Thursday, June 7, 2007

Wall Street Journal Article

This article points out the benefits of running with your dog (leashed), as opposed to, your dog running amok in a city park.

April 17, 2007

Benefits of a Canine Running Mate
By Kevin Helliker

Hearing the shriek of a fierce wind outside, I tried sleeping late the other morning. But my 80-pound Labrador came beside the bed and bumped her cold nose against my ankle. In her view, an April snowstorm is no excuse for canceling our predawn run. So moments later we were jogging down the dark shoreline, assaulted by pellets of ice, watching the sky brighten over Lake Michigan. It was exhilarating.

After decades of jogging with friends, colleagues and loved ones, I've come to see that the ideal running mate is a dog. She is not competitive. Your fastest speed is nothing next to hers, so you will never run too fast for her. But neither will she whine about, let alone ridicule, your slowness. The only time she will complain is when you don't run at all, and that type of push is what personal trainers charge money for.

There is growing appreciation of the value of having a workout companion, reflected in the popularity of Web sites such as, which matches partners in athletics. Running doesn't require a partner. But "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" is more than just a great book: Over the course of hours on the running path, solitude starts to feel like isolation.

Unlike humans, of course, dogs can't talk. But any runner who has had a long-winded partner knows that silence isn't the worst quality. And unlike humans, dogs don't show up late, cancel or argue about which course to take.

A canine jogging companion can confer health benefits beyond the lift to your workout regimen. A body of scientific evidence shows that pet ownership can protect health. A pet can decrease blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and improve mood, among other benefits, says the Web site of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Yet these benefits accrue only if owner and pet manage to make it work. The most popular pet in America, dogs are also the most problematic, in large part because a growing number of them live in houses or tightly confined yards. Of the nearly 45 million American homes with dogs, a large percentage represent the second or third owners for those canines, pet advocates say. Owners often get frustrated by out-of-control chewing, barking, biting, whining or accidents on the rug.

Demand for help is so great that an entire industry -- replete with antidepressants, canine psychologists and shock collars -- is developing around canine control. But often the answer is as simple as exercise. In fact, canine expert Cesar Millan, star of the television show "Dog Whisperer," ranks exercise first -- ahead of discipline and affection -- as the key to a well-behaved dog. There are even treadmills for dogs to get them exercise.

A border collie mix named Flynn exhausted the patience of the first two families that adopted him from -- then returned him to -- a Chicago shelter. Then a marathoner whose running partner had moved away visited the shelter seeking a four-legged replacement. The marathoner, David Hill, found that several fast-paced miles a day relieved Flynn's anxiety and hyperactivity. "The running totally calms him down," says Mr. Hill, who now is a professional dog-runner, giving others' pets a workout.

The sheer pleasure that dogs take in running can remind performance-obsessed humans what's really important. After an ankle injury sidelined a competitive Boston runner named Jill Hourihan, depleting her conditioning, she was reluctant to start training again. Enter Alex, her run-happy dog. "He'd stand at the door with the leash in his mouth, and that would get me going," she says.

Security is another benefit. A head-in-the-clouds runner, I can count on my dog to see, hear and smell every creature nearby, including an array of Chicago wildlife from squirrels to the occasional coyote.

Dogs, especially large breeds, can run farther than humans. But like humans, they must build distance gradually. Small dogs can run farther and faster than most owners might think. But dogs of any size shouldn't be run seriously, especially on pavement, until they are nearly full-grown, some veterinarians say. English bulldogs may be one breed not built for running.

Cold is rarely a problem, but heat stroke can kill dogs, so run at dawn, dusk or night during summer. When a normally energetic dog seems sluggish, don't push him. He may be sick or overheated.

The online article can be found here: