I know of runners who don’t train with their dogs. Their reasons surprise me – too hot, too cold, the dog can’t keep up, the dog pulls. To me there is something terribly wrong with these excuses. Dogs are meant to run.
As for me, I refuse to leave my mutt Ace behind, even if that means walking.
Ace is a tall, shorthaired lab mix. He’s mostly retriever but has a lean frame with visible muscles like a Vizsla or Weimaraner. He slows and does his best not to pull during my slower days. On his slow days (they are rare) or if he gets too hot, I decrease my running speed as well. After all, if it weren’t for Ace, I might’ve quit running a long time ago.
Since I own a dog running and dog walking business in Solana Beach, I run so often it’s easy to forget why I started dog running in the first place.
Running is something I can call my own. It’s something for just my dogs and me. My boyfriend does not run. My family members do not run. My friends in town do not run. But the dogs? They’re always eager for a run.
I got the idea to train for a full marathon in January 2007. This was before I had a dog of my own. I went out for my first 14-mile training run. Then a 15-miler. Then 16 miles.
Thoughts about what dog I would adopt filled my mind during these runs and motivated me to keep going. I’d been reading humane society and rescue profiles online and had my mind set on a few dogs – Ace being one of them.
I adopted my mutt in March, just two months before the 2007 Fargo Marathon. Ace immediately took on his role as my running buddy and accompanied me on my typical 6-mile runs as well as longer 10- to 20-mile runs once a week. His frame and energy made him an ideal training partner.
When it’s –20 degrees in Fargo, Ace is still willing to run. Sometimes it’s so cold that my eyelashes freeze together and Ace’s drool crystallizes. We don’t care. I throw on an extra layer and Ace wears his boots and vest and out we go.
I know what times of day to run and on which routes during what seasons in order to maximize my time alone – time with my dog or whatever dog I happen to be running at that particular hour.
Running is exciting because I know that the older I get, the stronger I will become. At 26, I am not yet in my running prime. I realize this is all a matter of attitude, but I refuse to believe I should be slowing down already. My faster times, fewer injuries and increased mileage prove my point.
Still, after just two and a half years of running with my dog, I’ve noticed my dog’s pace has slowed. Already, Ace is older than me (about 34 or so) in dog years.
Good thing I don’t care much about speed. If I leave my watch at home or refuse to look at it until I get home, Ace keeps me at a steady 10-minute mile pace. It seems to be where we have melded after so many workouts together.
My mutt Ace, as well as the canine runners across the country offer more support to runners than they will ever know.
If I can offer a dog one thing, it’s to go for a run. Whether it’s a paid client, a rescue dog, a friend or family member’s dog or my mutt Ace, you won’t find me running without a buddy at my side.
For more, see my other post on my dog running business.
Note: This is a guest post by David Sutton of Sutton Studios. David is a photographer from the Chicago area. His company photographs dogs, cats, horses and other animals, as well as kids and families. Portraits include anything from pets to families to commercial work.
If you want to catch your dog’s spirit in photos, it’s important to understand how the pros work!
These tips will help you capture your pup’s personality so you can get great looking photos.
1. Prep work
If you want to see your dog’s true colors, it’s important to make him or her feel and look their best ahead of time. Bathe and/or groom your pup a day or two before the photo shoot. If you don’t typically groom your dog, skip this step – you want the dog to look natural.
Take your dog on a walk the morning of the shoot. Nothing too strenuous as you want some high-energy shots, but just a quick walk to start the day off right and insure that your dog is in the best mood possible so his or her personality will shine!
2. Black and white
Subtracting color can add so much to a photo. I like black and white because it offers an interpretation of the scene rather than a reproduction. Black and white images also look more timeless – like they’re from another era – so your photos will stand the test of time!
Allow for enough time and take a lot of pictures. Don’t give up after one or two shots. Professionals know to wait and “work the scene.” Sometimes you get your best shots right away but more often they come as the result of making each new shot an improvement on the one you just did. Take dozens of photos, then EDIT!
If you’re using a digital camera, extra frames don’t cost anything but your time. Don’t be afraid to hit DELETE and keep only the strongest images- that’s what the pros do.
3. Set the scene to play
Dogs love to play! It allows them to be free and express themselves. Bring his or her favorite toys and watch their personality come to life. Be sure you have the shot framed and ready so you can snap away once you’ve got the dog’s attention. Treats are also great for keeping your dog focused.
