Thursday, April 9, 2015

Running with your Dog Part Two: Running routes and safety

My running routes when running with my dogs:  I have had several incidences, all ending well thank goodness, with dogs coming after us on our runs.  Something about having a dog running with you just sends some dogs over the edge.  I have had to really change some of my running routes because of dogs that can clear fences.   We don't have a HOA in our neighborhood, so we have a variety of fencing material being used to secure dogs, many that are too short for sure.  We have two streets in our neighborhood that I will NOT run down because of this.  I know a lot of runners carry pepper spray or mace, but I am not comfortable using this product with my dog being in the mix.  My luck, the wind would be blowing towards me, and I would get a face full, or one of my dogs versus the dog we are trying to target.  What has worked the best for me when a dog comes after us is to stop, get between stella and the dog, and then start yelling sternly and stomping my feet.  I usually say at the top of my lungs repeatedly, "GO BACK HOME"  or "BAD DOG,".  If that doesn't get the dog to stop, usually the owner inside hears you screaming and comes out.  I am truly amazed at how many dog owners who live in the city and maybe 25 feet from a major road just turn their dogs out in their yards unsupervised.   I really don't know how these dogs don't get hit.  Because of this magnetic property, and the fact that I don't like running on sidewalks that are narrow and uneven (city of wamego, are you listening?), I tend to take my dogs more out on country gravel roads and rural areas. 
 I am very lucky that in my rural running routes, loose dogs are not a problem, although I have heard in other parts of the countryside it is.    
Two great perks to running on rural roads:  I can let my dogs run free for a bit, and I can run in the road versus on sidewalks.  I have found that the more in town side walk running I do, the harder it is to keep any dog from sniffing and or marking.  I tend to run in the road, off to the side and safely out of traffic, but I have to constantly be on the look out for inattentive drivers.  I also have found a similar problem on our limestone paved trail that runs around the town where I work.  Many people walk their dogs on this trail, due to the fact that it backs many housing areas, and it becomes  pee mail time on certain stretches.   I do have to say that my gravel roads I frequent are very flat. and I can see traffic coming WAY before it is to us so I can safely have my dogs leashed by the time it catches up to me. If that were not the case, I probably would NOT let my dogs off leash.  Also there are only 2 or so houses on this stretch, so there inherently isn't much traffic to begin with.  There also isn't any shade on this route, unfortunately, so when the temps become a little more toasty, stella and I head to the limestone trail which offers many miles of shaded running.
My advice to you if you are just starting out with your new running partner is to find the least stimulating route for your dog.  If that is a rural route or a country road, whatever works best to keep them focused on the task at hand.  I don't give any corrections per se for pulling or for sniffing.  The only feedback they get is my body weight against their pulling and my body weight against their stopping, which hopefully tires them out.  If I have a reactive dog, I will carry treats with me in my running pouch to reward no barking or lunging or looking at me.  Stella took a few runs to figure out the no pulling, and sometimes to this day if we are doing an out and back will pull a little on the back.  She also tends to pull a little more in races, especially races with other dogs present, but I am okay with that.  I DO NOT advocate running with a choke chain or any type of pinch collar to deter pulling.  Most dogs will learn after a while that what they are doing is tiring and will stop.  They are smart and will get it, it just sometimes takes repetition.  I really prefer running with a harness versus a collar anyway to keep pressure off of the neck.  Nothing makes a run tougher than listening to a dog choke the whole time.  

Happy Running with your dogs!  I am contemplating a part three based on common questions I get so stay tuned!

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