You may recall that about a year ago, the epicurean and I welcomed a new four-legged friend into our family. Looper, the high-spirited, obscenely affectionate Vizsla has been with us now for over a year, and it has been a whirlwind experience. Vizslas, as a breed, are exceptional runners, and are great for endurance runners because they can pile on the miles with the best of them. As a former country dog, Looper wasn’t all that keen on being “tied down” by a leash while out and about. When she is off-leash, she is beyond beautiful to watch. She seems to float above the ground as she runs, and her speed and energy are endless. Once she is hooked up to the leash and harness, however, it’s a different story.
I began running with her in short bursts almost as soon as we got her since she was old enough. She wasn’t terribly excited by being tethered to my slower pace, but she adjusted. However, her skittishness made running with her on the leash a bit of a liability at times. It’s surprisingly hard to fall into a normal pace and gate when you are worried about a dog running in front of you and tripping you at any moment! We gave it a go over several weeks, but it became clear that we needed to work on more basic leash training before advancing into the running realm. I dialed back our running, and gave her more time off-leash in the backyard so she still had an opportunity to expel that never-ending supply of Vizsla energy.
We’ve worked with her quite a bit, and her recall is absolutely incredible at this point. She loves her people SO much, so she never wants to be too far from us. The leash training has progressed as well, and she is certainly much more comfortable on it now. The long winter meant not getting outside nearly as much as she would have liked, and I’m sure she had an even worse case of cabin fever than we did. There is only so much running and playing a dog can do in the house before she gets bored (and figures out all of our games!). Thus, the warm weather and sunshine has meant spending as much time outside as possible. She is such a happy and loving dog, and there is nothing that will warm your heart faster than seeing the big, goofy grin on her face when she is good and tired after playing outside.
After all of the progress we’ve made over the past year, I thought it was time we returned to our running training. Although she has unfortunately be diagnosed with hip dysplasia, she still has plenty of motivation to run and I’m still committed to my canine running partner. We headed out yesterday on the first of many future training runs, and this outing was as much about establishing a baseline as it was about training. The weather was comfortable, with a light breeze, and the sun was shining, so the conditions were perfect. I knew she would still be a bit skittish at certain points (large trucks, bikes, and “intimidating” children still freak her out), but we’ve been working on stopping when the scary beasts approach, letting them pass, and praising wildly.
Whenever the harness comes out, Looper knows something fun is about to happen. I’m hoping this excitement won’t dissipate now that she knows it may also mean running! We headed out on a short, 3-mile route that took us through a city park, and past some calmer areas of town. After about a half mile, we entered the park and came upon a couple of high school kids quietly talking on a park bench. They didn’t even notice us until we stopped, but Looper somehow decided they were the biggest threat we’d ever seen! She stopped dead in her tracks and wouldn’t move. She didn’t make a sound, and no amount of calm affirmation was going to help. Eventually, I picked her up and carried her just past the bench before putting her down. She perked right back up and started running again. Maybe she was a high school teacher in a former life and knew something I didn’t about those kids!
We made it about a mile and a half, and she had to take a short break. This was my first indication that perhaps she was a bit out of shape (by Vizsla standards). We continued on, and she ran incredibly well. At times, not surprisingly, I had to slow her down so she didn’t push the pace TOO much. She began to slow down around the two-mile mark, and we found a soft patch of grass under a big tree to rest for a spell. She flopped to the ground and rolled over to expose her belly for the customary belly rub, in true Looper fashion, and rested for a good five minutes.
After her brief rest, we carried on and headed back home. She was noticeably slower than when we began, but she pushed onward, tongue hanging out, and goofy grin firmly planted on her face. We hit the 5K mark just as we arrived back at home. She made a break for the water dishes as soon as we got inside, and was eager to have her harness taken off as well. All-in-all, I would call our first venture out a success. Apparently, despite endless energy and plenty of running in the backyard, I’ll still be starting Looper on her own C25K plan to get her back up to hammering out some distance. It’s only appropriate that I began my own running adventure with a C25K program, but I’m guessing Looper may not need the full 10 weeks before she is hammering out the miles with me! Do you have a 4-legged running companion? Do you have any tips or tricks for happy running? I’m all paws!