Sunday, March 16, 2008

How far can your dog run?

How far can your dog run?
I recently read a post by Bad Ben, the Kansas City Trail Nerd. His journeys and musings about the ultra world just plain old fascinate me. But the post that made me cry was one that eulogized his dog. An obvious dog lover I empathized with him and questioned my personal pursuits with my dog’s ambitions and motivations. Was I doing him more harm than good?

My golden retriever is a great dog. A running dog, he is close to three years old and together we’ve put in a couple of thousand miles or more. Lately I’ve pondered the question how far is too far for a dog. When people hear about how far we run they say that that’s too far for a dog to run.

Several factors I keep in back of my little brain in our training for an ultra distance event.
1) Build up mileage gradually. Koda and I have a good base we taken quite a few months to build up to our 20+ miles on Saturday. And for now we are completely resting the day after. We run about 45 miles a week in total.
2) Hydration. I’ve tried bringing collapsible bowls and his own water supply but it’s like the old adage says “you can lead a dog to water but you can’t make him drink”. Many gallons of water have been hauled around for not. These days I make sure I run by clean running streams no deeper than his paws. Koda is a swimmer and will lie down in puddles if I let him. He doesn’t always drink but I still give him ample opportunity to drink something.
3) Nutrition. Like me Koda has to re-fuel on the run. I prefer gels but have recently explored the gel blocks. I never use to think this was a big deal until I started feeding him Sharkies. Koda loves Sharkies and I prefer Clif Shot Bloks. It got to be pretty expensive as we literally shared 50/50. So due to my needs I was buying twice as much as I needed. Yesterday’s long run I bought dog biscuits. Nutro Lamb & Rice the same brand of food that he eats. I also checked the label to make sure it is high in protein, 23% by weight. It didn’t seem to upset his stomach so I think we’re on track.
4) Heat. So far are build up has been gradual and during the fall, winter and spring months. Last summer I was only doing 10 milers on Saturday. But I also run at 5 am before sunrise so its cold even in the summer here on the west coast. My concerns with heat are dehydration, over heating, and blistering his paws. All these can be concerning but I run more trails in the summer and there is usually streams and ponds to cool off in. My golden retriever is usually a brown retriever after a few pond swims. I think its funny, my wife . . . not so much!
5) Age. Like I said Koda is only 3 years old. As a big dog I know he won’t be around forever. But I also know that keeping him active will keep him lean and help prevent things like arthritis and hip dysplasia and other ailments for big dogs.

Eventually I know that there will come a time where I’ll have to leave him at home. I am not looking forward to this and I know he will put up a huge fuss. But in the mean time I plan to live in the moment and enjoy every run and laugh at every pond swim and take care of him all along the way.


  1. Found your blog on CRN. I live in Kansas City, and have run a few of Bad Ben's road runs, but never one of his trail runs. He's an awesome individual, and I, too, was sad to read about his dog. Anyway, happy "trails" as you keep running.

  2. My running buddy is in the hospital getting a total hip replacement as of this morning.
    You can see a picture of him on my blog. He's a Golden Retriever, Black Lab mix.
    He's already had one hip replaced at the age of 1 year old.
    He had turned 3 on Sunday which happens to be my Birthday.

    I was sitting there yesterday listening to people yap about how lamb and rice is the best for dogs.

    I hope to get him out there by fall for some short runs.

  3. The group I run with allows dogs to run with us but only up to 10 - 12K after that, especially in the winter with all the salt on the roads, or in the summer with the heat, they advise the runners not to bring their dogs. (this is an in town group).

    When I run out where I live in the country, my other running friend brings her dog along (a yellow lab) who can run without a leash. Again, she only lets her run with us up to the 10K mark.

    I suppose it depends upon your running buddy, if he likes the longer runs and he isn't in danger of cars, other dogs, etc....hey, it's always nice to have company!

  4. I've been running with my 2 year old golden for about an year now. She hates the heat, so she took most of last summer off, but our long runs now are typically 10-12 miles. I could not dream of a better running partner. One think I found very handy is that she figured out how to drink from my water bottle. I can let it drip in her mouth. It is much more efficient and I don't need to bring special stuff for her to drink out of. Of course though, it is always easier if we run next to some creek, where she can drink out of.

    Do you really think it is necessary to bring food along even for a 3 hour run? I know that sled dogs run more than that in a day, pulling a sled and they just get breakfast and dinner.

    Happy running!
    I & D