Tips for Running With Your Four-Legged Best Friend

 iStockphoto.com

iStockphoto.com

It isn't always easy, but sharing your runs with a four-legged friend can be incredibly rewarding—both for you and for your furry buddy. Before you dive in, though, be sure you're doing things right. Our four-legged friends require some special consideration regarding everything from pace and distance to etiquette around other runners.

Here are some dos and don'ts.

DO be prepared for staring and rude questions.
It is a sad reality that many folks see our four-legged friends as nothing but novelties or even "freaks" simply because they have two additional legs. Many will gawk as you pass by. Some may even snap photos. Others might ask hurtful questions, such as, "Oh my God, does that guy have four legs?"

Try to ignore such behavior. And remember: You should not be expected to pause your run just because a stranger wants to take a selfie with your four-legged friend.

DON'T push it.
Let your four-legged friend set the pace. It's important that he be allowed to go at his own speed. Likewise, begin with very easy runs—as little as 5 or 10 minutes at first—and build distance gradually.

DO stick close together.
Your four-legged friend needs to know that you're running as a team, so keep close. He will find this reassuring, and will learn to watch you and follow your cues. 

DON'T run too close together.
Our four-legged friends face obvious challenges when moving at any pace faster than a walk. Namely, getting their legs to work in unison. This can result in a gait best described as "ungainly." For this reason, you need to give your buddy adequate room to move.

Once your run is finished, lavish praise on him for doing such a good job and give him a beer.

DO choose a flat, open route.
You might think that their extra appendages make it easier for our four-legged friends to navigate tricky terrain. Like, twice as easy. Wrong! For most of our four-legged friends, rocky trails and steep climbs present special challenges. Their extra legs are actually a hindrance in such situations.

DON'T ignore signs of distress.
Your four-legged friend may not know how to tell you he's suffering. If he begins to appear sluggish or confused during your run, or if he is panting heavily, take a break. Seek shade and share a cool drink. If these signs persist, cut your run short.

DO have a restroom strategy beforehand.
Because of their anatomical quirk, our four-legged friends may find it difficult or impossible to use traditional porta potties. Plan your route accordingly, trying to include at least one restroom that will accommodate your four-legged companion. Bring some poo bags, just in case.

DON'T let him bother others.
Your four-legged friend will be curious about this exciting new environment and will naturally want to "say hello" to any runners, cyclists, or walkers that you happen to come across. Try to discourage this—you may know your four-legged friend is harmless, but they don't.

DO offer a treat afterward.
Remember: You want your four-legged friend to feel good about running with you. Once your run is finished, lavish praise on him for doing such a good job and give him a beer.

DON'T forget the lube.
Extra legs = extra chafing. Apply sports lube or petroleum jelly liberally before your run. Don't be shy.

DO have fun.
That's what running with your four-legged friend is all about!