By Christopher Cudworth
If dogs run free, why not me..Across the swamp of time? My mind weaves a symphony…And tapestry of rhyme -Bob Dylan
Running or riding with a dog requires a dog that can keep up. Or perhaps it’s more often the other way around. The right dog can outrun many a runner, of course. Even a cyclist on a mountain bike with a healthy dog has to do some serious peddling.
Dogs that love to run
If you run with a dog, you likely know their enthusiasm for the activity. Many breeds of dog are literally made to run. Others, with short legs, puggy snouts and pudgy bodies, maybe not so much.
So you have to choose wisely if you want to run or ride with a dog. The dog may even be built for the activity, but not want to do it. Some dogs just don’t have a lot of run in them. They go for short spurts, for a ball or a neighborhood cat, then chill for a while.
Chuck chooses to chill
My own dog Chuck is a combination runner and chiller. He’s learned that there’s no real requirement to run, except when he wants to.
Except we both enjoy the last block sprint of a good walk. If I chirp, “Let’s run!” he jolts at the end of the leash and takes off. It’s all I can do to sprint with him, and some weeks it’s the only sprinting I do. For Chuck, it seems like a release of some sort. A treasured rush toward home.
Sometimes he looks back at me as if to say, “C’mon!” I have to tell him, “Not as fast as I used to be.”
The other dogs in the neighborhood, especially the big ones, know that Chuck is faster in a flat out sprint. Chuck can beat everyone on a flat field with the exception of one whippet-like pit bull with a sweet spirit and a fast set of legs. She can outrun Chuckie and he knows it. So he stops stock still when she catches him. Smart dog.
So I don’t take Chuck on “runs” per se, but just enjoy running with him. I’ve always thought him a little small to go long distances. Not that small dogs are incapable. My best friend had a Jack Russell named Apple Jack that would 15 miles to our 10. He’d sprint from side to side and into the brush on our runs, the way only a Jack Russell can do. His coat would flow like water, making him appear more like some sort of squat snake than canine.
In the long run
The runners and riders who do take their dogs for official “runs” know the pleasure of company with fellow athletes. Some dogs go long distances with enthusiasm.
But that can change rapidly if the dog has a bad experience. One fellow runner owned a black setter-Lab mix that loved to run. But one hot summer day the dog got overheated and from then on, chose not to run again with its owner. Can’t blame the dog in that case. Common sense.
For a long time before we owned a dog I’d stop during runs or walks with my wife to pet whatever pup came along the trail. But the real runner dogs would pass right by. They didn’t care about plodding humans. All they wanted to do was run. And I can respect that. Always have. Always will.