Milo Royds devised dog running as a concept for the dog, not the human. They just don’t get enough exercise walking along a path on a lead, however many hours they spend that way. I, conversely, started doing this for me: I don’t have enough air in the day to go running myself and walk Romeo. So running together should be a good fix; I just need to iron out a couple of things.
Problem one: the dog is much faster than me, which leads to a lot of sprinting, then having to stop, then sprinting again. “What is he,” Milo asks, “a ridgeback?” Funnily enough, my last dog was a ridgeback-cross, and he was about as fast as David Davis. No, this is a staffordshire bull terrier and he goes like a bullet; a mad, cartoon bullet that changes direction. “Staffies aren’t built for speed,” Milo says. “They have a lot of stamina.”
Mmm, but I’m built for even less speed. So I just need to get faster, run for longer and, in the meantime, look at this as interval training.
Problem two: the dog has an unhealthy love of strangers, particularly anyone in high-vis, young men, people with beards and anybody moving in an unusual way. My observation is that everyone loves a staff, up to the point it jumps on their bollocks. The prescription is the same: I need to get a lot faster.
Problem three: when you run on a lead with an excitable dog, it will periodically leap at the lead and start attacking it. In the best-case scenario, this gives you really good muscle definition on one arm. But in the worst, it makes you look like you’ve stolen the dog and are running away.
“Why is the dog on a lead?” Milo asks.
“Because otherwise he’ll run off,” I say.
“I see. When I run dogs, I run a few at a time and I set the pace. They know I won’t stop for them, and they don’t want to run on their own. So they will stay in the group.”
Huh? It appears that I need more dogs. And to get a lot faster.
Problem four: the dog stops dead when he sees something of interest, which is almost everything, but especially squirrels, KFC boxes and the excrement of other species. If I’m going at full speed, this damn near pulls my arm out of its socket. The solution is not, as you might think, to go a little slower. I just need to get faster and stronger.
Problem five: in an ideal world, the dog would run for a full hour, whereas I would run for 25 minutes, max. Romeo just needs to adjust his expectations. I’m not Superwoman.
Problem six: with no good reason and even less notice, the dog will run across me and I will nearly fall over. Except – is this getting one-note? – when we’re going at speed. So there’s only one thing for it.
Problem seven: is this really the best thing for a dog? I feel a bit mean, rolling him into my fitness timetable when he has so many interests of his own. Actually, yes, it is. We all need exercise, more than we need boxes of old chicken.
What I learned
If you train off-lead in a dogs-only enclosure for a week, this will make regular park running a lot easier.
The best kit for running with a dog
Depending on the size of your dog, try a vest harness to minimise tugging; £48.20, pitbull-dog-breed-store.co.uk
Running belt to hold your keys, phone, treats and poo bags; £32, flipbelt.co.uk
A jogging belt leash is just the thing for keeping a tight grip on your four-legged friend at all times; £38.98, julius-k9.co.uk.
Collapsible water bowl for use on longer runs; £7, petsathome.com
Attach a light or two to your dog, and keep both of you safe on night-time runs; dog light, £19.99, innerwolf.co.uk
Alternatively, for 360-degree visibility, try a light-up collar; £14.95, glow.co.uk
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