Guest Blogger Nancy Cook

Half Marathon Finish Relaxing with Chester in CO 1999

What do I love about running?  The list goes on and on… but one thing that comes up on my list over and over again is the fact that it is the time that I get to spend with my canine companion!

I remember running with my first yellow labrador, “Birchfield’s Chester Valentine” in the 1990’s & it was early in my marathon training that I realized that the dog motivation to run was like none other.  He would be wagging his tail and literally jumping around the room waiting for me every morning! The time that I spend on the road and the trails training was NOT alone because I have the companionship of my amazing dog. I called him the Wonder Puppy! My loyal, loving dog that LOVES to run almost as much as I do! The thing about running in Vermont with Chester was always to find the streams and the lakes where he could take a dip and drink from the streams. He loved to pull sticks and LARGE logs out of the woods… bringing a smile to my face. I have such amazing memories of running with Chester — I cherish every single one!

Chester and I in Keystone CO 1999

One race in the Stratton Mountain Vermont area I actually ran a road race with him & another dog by my side for more than 6 miles! He climbed mountains, swam in the lakes & went on snowshoe trips with me too! Chester & I packed all we owned in the back of my GMC Sonoma and moved west to Colorado for 2 years in 1997. He experienced Colorado life in the mountains with me at Estes Park, Keystone (sleeping in the back of the truck when we went skiing) & more! The sad day came when I had to put Chester down when they found cancer had taken over his entire body. I light a luminaria in his name every year at the Relay For Life in my community & look forward to participating in our nearby Bark For Life to remember and celebrate his life. I still have this sad feeling in my heart & love & remember the wonderful times with him all the time.  Even though I thought he could never be replaced, Chester’s legacy continued with my next yellow lab “Toryfield Master Oakley”.

Oakley literally claws me out of bed in the morning relentlessly until I drag my weary self to the floor, to the coffee pot, to the door and on the road! Oakley is an amazing running partner & doesn’t let me off easy — he has been running with me since he was 6 months old.  He didn’t go to obedience school — running with me was school!  :)  Oakley just turned 11 and has so much energy and “umpf” for a dog of his years!   I truly think the years of running has increased his lifespan, strengthened his heart and the experience of running shows his love for life!  Just like a human, the more you get out there, experience the world and enjoy life, the more life will give back to you tenfold! Oakley would run all my runs with me until the past year and now runs 2 to 5 miles a day.  He loves to run the trails and in our woods out back we have a trail named “Oakley Trail Loop” that is our favorite place to run!

Tips for running with your dog:

Oakley and me running all 4 seasons

1. Hydration is key- remember that a dog can’t sweat – they get hot and pant once it is to a point that they need to show it.  Keep them hydrated and cool.  It is best to run near streams and water so you don’t get “stuck” when they really need water.  Run in the shade and trees as much as possible to keep them cool.

2. Running with your dog on a leash is a skill in itself.  Expandable leashes are great when you have the room to let them extend and explore, especially as a puppy.  When they are better trained you can go to a shorter leash and it will be easier to be able to control them, keeping them close and tight to your body.

3. Realize when your dog is tired and give them a break. A dog will lag back and you can figure out the mileage that your dog can cover and limit it to that without pushing them. If your dog is lame, or limping – no better how much they drive you crazy to run with you — they honestly need to rest.  :)

4. Manage the distractions – realize ahead of time when you see another dog, a squirrel, chipmunk, rabbit and other humans along the way that you are going to get pulled in that direction.  Be ready, brace yourself and eventually train your dog that they need to just keep running by.  This is the upper body workout in running when you have your dog & can be a challenge but manageable at the same time!  :)

5. Be safe & stay safe – Know when you can go off leash & when you need to have your

Exploring the Mountain With Chester 1999

dog on the leash.  Obey all signs in this regard.  Nothing worse than nuisance dogs off leash irritating your dog to the limit.  Dog fights are NO fun – so avoid them at all costs.  Know when there is a dog friendly dog and when to STAY away!

6. Know your doggie neighborhood & the leash laws.  It is nice to know where the dogs are in the neighborhood to manage distractions, but also to be aware and ready in case they happen to be “off leash” in their own property. I have been bit by dogs and my dogs have been bit by dogs.  It is no fun to have to get a tetanus shot and treated for infection after a dog bite.  It is even more horrible to watch your puppy or dog get attacked by another dog and you are doing all your might to pull them away.   Just ask me. :( Carry “poop” bags and be respectful of others property. Obviously if you aren’t deep in the woods, you are responsible for “it”. :)

7. Share the love! It is so great to run with your dog!  I love dogs & the dog “friends” in the neighborhood.  I was so fortunate when I lived in New Hampshire to have a running buddy that also had a chocolate lab “Nutmeg”.  Lucky Oakley had a running friend too!   Sharing our annual story through our Christmas letter every year is written by Oakley!  He does a fine job for a canine with paws on the keyboard.  HA!  He can write a pretty good fundraising letter too!  :) Check out a local Bark For Life to meet other dog lovers! Great way to meet others that love to exercise with their dogs!  As a dog lover, photos of my Oakley are something I am very proud of- check out the gallery below!  Enjoy every minute — a canine life is too short not to be lived to the fullest each and every day!

More great canine running info I have found very interesting and helpful below!

Happy times running with oakley the best running partener ever

How running with your dog can enhance canine and human training at the same time

Great post from the NY Times online that links to great resources on running with your dog!

Nancy E Photography SmugMug Oakley Gallery


Do you have a great dog running companion?
Please comment below! Thanks!