Running Lessons NOT to Take from Our Dog

It’s obvious that both of us like to run, but did you know that another member of our family is also a big runner? Our dog, appropriately named Miles, loves getting some exercise out on the roads.

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And at the beach…

If you read Jen’s old blog, The Final Forty, you know that we got Miles a few years ago, and quickly he showed off his athletic prowess. We started off slowly with him, only incorporating short running spurts into his regular walks. But then he wanted to go longer and faster and more often. Jen says she always knew he was “our dog,” and his running proves that unequivocally.

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Definitely our dog ❤

As a spaniel/shih tzu mix, Miles has the ability to run without getting worn out all that quickly. You can say he’s both a sprinter AND a distance runner; he can bust it for a few blocks, often dragging one of us along the way, or he can take on a jogging pace and keep it for well over a mile. Of course, his “jog” is usually way faster than either of us would normally go.

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After one of our first runs with our new puppy

But even though Miles is a fast, fit, and friendly pooch, he does quite a few things that runners shouldn’t do. Of course, his body type (and number of legs) differs from us, but all of us can take some advice from him on what NOT to do when going out for a run:

  1. Be impatient. Really, we just have to ask Miles if he wants to run, and he goes bananas. He gets SO excited, yet he often can’t contain that excitement. He’ll whimper and whine and then get frustrated if we keep him waiting for more than a few seconds. There are also times when he DEMANDS a run; he’ll just stop short during his walk, and the only way to get him to move is to offer to run.
  • Analysis: Obviously, Miles can’t just go out and run whenever he wants, so we understand why he gets impatient. But you, the runner who typically can head out whenever he/she pleases, should be very careful about not getting too overzealous. If you can’t run as long or as fast as you want right now, try not to let it beat you up. Progress will come. If you’re injured, don’t try to push it too quickly just so you can get out there. And if you’re training for a race, don’t let your anticipation get the better of you by making up missed runs or doing more than you’re capable of.
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Sometimes it’s best to just take a leisurely walk in the park

  1. Go out too fast. On occasion, Miles will join us for the first mile of our long run. (He really does have good stamina.) But sometimes, he books it immediately, and we’re scrambling just to keep up with him. We know he looks at this as a special opportunity, and it’s obvious that he has a lot of energy. But whenever he goes out too fast, he eventually gets tired, and his hard effort turns into a slow trot or just a walk. (He’ll then be sleepy throughout the day.)
  • Analysis: Like Miles, you probably enjoy running, and you want to look strong while you do it. And in a race environment, it’s natural that you want to get off to a good start and not let other runners pass you by. But eventually, you’ll get tired, too. Miles doesn’t know how far he’s running, but you do, so don’t jeopardize your entire run or race by pushing the pace too soon.
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What usually happens on long run day…

  1. Get distracted. When Miles is out, anything can divert his attention. Sometimes, he’ll see a UPS truck, stop in his tracks, and begin barking his head off. (For some reason, he dislikes all delivery people and services.) Or maybe he’ll encounter a squirrel and slow down to keep a close eye on his “enemy.” (He’s a hunting dog, after all.) Even if he’s going at a nice pace, the sight of a cat or a bird or an object out of place can cause him to forget about his run and focus on whatever he sees at that particular moment.
  • Analysis: We’re loaded with distraction in everyday life, and when we go out for a run, that’s no exception. Usually, we have our phone with us, maybe an audio device, probably a GPS watch. These are all great things to have, no doubt. But if we’re checking Facebook, making calls, or stopping to text throughout our run, are we really getting the most out of it? Don’t let distractions affect your performance or make you lose sight of all the great things that running brings.
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…Like enjoying a gorgeous fall afternoon at the park

  1. Bust it in the heat. Like most dogs, Miles doesn’t do so great in warm weather. He’s loaded with hair, so even a short time in the heat can have him panting. Yet, Miles disregards all this and tries to run just as fast in the summertime. We’re always very careful about Miles running in the heat, and if it’s too warm, we’ll refuse to let him run at all (which often requires a lot of might and a strong leash). Many times, we’ll even cut his walks short so he can get back in the air conditioning. We know how much he enjoys running, but his safety always comes first.
  • Analysis: Anyone who’s trained for a fall marathon has probably had to endure summertime long runs, and it’s usually not pleasant. Not only does the heat make us feel tired and worn more quickly, but it also affects our pace—making us feel as though we’re not as fast or conditioned as we thought. We have to realize that running in the heat can be dangerous; adjustments may be necessary. Until the weather gets cooler, we need to listen to our bodies and accept that we probably won’t be going as fast as normal outdoors.
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Definitely no running allowed when his tongue is hanging out!

Miles is about to turn 3 in November, and even though he’s a smart, kind, adult dog, obviously we shouldn’t be modeling our running behaviors after him. Hopefully, from the examples above, you see that small things in your running can make a big difference in your effort, performance, and overall enjoyment level. Plus, running can be a whole lot of fun with your favorite four-legged friend!

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What advice do you have for running with your dog?

Is there anything your dog does that you shouldn’t do as a runner?

6 thoughts on “Running Lessons NOT to Take from Our Dog

  1. Aww looks like miles is a great companion for the two of you! My lab is 11 and has a heart problem so I can not run with her anymore. She still thinks she is a young pup though because she practically does back flips when she sees me putting my running shoes on. She also tries to run when I only want her to walk!

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    • Thanks, Meranda. We can relate—there are so many times when we just want Miles to have a relaxing walk, but he wants to book it! Sounds like your dog is a great companion, too. It’s always cool when you see how excited they get by the smallest of things.

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