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Archive for the tag “Vizsla running”

Couch-2-5k(9): Vizsla on the Run

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.

Not even the snow can stop her flight!

Not even the snow can stop her flight!

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.

Looper 2-1

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.

Good things happen on the harness!

Good things happen on the harness!

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.

Dad...I'm tired! And goofy :)

Dad…I’m tired! And goofy 🙂

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!

It's hard work being a dog.

It’s hard work being a dog.

A Few Moments of Heat-Induced Clarity

For the past two days, I’ve headed out for a run with Looper, our new Vizsla, around 11AM. On both occasions, this seemed like a perfectly reasonable time of day. However, Iowa finally decided it was summer (after skipping spring all together), so it’s been getting rather warm rather quickly. Now, I will never claim to be a fan of heat, but I can usually put up with it. However, we are still getting way more rain than we really need, which means it has also been wicked humid. This is a bad combination!

After two years living without a leash, Looper is slowly learning to run next to me and not pull too much. She still wants to be in the lead, and she is still skittish around large trucks, bikes, and trains, but is otherwise settling in nicely. Interestingly, running with a new dog gives you a new awareness of your surroundings, and most certainly a new awareness of the heat! She is proving to be an excellent barometer for how far we should be running, when we should be hydrating, and is giving me a refreshed awareness of my surroundings. These past two days have left me with a few moments of clarity in an otherwise foggy, heat-saturated brain. I’ve found myself remembering:

It's not Arizona, but still plenty hot for me!

It’s not Arizona, but still plenty hot for me!

  • 10AM- 2PM is not necessarily the best time to run- when the sun is at its peak, it might be best to stay inside, at least during the hot summer months. This may end up being more difficult considering my schedule, but I have a feeling it will lead to much more comfortable runs for both of us!
  • Shade is your friend…unless it’s humid- On both days, I headed for local parks and trails, in search of shade that might provide us with some reprieve. Unfortunately, with the shade we found the humidity increasing as well, so it was definitely a trade-off in terms of comfort.
  • Slowing your pace matters- I’ve been very focused on pacing during my training, and seem to have forgotten that I should be slowing my pace in the heat…oops! When Looper suddenly pulls up to flop down on the ground and cool off, it’s a nice reminder to slow down. Alas, she picks up right where she left off when we start running again!
  • Drinking every 1/2 mile isn’t overkill- I normally try to hydrate every mile, and I’ve gotten accustomed to carrying a water bottle on every run. However, in this heat, setting my watch to remind me to drink every 1/2 mile is quite helpful!
  • I sweat ALOT- I’m fairly certain that I’m one of the 1 in 4 that sweats more than the average person. This fact was reinforced over the past two days, and I’m on a continual quest to find the best sweat-management techniques. If anyone has suggestions, I’m all ears!
  • Dogs hijacking your pace = trouble- Looper is a very willful dog, and when she wants to stop, she does. On the flip side, she pushes onward with seemingly no effort whatsoever, and the result has been a much faster pace than I had intended. I think we are going to need to talk about who is pacing whom!
  • Ice cubes sooth an overheated Vizsla- I always make sure there is a nice big bowl of water waiting for her when we get back. On a whim, I gave her an ice cube to see if she wanted to chew on it. It slid around in my hand, and I realized she loved them. At one point, she was lying on her side, on the dining room floor, with several ice cubes placed on her belly…ridiculous!
One tired Vizsla!

One tired Vizsla!

Introducing My Newest Running Companion, Looper!

I dropped the hint earlier, but can now officially announce the newest addition to our family, and my newest running companion, Looper! We’ve had her a little over a week now, and she is well on her way to being a faithful endurance athlete at my side for even my longest training runs. A little training, plenty of treats, and some positive reinforcement and she’ll be able to pull me along for 25 and 30 mile runs with no problem.

Introducing Looper!

Introducing Looper!

Shortly after I began running, I began thinking about how nice it would be to have a dog I could run with around town. I watched as numerous friends brought their faithful companions to our group runs, and loved the energy the dogs added to the run. I’m always amazed at how effortless they make it look while the person they are dragging along is probably running a good 20 to 30 seconds faster than they would otherwise. Now, I love our puggle, Baxter, like no other, but puggles really aren’t built for running. He’s a wonderful lap dog, and he will cuddle you until you can’t take it anymore, but running is not among his many talents.

I remember reading several years ago in an issue of Runner’s World about the best dogs for running. Even then, vizslas struck me as beautiful, intelligent dogs who could go the distance. They are capable of great distance, fast pace, running on technical trails, and they are incredibly trainable. As it turns out, the beautiful epicurean had long wanted a Vizsla as well for their trainability and energy.

Running is hard work.

Running is hard work.

Sometimes, fate truly does deal you a strong hand. I happen to have a running friend who breeds and trains vizslas for hunting competitions, and I had mentioned my love of the breed when we had first met. About a month ago, she sent me a message to see if we would be interested in a two-year old female. She had been training for competition and had been doing pretty well, but her love of humans seemed to outweigh her desire to track down birds, and she was a bit gun-shy as well. However, she was a strong runner, and a very happy and loving dog. She happens to come from a line of amazing champion dogs as well.

"Getting along" with her new brother!

“Getting along” with her new brother!

There is definitely plenty of training in our future, both around the house and as she runs on a leash (she’s accustomed to running off-leash out in the country), and she hasn’t fully settled into her new life, partially because she happens to be in heat at the moment. We’ve already been hitting the road though, and it’s been such a different experience having her along for the ride. I can already tell that it will be a new challenge to continue to pay attention to my own form while paying attention to her at the same time. However, in time, I’m hoping we’ll end up in sync, stride for stride, and it will be no different from anyone else running next to me.

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