Sometimes, running with your dog just doesn’t seem to go according to plan. Your dog might lag behind, or he might want to stop after just a few kilometres or he may even run in front and trip you up. All of these can take the pleasure out of sharing a run with your four legged buddy. So what can you do about these problems? In a nutshell, it all boils down to training.
Any behaviour has a reason behind it: a dog might react in a certain way in a particular situation because of fear, excitement, previous training, or because of an innate breed-related behavioural characteristic. Dogs are also very good at picking up on cues you give them, and they learn what’s going to happen next. That’s why lots of dogs get excited when they see their lead – they know they’ll be going out. If you’re trying to train your dog to run well with you, then it’s worth considering bringing in one or two new cues which he will learn to associate specifically with running. You might use a running harness he doesn’t wear at any other time, or you might choose a really tasty food treat that you never give him except when you’re running. Over time, your dog will learn what’s expected of him when that particular harness or treat is in use.
A border collie’s herding instinct could get in the way of your running because she might keep trying to run around you – to round you up. She might not do this with anyone else in the park; because you are her “flock” it’s you she wants to herd. Border collies can be trained to drive sheep ahead of them, so in this situation I’d encourage her to run just behind you so she can herd you from behind. Every time she gets ahead, stop her, and ask her to continue once you’re a step ahead again. You’ll need to start this at walking pace before moving up a gear. Alternatively, go back to basics and train her to walk at heel then gradually increase your pace while always rewarding her for staying calmly by your side.
It’s been a while since we’ve had a running buddy of the month. Meet Camo, an almost 2 year old Koolie mix from Queensland. Camo holds a special place in our heart because he was one of a litter of 7 orphaned puppies that came into our home when they were just one week old. It was quite a bit of work with three hourly bottle feeds around the clock in the early days, then the cleaning up when the pups figured out that solid food was as good to lie in as it was to eat! Still, it was a labour of love and we still love Camo lots!
Look at him now! He’s the most beautiful dog with a lovely happy nature. He’s been working through the Pooch to 5k program with his owner, Jackie, and really enjoying himself. Check out the smile in this photo; this is after his first 20 minute non-stop run. He’s a natural!
It’s not all been smooth sailing for Jackie and Camo. There have been some runs that were a struggle, but that happens to all of us, no matter what level we’re at. Jackie just took a step back, repeated a session or two then moved on. It won’t be long at all before they’ve hit that magical 5km mark.
Camo lives quite a way away from us these days, but we’re still hopeful that one day we’ll catch up with him again, and he can say hi to his Uncle Guinness and Uncle Cinnabar. Keep running, Camo
Short nosed breeds of dog, like this gorgeous British Bulldog, are popular companions, but the shape of their head and neck makes them totally unsuitable as running buddies. Some other breeds that fall into this category include Boxers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Pugs and French Bulldogs. They’re known as brachycephalic breeds – “brachy” meaning “shortened” and “cephalic” meaning “head”. There are degrees of brachycephalic-ness, for want of a better word – some Staffies and Boxers have a longer nose than others and may be less adversely affected by the shape of their head but owners still need to take a great deal of care with them.
The problem with the short head is that it has adverse effects on a dog’s respiratory tract. Their nostrils are usually narrower and their soft palate is longer than normal which can block the entrance to their windpipe. There are small pouches in the larynx called laryngeal saccules which, in a brachycephalic dog, are everted which means they stick out into the larynx. This means that there are many obstructions that get in the way of air reaching the windpipe and to top it all off, in these breeds the windpipe is often narrower than normal.
It is important that you learn to recognize whether or not your dog needs to lose a few pounds. This isn’t as hard as you might think, but you need to take off those rose colored glasses, and be honest.
Keep in mind that that dogs, much like humans, come in many different shapes and sizes. You should be familiar with what’s normal for for your particular breed of dog. Generally speaking, there are several indicators that you can watch out for to make sure that your dog is not obese or overweight.
First, keep an eye out for increased fat over your dog’s ribcage. If you run your hand over his ribs you should be able to feel each rib distinctly. There should be some fat covering the ribs, but not enough to make it difficult to actually feel them.
After checking the ribcage the next thing you should look at is your dog’s waist. It should be very easy to visualize his waist. Stand above your dog and look down at him while he is standing on all four legs. Look at the area between the ribs and the hips. Your dog’s waist should be easy to see as a narrowing of his body. If you cannot see the waist at all, he is overweight. If the area where the waist should be is actually wider than his ribcage or hips, then he is more than likely obese.
Alternative therapies, or natural therapies, have been used throughout history, and their popularity is on the rise. Many people who rely on natural therapies for their own health care are seeking the same treatment choices for their pets. Because of this increase in demand by their clients, more vets are now offering these treatment options. Natural therapies can be a part of the treatment of many illnesses in your pet. However, some natural therapies can have side effects, so they need to be treated with respect.
How do you define a natural therapy? A natural therapy often uses a whole body approach to healing and tries to avoid the use of surgery or drugs. When given the right conditions, the body is able to heal itself, and this ability is a very important part of the effectiveness of these therapies. Conventional treatments are usually used with in conjunction with natural treatments in pet care, although some people do prefer to use only natural remedies for their pets.
According to a 1997 study by The American Animal Hospital Association, 42% of pet owners had tried alternative therapies on their pets. The main reason people sought this type of therapy was to provide a safer, less invasive natural treatment than everyday conventional drug therapy. Also, some people may have had great success themselves with natural therapy in relation to their own health care, and wanted to give their pets the same benefits.
Some natural therapies that are available to animals are chiropractic, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and homeopathy. However, the boundaries between natural therapies and conventional treatments can be blurred. One example of this is nutritional therapy. When pets have good quality nutrition, they have all the nutrients and energy they need to remain healthy. Good nutrition can also help them recover from illness. Is this common sense or is it therapy? The drug aspirin is another example. The active ingredient in aspirin is derived from willow bark, although it has always been thought of as being a conventional treatment. Does that mean that it is also a herbal remedy?
Diet and exercise go hand in hand. Without the right diet, your dog won’t perform as well as he could. When you are training your dog for endurance, it’s important to keep an eye on what he is eating. This doesn’t just mean ensuring he consumes the right foods, but also making sure that he eats at the appropriate time.
If your dog is in good health prior to racing, there shouldn’t be any need to change his diet too much. Just keep an eye on his body condition and if he’s burning up too many calories and is looking a bit lean, you may need to switch him to an “active dog” formula.
It’s easiest to feed your canine athlete a nutritionally balanced commercial diet, so you know he’s getting the right nutrients in the right balance. This is particularly true when his energy needs increase with exercise. Don’t just feed him more food, this will certainly give him more calories but it will also give him more of everything else which he may not need. An “active dog” recipe will have extra fat content for energy but still contain the right balance of other nutrients.
If you want to create a home-made diet, consult your veterinary nutritionist beforehand to make sure it’s going to support his exercise levels. It’s not easy to formulate a balanced home cooked meal plan, especially when your dog needs to not only maintain his body during exercise but to help it recover afterwards.