by Paul Halford |

Over on the #Run1000Miles Facebook group, there are a few subjects that are guaranteed to get the conversation flowing. Asking for advice about which gear to buy or how to treat an injury will always get lots of answers (which can generally be summarised as go to a shop and try it or see a physio). Another popular subject is dogs. There are lots of cute photos of people running with their dogs, which garner lots of likes and hearts and an equal number of posts about problems with anti-social dogs and their owners. There are lots of contrary opinions about dogs out there.

Anyway, as my running buddy is of the canine persuasion, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on the subject of dogs.

The advantages of running with a dog are obvious. You never have to convince them to go for a run, they will keep going for longer than you and, even if you are having a complete ‘mare and get really grumpy, they won’t get offended. I think there is nothing as funny as calling out “ducks” and watching Zaro dash ahead looking for the offending animals – especially on a mountainside with no water or ducks for miles.

Then again, there are some disadvantages. There is nothing quite as annoying as just hitting your stride and then suddenly having the brakes applied by a pup who has an urgent and unexpected call of nature. Crossing a field full of cows in the company of something which triggers ancestral memories of wolves can be a hair-raising experience (and I’m bald). Running with a dog is also bad for your ego; there is nothing worse than hitting your fastest sprint only to notice that your canine friend has hardly broken into a trot.

However, the issue of running with my dog is, for me, a simple one. I like dogs. I stop and talk to every dog that I see on the street and running with my own pup is just an extension of this lifelong devotion to canines. However, I realise that not everyone shares my obsession. No matter how cute I think that my little ball of fluff is (and he is very cute), there are people who are nervous or frightened by dogs and others who simply don’t like them. This is complicated, because my dog views human beings the way that I view dogs and wants to talk to everyone we meet – whether they want to talk to him or not. However, if people don’t like dogs, that is their right and they shouldn’t have to put up with my animal bounding up to them. It is my responsibility, and no one else’s, to keep him under control.

Here are a few thoughts for anyone thinking of running with a dog:

If you are a sociable person, join your local canicross group. You’ll get lots of good advice and your pup will have tons of fun running with others.

Whether you join a group or not, get a good canicross harness and lead. The harness means that you can keep your hands free, which is very useful on rough ground. The lead should have a section of elastic bungee in the middle, so that you aren’t pulled over if the dog decides to dash after a cat. It’s also useful to have a quick release device if you are ever likely to be around cows.

If you run long distances, take a collapsible water bowl in your backpack. Your dog needs to be hydrated even more than you do (it’s all to do with panting). I forgot the bowl once and trying to help Zaro to drink from a squirty soft flask wasn’t a highlight in my life, but it did amuse some passing walkers.

Keep your dog under control around cats, sheep, nesting birds and, especially, people. If you aren’t absolutely confident of your ability to recall the dog, then keep it on a lead.

Take your poo-bags home with you; there is no poo-bag fairy.

Have fun; that’s the whole point of running and owning a dog in the first place.

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