Today’s run featured a mellow 4 miler. Nothing really exciting or noteworthy to say about it really. So I think I will write some about running with dogs. I frequently run with my dog Gus as you may have figured out by now. Running with Gus has it’s pros and cons. I love having his company but it does make me run a bit slower and it does take some mental energy to deal with keeping him in line so to speak. Gus and I have spent a lot of time training how to walk and run nicely on the leash. By nicely I mean he can’t pull me, can’t be biting on his leash, running from left side to right side and has to stay focused. A tough job for a lab puppy but we have come a long ways. All of his training has been done with the positive rewards philosophy and clicker training. In my opinion, there is no other way. It works. So to train Gus to run with me he has had to learn to loose leash walk and heel. Loose leash walk means he doesn’t have to stay glued by my side, he can be a little ahead or behind, as long as he isn’t pulling on the leash. I ask Gus to heel when a car comes. We run against the direction of traffic and so Gus is on the shoulder side- my left when cars pass. None of the roads I run on have decent shoulders, so Gus must be tucked just behind me when cars come.
Cars were very distracting for Gus, and at first he would lunge out at them. I broke him of this by getting his attention with treats and making him keep eye contact with me while cars pass. He was taught to “watch me” at the very beginning of his puppy training. This is a very important thing for a dog to learn because if they are focusing on you ,then you have their attention and not something in the environment.
So at first, there were tons of treats given just to make it thru a walk or run but with time he has learned what I have wanted him to do and sometimes he gets treats,which continues to reinforce the behavior and always gets a good boy. We are still learning and of course he isn’t perfect 100% of the time, but we are getting there.
Something I highly recommend for walking big dogs that like to pull is the easy walker. It is a harness that attaches to the leash in the FRONT. This type of harness gives you tons more control vs a neck collar or a harness that attaches in the back. Neck collars can actually cause damage to a dog when they pull excessively. Also, both a neck collar and a clip in back harness encourage a puller to pull more! It is some sort of instinct to pull against the leash that is trying to pull them back. So the easy walker prevents that from occurring. Here you can see the ring in front where you attach the leash.
I have read tons of material that says not to exercise a puppy too hard or on hard surfaces etc….and so it has been hard to figure out just what is too much for Gus. Gus is an extremely busy dog. He is the most active lab I have ever had and we need him to get as much activity as we can delve out. So I have decided that there really is no alternative for our sanity ,he has to go out on runs. Honestly, the pace he goes at while I run is more like a fast walk for him so I have a hard time seeing how it could be bad for him.