Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Running Shoes: Not Just For Chewing!

As soon as we brought Calvin into our family last summer, I started making plans. Calvin, a Labrador and Rhodesian Ridgeback hybrid, would be my running partner. Never mind that he was practically feral when we first got him, or that he couldn't walk on a leash without chewing it, or that he bolted at the first sign of a squirrel, a bird, a cat, a leaf, a tree, or his shadow. I had dreams of running through neighborhoods with my big, black dog by my side. I would make these dreams come true.

(I know what you're thinking. "But, Chrissy. You already had a big, black dog named Seamus. You have had him for seven years. Why didn't you make him your running partner?" I will tell you why. Because I only started running three years ago and Seamus had already exhibited some hip issues. He is a large animal with a strange body type and is not built for the rigors of long, sustained exercise. Also: lazy. Very, very lazy. There is a reason we refer to him as Couch Dog. So: Calvin and I wake early and go for runs, and Nathan and Seamus sleep late and hit snooze. Everyone is happy!)  

After doing some reading, I discovered that one should not take a dog running until he's at least a year old, when his bones have fully developed. Calvin is now just over a year old, plus he's actually somewhat obedient these days (I know! He's growing up so fast!). There was nothing stopping me from running with him, but I just hadn't gotten around to it yet. I figured there would be a learning curve and with my last two races on the horizon, I was putting it off.

Then a friend informed me of a number of attempted assaults that had occurred on my usual running route in the last few weeks. I often run by myself, early in the mornings, when it's still dark and the roads are fairly  empty. With this troubling news, it seemed the time to start bringing Calvin on my runs had definitely arrived.

And so this morning, we set out on our first run together. Like any human just starting out with a new workout regime, I knew it was best to ease Calvin into running. We started by walking a quarter of a mile to warm up and give him time to make his morning deposit, if you know what I'm saying. Then we set off running at a decent clip. At first Calvin was confused - What were doing? Were we chasing something? Was something chasing us? Should I stop and pee on that bush? No? Are you sure? He finally caught on and seemed to enjoy himself - we ran some streets he'd never been down and he was doing his little dog smile and looking at everything we passed with interest. When the Garmin beeped the one mile mark (9:19! Calvin was smoking!), we took a walking/sniffing/peeing break before beginning mile two.

At about 1.5 miles, I could feel Calvin slowing down. Instead of being just in front of me, he was just behind me. I egged him on and told him we were almost done but he was dragging. Then - he saw a squirrel. There was a lunge. I pulled. We re-focused our energies and kept going without falling down. And suddenly, wouldn't you know it - Calvin had found a second wind! We finished strong (9:22!) and walked the last quarter of a mile home. I was so proud of him that I let him sniff and pee on every tree he wanted. (FYI, that's a lot of trees.)

I think I'll take him on a two or three mile run once or twice a week, with walking breaks, until he builds up his stamina. By the fall, when the weather is cooler and he's in good running shape, we'll tackle some longer runs. I don't think I'll take him for anything over ten miles (this handy chart helps you figure out which breed is best suited to which distances) but for short, fast runs and long, slow distances he'll be perfect. Plus the fact that my new running partner is a 90 pound, muscular, and half crazy dog should keep the bad guys away.

Dogs! I just love them!


  1. I know you've been waiting SO long to be able to run with him so YAY for him finally being old enough! And in perfect timing with the neighborhood assaults. I haven't run on my own in my own neighborhood because it's just close enough to the sketchy area that I get nervous. I won't even run to the gym in the daylight. Thankfully our new neighborhood is much better, so hopefully some jogs (read 1 mile half walking, half jogging) with Clive are in order. He's not much of a runner and he too insists upon marking EVERY tree!

  2. Your italicized stream of consciousness for Calvin made me laugh out loud at my desk.

  3. Good job Calvin!

    When we got our dog I was really excited because I knew I wanted to make him my daily running partner. Once I did my research however, I found out (like you did) that high impact exercises (i.e running on hard surfaces) could hurt the joints of a growing large breed dog. So I gave up my runs and settled for walks. The first couple of months were terrible! He pulled a lot on his leash and I used to have constant pain in my wrist. Now finally after months and months of training (and bribes with treats!) he walks obediently by my side! He's 1year and 4months old now and I've tried running with him, and for the most part he does okay, but the problem is that I feel stressed out while running with him. I'm worried that he's going to pull me and I'm going to fall flat on my face, I'm constantly looking out for other people and dogs or other potential distractions! What I liked about running was that it was 'my time'. A time for me to just let go, de-stress. I really miss it. Maybe I should re- visit the idea of running with my dog again, and like you do just slowly break him into it...

    Oh and thanks for posting that link. My dog is a black Lab/ Weimaraner mix, and it seems Weimraners do well in most categories...By the way I've also read that Rhodesian ridgebacks make excellent marathon training buddies! ;)

  4. I'm so glad your new neighborhood will be better! Maybe no one will steal your flowers there, either! ;)

    Male dogs just love to mark, don't they? When Calvin is in the middle of the good sniff, it is impossible to pull him away until he's had his fill. His strength really is ridiculous.

  5. I wish you could have seen it for yourself! I was laughing and running at the same time. :)

  6. Sheri, I know what you mean! My running time is also my "me time." This is why I only plan to take Calvin on some of my runs - mostly my early morning, mid-week runs, which are usually 6 miles long or less. I still plan to keep some runs all to myself - it is required to keep me sane and happy!

    It sounds like our dogs are just about the same age. If you want to run with your dog, I would definitely give it another shot and try the easing in approach. I know Calvin has a hard time focusing on tasks so taking a break at each mile to walk and sniff and pee seemed to help. He only had to stay focused for ten minutes at a time, which is almost manageable. Baby steps. :)

    Oh, and Seamus is supposedly a Boxer/Weimaraner mix, or so we were told at the pound. He has a small head, a huge chest, and a narrow backside. A little strange looking, but still the most handsome dog in the world. :)

  7. Yes, I think I will try running with him again. Thanks for the advice. Also I'm hoping that as he get's older he'll get less distracted (it does happen right?) ;)

    What a coincidence that Seamus is also a Weimaraner mix, it's not a breed you meet often. My dog looks a lot more like Calvin though, and in some pictures you've posted they look identical! Maybe it's a puppy thing! :)

  8. That is so wonderful Chrissy! I've only taken Maximus out a handful of times, but I really enjoy having him with me and find that the time goes by much more quickly.

  9. This is great news! Seems like the perfect thing for Calvin - all that energy and legs. I think he's going to make a great running partner! Poor Olive's legs are too short, I think, and bad guys would not be very frightened of her... Many happy running days to you both!

  10. stoppingfordaisies10:07 PM, May 11, 2011

    Hi, new reader here! :) That's great that you have a running partner, I sometimes wish I had a dog to run with!

  11. Running in Bowser's favorite thing! When I say "Wanna go for a run?" or "Wanna go for a jog?" he immediately starts whining and tries to lead me to the door. I can never get ready fast enough.