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How to tell if your dog should be your training partner

Posted: Jun 03 2018

If you’re looking for a training buddy who’s a good listener with a lot of free time on her hands, the perfect choice might be curled up at your feet right now. (Or gnawing on her crotch, if we’re being real here. And it generally remains QUITE REAL here in the Seymour house. Thanks, Hollie.)

Running with your dog

Pictured above: Hollie, keeping it real.

But how do you know—really—if your canine is a good candidate to keep you company as you train  for your next race? Try this before you reach for the leash.

1. Ask her. If she answers with words—either affirmative or negative—I’m going to recommend you ask someone else to take a look at your dog to make sure she is, in fact, a dog and not, say, a very hairy child. Most dogs … don’t really use words. Yes, I know. Scooby-Doo is a big lying liar who lies. (Or, big rying riar who ries? Ruh roh, Raggy.)

Running with your puppy

This, for example, looks like a dog but is actually a taco. Tacos do not make good training partners. However, like dogs, tacos don’t talk (other than to my soul).

But dogs do speak in their own way, so tune in to what she’s trying to tell you. Is she psyched out of her mind every time you reach for her leash? That could indicate some interest in a run. Does she try to burrow under a blanket every time you lace up your running shoes? She might be better off joining you for an easy walk as you cool down.

2. Consider your workout and goals. While your pup probably can’t accompany you to the local pool to swim laps (although, open water swimming could be a possibility if you’ve got a water-loving Lab or something!), many dogs are more than game to trot alongside you during a run or bike ride. However! Running or biking with dogs typically involves breaks. Breaks to go potty, breaks to check pee-mail, breaks to bark like a maniac at that goddamn squirrel OMG MOM DID YOU SEE THE SQUIRREL BECAUSE HE’S RIGHT THERE I CAN GET HIM JUST LET ME GO. That’s fine if you’ve got a workout planned to accommodate that, but if you’re really serious about hitting a particular pace, interval, or mileage goal, well, not every dog is gonna be down with that. And if you’re taking your dog along, really, the workout needs to be as much about her as it is about you.

3. Take a good look at your dog. Just like not all people are able to accomplish tough workouts, some dogs are not designed for the rigors of triathlon training. Old dogs, very young dogs whose growth plates are still forming (especially large breed puppies), dogs with mobility issues, tiny dogs, and dogs with cute smooshie faces (like Bulldogs, Pugs, etc.) aren’t ideal picks for this. They are, however, fantastic picks for many other activities you might enjoy, like snuggling, sharing your bananas, taking naps, going for nice walks, coating your hand in drool, magically attaching a layer of fur to your running shorts, or watching The Crown (because those Corgis are the real stars, you know).

And really, no dog (even healthy, fairly athletic ones) should go straight from hours on the couch to running a marathon, so start short and help your pooch build up her miles so she can avoid injury—and you can avoid carrying her home when she hits her limit two miles from home. It’s always a good idea to check with your vet about restrictions or limitations.

4. Check the conditions. If you’re deciding whether it’s too hot to wear a tank over your sports bra, it might be a bit warm for a dog with a permanent fur coat. And that’s just the air temp. You’re wearing shoes, but your pup’s pads can easily burn on hot pavement (seriously, touch it with your hand and just see how hot the stuff gets!), so during the steamy summer months, stick to cooler times of day, opt for dog-friendly trails (with shade if possible), and make sure you’re carrying water that your four-legged friend can access. (Pro tip: Don’t assume she can figure out how to drink out of a water bottle, or that she’ll realize your hand also works as a makeshift bowl. Not all dogs are Lassie-level problem solvers.)

Now, what’s that you say? You don’t have a dog, but you have a cat, and you want to see if she’d make a good training partner? Fortunately, the process for figuring this one out is much easier.

 

 Triathlon Cat

Trixie made time in her busy schedule to consult on this one, and the answer was clear.

No. Just … no.

(Keep the kitty around for recovery, though, because there’s no animal on earth that’s better at sitting on your lap while you prop your compression-socked feet up and ice what’s ailing you!)

About the Author

Kristen is a busy (and very funny) woman. She's a writer, a certified triathlon coach, a pet lover and she runs Fit Bottomed Girls which is a site dedicated to empowering women to live a healthy lifestyle.

Kristen Seymour