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Tips for racing with your dog

Tips for racing with your dog

We ran our first family race a few weeks ago. And by family I don’t mean that I ran with my child but with my dog. Eli is my training buddy. He can run three quick miles or 10 long ones. He runs in the cold, in the snow (with the right precautions), and in the sunny summer months. He loves the outdoors as much as I do and his face is pure joy when I lace up my running shoes.

So when I saw an announcement for a dog-friendly race, I knew we had to sign-up. The day of the race ended up being snowy and the course was mostly on dirt so we were both muddy and wet by the end of the race, but that didn’t seem to put a damper on either of our moods.

After running a dog-friendly race I’ve come to realize that, like anything that has to do with dogs, there is an etiquette and a few simple tips can make the whole event more enjoyable for all. Below are my tips for your best doggie race day.

  1. Don’t run with a retractable leash. In the race I ran, and all the other dog-friendly races I’ve researched, dogs must be on a leash. Make sure that leash is non-retractable or set your retractable one at a short length. With all the dogs and people crammed together, the starting line was chaotic. Don’t complicate the situation by creating extra tripping hazards. Keeping a tight leash in a race is paramount to everyone’s safety.
  2. Run on the side of the course your dog is familiar with. Eli has been trained to run on the right side. Therefore, we ran on the right side of the course, with him on the outside edge, away from all the other runners.
  3. Don’t expect to PR. Look at a dog-friendly race as your dog’s time to enjoy his training! There are just too many extra obstacles in this type of race. Not to mention a lot of sniffing. Let go of expectations and you’ll enjoy the race a lot more.
  4. Watch where you’re going. Our race didn’t require owners to pick up after their dogs during the run. While nice that the race staff did this for us, with 300 dogs running, it paid to watch the ground.
  5. Take it all in. At the start of the race all the dogs started to howl and bark. They must have felt the excitement of race day. It was hilarious to listen to them go wild and watch their faces light up when it was go time, sort of like watching a child in a swimming pool. Be sure to take a moment and remember the joy of running through a dog’s eyes!

Look out for dog-friendly races in your area. They are becoming more and more popular and can bring a light-hearted spirit to your racing season. And don’t forget: the WalkJogRun app has a special dog-friendly route feature!

Written by Lisa Chase.