4. Find your light
Avoid using your on-camera flash, if you can. Your pet’s eyes will reflect the light and come out looking like big green saucers – not looking like the dog you know and love! It’s best to find natural light near a window or outside.
You’ll find the best outdoor lighting early in the day or in late afternoon. If you’re shooting indoors, try using a high ISO film or digital camera setting.
5. Get down!
Go down to your dog’s level on the floor – inhabit his or her world! Photos at this angle give your pet the importance he or she deserves.
Also remember to get in close to capture some terrific personality shots. Alternately, you can try raising your dog up by putting him or her on a table or stool. Being eye-to-eye with your subject creates more compelling photos.
David Sutton is a pet and family portrait photographer of Chicago-based Sutton Studios. Visit suttonstudios.com for more information and to purchase a 2010 Dog Days Calendar – proceeds go directly to help animal welfare agencies!
(Photos taken by Sutton Studios)
Four years ago, I owned a purebred dog.
This was before I owned a mutt, before I got involved in dog rescue and before I knew what a blog was. I’d never even thought about dog agility, starting a dog running business or fostering a pitbull.
But each dog that enters my life really does seem to open a new chapter, and Ace has introduced me to a whole new world with dogs.
Still, my life would not be the same without my golden retriever, Brittni.
Although this blog is primarily related to my mutt Ace, countless other dogs are intertwined throughout my posts including family members’ dogs, foster dogs and readers’ dogs.
Brittni is a dog I’ve failed to write much about.
A good dog
If each dog represents a new phase in my life, Brittni was my high school and college years. She appeared during my freshmen year of high school and died right when I started my first job after college. Just as those years seemed to go by in a blur, Brittni’s life seemed unfairly cut short.
In a matter of days Brittni went from being a healthy, energetic 7-year-old to a deathly ill and suddenly old dog.
Euthanasia and dogs is something I’ve touched very briefly in my dog blog, probably because it’s a difficult subject. Plus, the dog I own is still very young, so I don’t think about the end yet.
The vet’s best guess for Brittni’s illness was an autoimmune disease (autoimmune hemolytic anemia). Basically her own immune system was destroying her red blood cells.
My only advice to other dog owners is to think ahead about the final decisions you’ll have to make for your dog. Don’t wait until shock and emotions play too much of a toll.
A dog’s anxiety
Brittni was the first dog I trained through formal obedience classes. Although I was teaching her, in reality she was training me about dogs, their behavior and the thrill I get from working with them.
The bond she and I formed was very strong, and anyone who’s ever owned a golden retriever knows all about their loyalty, devotion and love.
Brittni challenged me and got me thinking about dogs in a new way. Her many “issues” showed me the importance of socialization and exercise. Brittni was an extremely anxious dog, letting out shrill screams every time we met someone new, visited somewhere new or pretty much every time we did something out of her usual routine.
There’s no way to describe these crying fits Brittni did other than to maybe picture a full-grown husky put into a kennel and having a panic attack, howling and squealing to get out.
I remember one time my trainer was fed up with Brittni’s behavior and said to me in a hushed, scolding voice, “She needs to know that this is not acceptable!” All I thought was: Well, hello! That’s why I’m here!
Many of the suggestions I tried with Brittni did not work: Shaking a can filled with change at her (made her more anxious), leash pops (she literally could not control herself, correction or not) and telling her she was bad (also added to her anxiousness).
What worked best with Brittni was patience, long walks, ignoring unwanted behavior, praising her for being quiet and slowly bringing her to more and more places and introducing her to more people and dogs.
Anxiety or not, Brittni and I got to do a fair amount of traveling and hiking. I will always remember my long walks with her along the Luce Line trail west of Minneapolis and how she would run off leash at my side, never bothering to venture too far. We could walk for miles in all seasons, often going an hour without seeing anyone.
Had Brittni and Ace been around at the same time, I’m sure they would’ve been great friends. Brittni had that classic, happy-go-lucky retriever personality I now see in Ace. And like him, Brittni had an immeasurable desire to please, be with her pack and follow me from room to room.
I just wanted to share a bit about my wonderful and beautiful dog from my past. She helped me get where I’m going today. Thank you, Brittni, “the babe,” you were a good girl.
