The last time I tried to run with my dog, it was an unmitigated failure. He repeatedly jumped straight up in the air in front of me, jerked to the end of his lead several times, and dashed in front of me after squirrels. One of the unexpected bolts ended up with me accidentally stepping on his foot, which made him yelp in surprise, and inspired everyone within 500 yards to glare at me like a child molester. (His trainer always said you shouldn’t shy away from stepping on a dog’s foot when they break heel and cross in front of you, and that it won’t hurt them, but I’ve never been able to make myself do it.)
Anyway, failure. For both of us — since it’s very hard to use oxygen efficiently while yelling “heel! heel!” every ten seconds, the run only lasted about a quarter of a mile. He does know what “heel” means, but apparently it was just too much excitement. I gave up before he dragged us into traffic.
That was about a year ago. I recently signed up for a 5k with work, and it’s coming up in a few weeks. It’s a run/walk, so no one is expecting me to win or anything, but I was hoping to not completely embarrass myself. I just couldn’t find the time to practice. We go for a half hour walk in the morning, and there just isn’t any other time with (a) daylight and (b) temperatures under 85°F. I come home to walk him at lunch, so I can’t even make time to use the gym at the office. Until this morning, when I decided to try it again.
I scrounged up my running shoes and shorts from the dusty bag in the car, threw on a tank top, and off we went. I gave him a chance to pee, and then asked if he was ready, and started jogging slowly. He took off like he was fired out of a cannon, naturally — but since he was leashed, I could keep up. The good news was that he was going straight, even if he was outpacing me by about mach 4. No jumping, no ricocheting around like a pinball game. I could only go about a quarter mile at that speed, but he was completely unfazed when I dropped back to a walk.
I should mention that he’s freakishly fast — when we go to the off-leash, he can keep up with the whippets. It’s the border collie part of him, which also makes him herd my friends’ children. But after a break for sniffing and other doggish business, we started again, and he totally dialed it back and stayed with me. Not heeling exactly, but staying at roughly my speed. We only went about a mile and a half, and probably only ran half of that (my fault, not his — but I’m not beating myself up since it was my first day back), but we both had a blast. There was only one near-disaster, which was trying to get him to make a 90 degree left turn with him on my left, but we’ll work that out. I can totally see this becoming a new habit.