strengthens my bond with him and makes me more aware of my surroundings. This exhilarating activity is something he only does with me, making me person number one in his book. I’m giving him all of my attention and, consequently, noticing what interests him. Without Jasper’s sudden stops, I may never have noticed that dead squirrel in the gutter or the creepy guy digging through the neighbor’s recycling. He’s been my introduction to neighbors I may never have spoken to and experiences I would have run right past. It’s impossible to zone out when running with a dog and I’m glad he’s forced me to stop and “smell the dog poop.”

Performance. I run better and run faster with a dog. Instead of plodding along with my weight on my heels and my eyes on the ground, I’m focused and alert. My weight is forward, ready to change directions or stop on a dime. My eyes are constantly scanning for distractions and dangers. My speed has gradually increased as I attempt to keep up with a dog who can easily outdistance me. (I’m running. Jasper is trotting. I could never keep up with his gallop.)

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share my tips and recommendations for getting started with the best running buddy ever: your dog.


Ericka Haas said...

Now if only my dog thought mornings were as ripe for exercise as I do! I'm fairly certain he's faking sleep when I get up at 5 am.

Unknown said...

My dog trainer is shocked at how few of her clients exercise their dogs more than a couple times a week. My two can be crazy even after a seven mile run - I can't imagine what they'd be like with no exercise!