Please share with me your stories of dogs now gone.
In memory of Brittni
Well I can add a new obsession to Ace’s list – golf balls. Nothing frustrates me more than when my dog is so focused on a ball that he won’t respond to the most basic commands like come, heel, sit.
So last week while Josh was hitting golf balls in the back yard (we’re fortunate to live along a large field), I took Ace out with us for a serious on-leash training session.
I always tell people to work with the problem rather than pretend the problem is not there. When a dog is aggressive around bikes, she needs to be around more bikes. If a dog is obsessive about cats, she needs to meet more cats.
Ace and I worked on some basics – sit and stay with our backs to the golfer, recalls, leave it and heeling. Basically all I was asking him to do was ignore Josh, the golf balls and the golf club.
I encouraged eye contact, focus on me and self control. When Ace became fixated, I simply walked him away and asked him to sit and stay with his back to Josh until he relaxed. Looking at me rather than turning to look at the golf balls was a huge challenge for Ace.
We’ve let Ace retrieve golf balls before – a useful job for him. But he’s also so obsessive that he won’t dodge a swinging club or give the golfer any space. Not only is this dangerous but it’s extremely annoying.
That’s why I worked on training with a leash and our old friend the pinch collar. It was a good training session. Ace was successful (for the most part), and I had the satisfaction of working with my dog.
What issues does your dog have that you need to remind yourself to work on?
Volunteers participating in the 19th annual FM Humane Society Paws walk are now collecting donations for the Fargo humane society.
Money raised will help care for the animals that stay at the humane society until they find forever homes.
A 15-minute fun walk is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Sept. 12 at the main shelter in Lindenwood Park (1701 Fifth St. S., Fargo) for all volunteers and their pets. Donations will be collected prior to the walk.
The walk will take place rain or shine. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. Ace and I took part in the walk last year. Tons of dogs showed up and it’s so much fun!
A group of friends and I are gathering donations for the FM Humane Society. If you would like to donate, you may do so by clicking on the PayPal button below. Any amount is appreciated!
If you would like to raise money for the Fargo humane society yourself, go ahead and start collecting donations now and register in person on the day of the walk. Participate as an individual or as a team. Checks can be made out to the FM Humane Society or FMHS.
You can always send donations directly to the FM Humane Society at any time through the donation page on its web site.
A silent auction, refreshments and prizes will be available at the Paws Walk. Proceeds from the silent auction will be used for spaying and neutering the animals at the humane society.
Our tan tabby cat Beamer came from the humane society. The staff there also helped direct me to the right dog when I adopted Ace, even though I did not end up adopting a dog directly from the humane society.
Pets available for adoption at the FM Humane Society are listed on PetFinder. Other dogs for adoption in Fargo are listed on my adoption page.
Other Fargo pet events in September:
Large and giant dog breed meetup
When: 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 5 and Sept. 19 at Yunker’s Farm Dog Park in Fargo (1201 28th Ave. N.)
Adoption days at Petco
When: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 8 and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 22 at the Fargo Petco (1126 43rd St. S.W.)
Come meet the pets available for adoption through Adopt-A-Pet of Fargo Moorhead.
Adoption days at PetSmart
When: Sept. 11-13 at the West Fargo PetSmart (1630 13th Ave. E.)
Check out pets for adoption from several rescue groups in Fargo.
Rummage sale benefiting 4 Luv of Dog
4 Luv of Dog Rescue is participating in the West Fargo Parks fall rummage sale from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Veterans Memorial Arena in West Fargo (1201 Seventh Ave. E.).
Money from this sale will be used to help pay for the rescue dogs under 4 Luv of Dog’s care. Items are being accepted for the sale and can be dropped off at the Natural Pet Center in Fargo (3037 13th Ave. S.).
Dog training at Red River North Dog Obedience Club
The next session for training classes at Red River North Dog Obedience Club (2202 Third Ave. N., Fargo) starts Sept. 14. Make sure to check out the full class schedule including puppy classes, obedience and agility.
Dog training at Canine Academy
New classes start Sept. 28 at Canine Academy now located at the fairground in West Fargo (1805 Main Ave. W.). Classes offered include puppy classes, obedience and agility.
If you know of any other dog events that should be listed, let me know by leaving a comment.