When I run fewer than eight miles, I’m not the only one panting. Rowdy, my 100-pound Labrador, runs at my side. Even though Labs are considerably less agile than sheep-herding Collies and deer-chasing Vizslas, not to mention the fact that Rowdy is nearing 50 in dog years, he’s still my favorite trail running partner. These five reasons why I trail run with my dog may spur you to do the same.
Plain and simple fun
Unlike your temperamental biped running partner, my dog is always stoked to run. No hill climb is too difficult, no descent too intimidating. To Rowdy, backcountry bushwhacking is a treat, not torture. Every time I look at his wagging tail, his energy is contagious and counters my fatigue.
When not running by my side, my pooch unknowingly scares off wildlife. Clomping through thickets and diving off trail, he’s surely given bears and mountain lions advanced notice of our arrival. Seeing more elk and hearing more birds would be nice, but trading safety for scenery is fine by me.
Running singletrack with a 100-pound dog in tow is tough. As such, if Rowdy’s on a leash he’s likely leading. Off-leash, however, it’s actually easier to assert my authority. When regulations permit, Rowdy is off-leash and at my side or following behind. He knows that I’m in charge. He comes, sits, stays and heels on command. Off-trail exploration is by permission only, discipline that counters danger from porcupines, skunks, bears and unruly peers (both his and mine). Though our tether is invisible, it’s strong-as-steel and preferable to a leash.
My way or the highway
The best trail running companions don’t dictate where to run – they tag along. I’m the leader of the pack and my dog “wags” along with my decisions on how fast and far we travel (and in what direction). Plus, he’s always down for a water or pee break.
Chasing a wagging tail pulls at you like a competitor who is steps ahead during a race. Still, Rowdy motivates me before we even hit the trail; he won’t tolerate me pressing the snooze button, not even once, making his case with barks and licks. It’s as if he’s saying, “It’s go time! The trail is waiting.” And I can’t argue with that.