In the throes of moving from Connecticut to Florida, the opportunity presented itself to us to buy a 4 month old puppy of unique breed. Five days after closing on our new house, Cookie, a Dutch Shepherd joined us and became a full-fledged member of our family. We began her training immediately.
No, not house training but running! Much like we train ourselves slowly getting distance into our legs, we started with Cookie. Many dog breeds should not start running young, please consult your Vet or Breeder before running with your puppy. We consulted both before starting with Cookie. Two months into our training we are still very much “training” but have made great strides forward. Importantly, we have learned that training is a two-way-street, both dog and owner needed to learn few new tricks.
As the dog-owner, I learned I don’t like to run holding a leash. Therefore, we tried hands-free leash options. We had several trials-and-errors before we found a hands-free leash we both liked. It also took us a few tries to find a harness option that worked well. We decided on using a harness because I wanted to mark the transition for the dog from collar to a harness, much like a service dog has a marked transition once their vest is donned. I feel Cookie understands that different behavior is expected in her harness verses her collar and is learning to act accordingly. When we run distractions like birds, lizards, people, other dogs, and cars need to be ignored unlike when she is in her collar on a walk. Choosing a harness was quite the endeavor, I honestly had no idea how many types of harnesses there were on the market until we started trying them out.
Our pace is my pace to run not Cookie’s desired much faster pace. She’s become very good at heeling and not pulling while we pound the pavement together. Heeling is not the only command, Cookie needs to follow while running with me, she also needs to respond to other commands such as left, right, yuck, and stop. While I was injured and unable to run, we continued her running heel training while I rode my bike around at varying speeds. We were able to keep up with our directional command training by doing this. It’s very important that Cookie take all her running queues from me. Left is an incredibly important command to ensure I don’t trip over my pretty puppy while running, checking traffic, and taking a left turn. Yuck is an important command to ensure Cookie isn’t eating or picking up any trash we might find along the roadside. My boys love practicing the yuck command with the puppy – thankfully she responds to it well.
Cookie taught me when she needs to stop for bathroom breaks – a very important note for me to learn. This led directly to my training of how to run with a pooh-bag. It took me a couple of times before I figure out how to get the bag hung on my hip so that it didn’t fall in front of my thigh to get hit every time I strode forward.
Our distances are getting further, and we are definitely starting to run better and better as a team. Birds on route, however, continue to be especially distracting but we are working on it. We plan to keep our runs to 3 miles or less until Cookie is approximately 16 months, then we will start our training ramp up to 8 to 10 mile jaunts. As we increase past 3 miles, we plan to start trying out the vast variety of doggie water bottles on the market.
Runners all seem to have different methodologies for training their dogs to accompany them. Do you have any advice or suggestions for me and Cookie?