Trail Running with Dogs | Realistic Expectations
Trail running with your pups is an absolute blast! …Do you know what you have in store for you (besides all the fun?) Well included, but not limited to: frequent potty breaks, smelling every tree, sudden stops (resulting in tripping so you don’t step on them), frequent flat tires, going faster/slower than you, definitely no PR’ing.
On the bright side you have: happy and tired pups, the chance to kiss them whenever you want, cuddle buddy for the summits (or stopping areas), bonding time, did I mention snuggles?
There is so much more good than bad (if you can even call it bad!). The ups and downs are all part of the adventure– there are ways to train your pup to be a better running partner, but today I am just going to speak freely of my trail running experience with my two favorite leashed pups– Boone & Crockett.
It’s a handful at times–most times, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world!
Go on an adventure with me!
Expectation #1: Potty Breaks
This is quite inevitable. Your dogs will have to go the bathroom, more than once. There are just too many awesome sticks to only pee on one– so expect to stop multiple times an hour.
The poop is another factor. There are a few ways of dealing with poop. You can pick it up and carry it throughout your run (best bet!), but if you do not have an ideal set-up for carrying poop then I would recommend burying it like you would your own!
How do I deal with poo? I pick it up with a biodegradable poop bag and put it in my Ruffwear belt water holder (I usually carry our water in my hydration pack, so this little spot is perfect for poo-holding!). If you do not have such a set up, you could invest in a pack for your pup so they can carry their own poop (it only slightly embarrasses them!).
Expectation #2: Tripping Hazards
The tripping hazards are set in place for both YOU and your pup(s). There will be times when both occur.
Having the right leash and properly positioning yourself amongst your pup(s) hopefully will diminish such accidents from happening– I am already clumsy enough without the extra challenges!
First off the leash situation: I personally can not hold two leashes and enjoy the experience so I have a Ruffwear belt where I can attach the leashes to (totally hands-free!). This belt is wonderful and I use it in all situations (walking, running, hiking, etc). In conjunction with this I use Surf’s Up Dog coil leashes which allow some give, but not enough slack to the point where the boys are constantly tripping (this is the most annoying for all involved!).
Properly Positioning yourself will depend on your dog’s pace. Luckily I have one fast dog and one semi-slow dog (sorry to call you out Boone). Ideally if Crockett runs in front of me and Boone either runs behind me or to the side of me then it is smooth sailing. There are times when the trail is very narrow and I have to enforce the “one in front, one behind” rule. This helps with foot visibility (so I don’t step in a rut and twist thy ankles!) and also my gait can be a bit more natural with the adjusted space.
If you have one dog, then you probably won’t have to worry about this as much, but it is still important to find what works best for you and your pup so everyone is comfortable.
Also, if your dog tends to pull then I would recommend a front clip harness or a gentle leader (my favorite invention!). While you won’t notice the pulling on the ascent as much, the descent will be a real b i t c h as every step will be an “oh $h!t” moment.
Expectation #3: Having Fun
Most importantly, trail running should be crazy amounts of fun! You are cruising through the trees, every step is a quick one and the birds are singing you to success. Your dogs’ tongues are hanging out of their mouths, big smiles on their faces. You don’t have time to think, only time to be present– in the moment.
You can set your bar high or low– my strategy? I set my bar to the happiness expectation only. If I am not having fun, then I adjust it so I am (we are). If I am having TOO much fun, then I am doing it just right.
Be comfortable, have fun and kiss your pups often to let them know just how much this time means to you.
This is it. Trail running can be simple, free and fun.
It is your time to connect with your dog, experience some place new– walk when you need to, run when you can and sport a smile for each and every mile (goodness, I am just a master rhymer over here!).
If you’re not having fun, find a different way. Your dogs don’t care where you adventure as long as they are with you. Always take your dog, even if it is harder. Who cares about PR’s anyway, right?
Happy trails & tails,
Ciara, Boone & Crockett