Thursday, December 26, 2013

Who is Running Who? A Ridiculously Simple Way to Improve Running with Your Dog

You may not know this about me, but I have a teenager. A teenager that is becoming increasingly unruly by the day. He doesn't listen. He thinks he knows everything. He does as he pleases. He doesn't respect my authority. He whines when he doesn't get his way. Does this sound like your teenager? He also poops in the back yard. My teenager is Ollie, my English Pointer.

Ollie is getting big...and strong. We adopted him about a year ago when he was 1 1/2 years old. A year later and at about 80 lbs, it is clear that he is growing into a rambunctious teenager. I don't have any (human) children of my own, but I now have this rebellious teenaged dog. I know I have written blogs in the past about tips for running with your dog and why dogs make better running partners than people, but lately Ollie has been down-right impossible.

The Problem?

What has changed? As he is growing, he is getting much stronger. He has a strong body and an even stronger will. We've had two incidents last month within a couple of weeks. I told you about what happened at the turkey trot, right? He set his sights on a Great Dane and Ollie won, not against the Great Dane, but against me. Ollie 1: Lea 0. He pulled and pulled and when I grabbed him by the collar to try to get him under the control, he kept going and dragged me right off my feet and through the mud. My weight hardly even slowed him down. My dog is too strong for me.

Then later that same week, we were on our regular running route in the neighborhood and he became fixated on a barking dog from behind a fence. He wouldn't stop. He pulled. I tried to grab him by his collar again to get him under control and my hand slipped all the way up the leash...I ended up with a nasty case of leash burn. It was burning and bleeding where the skin bubbles burst. I was almost in tears. How can I control my dog on our runs?

This was the "leash burn" after about two weeks.
I was so mad at Ollie, but he really had no idea. Besides, how could you stay mad at this guy?
Why can't I go running too mama?
He's a sweet dog that doesn't mean any real harm, he just gets...well, excited! Then every time I would put on my shoes to run, he would think he was coming with me, but I couldn't do it anymore. If I couldn't control him, I couldn't take him. It made me sad. It made him sad too! He would whine at the front door until I came home, probably not understanding why he couldn't run too. How could I have a blog called Running with Ollie if I couldn't run with Ollie? I needed to find a solution to my problem.

The Solution.

I started searching online and I found the Sporn per halter on Amazon that was pretty inexpensive, so I thought it would be worth a try. The Sporn pet halter is a harness that goes around his body and front legs. It claimed to be a humane way to stop the pulling without choking or hurting your dog. I really liked the idea that it didn't go around his nose like some of the ones that I had seen before. We bought a size large for 80 lb Ollie.

When it arrived, we removed his regular collar and hubby helped me slip it on him around his front legs before we were off for our regular run. At first, I think he felt something different and was acting a little strange. He would run a little, then stop, then run, then stop. I think he might have been getting used to the way it felt. It took about a half a mile the first time out before he started to run normally.

The great thing? When I would need to bring him back under control, one little tug at the leash and he would stop in his tracks. If he ran too far ahead and the leash pulled out to the end, he would stop himself. If he started to get aggressive and bark at another dog, one small tug at the leash and he would stop pulling. Even when he saw a cat and he really was determined to chase after him, it just took a slight tug and he would stop. He was particularly excited about the cat so he would keep trying, but every time, one little tug at the leash would stop him. This was quite a change from our turkey trot misadventure where the entire weight of my body couldn't stop him.

The only funny thing he did is that when he had his sights set on that cat, he would crouch really low to the ground, I've never seen him do that before. I'm not sure if he thought he could get out from under the harness, but of course, it didn't work.

Ollie Approved.

I paid extra attention to his demeanor, as I wanted to be 100% sure that I wasn't hurting him at all. His tail was wagging, he never whined or displayed any signs of discomfort. The straps around his legs are wrapped in soft Sherpa to minimize rubbing and for the dog's comfort.

Ollie didn't seem to mind it at all. I love it because it allows me to stay in control. We can just run together again without worrying about Ollie getting out of hand. It works great for walks or runs. It brought my unruly teenager back under my authority.

the Sporn pet halter

I still think that dogs make better running partners than people.

Whew. That was close. I almost had to change my blog name again.

What about you? Do you ever run with your dog? Do they ever get out of hand? Have you ever tried a harness?

Like this post? Please consider sharing.

Keep Running,


Ways to (legally) stalk me:


  1. So glad you found something that works! It would suck to have to change your blog name. Again. :-)

  2. I just bought something similar to this, Lea for the very same reasons. Layla (90 lb. German Shepherd) goes through spells where she walks just fine with no problems and then, without warning, on one run/walk, it's all I can do not to scream at her :( I love her and want to run with her, but it is just plain dangerous to run with a dog that is stronger than you are when you don't have control. I like the idea of the Sherpa because that is the one thing I've been worried about with Layla's new harness...will it rub under her arms (er, front legs). I had even bought a prong collar bc I was so distressed at not being able to run with Layla. I hate that thing...and so does she. If the harness works, I'm throwing the prong collar away. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Awww. I understand! I was actually surprised it worked as well as it did! :)

  3. O, no, if Ollie is a rambunctious teenager than my labrador is a stuborn old lady ( she's 8). I have tried harness before ( my mother insists that I get a prong collar). I always use the harness but I have to admit she is not a perfect runner. She still tries to do her own thing sometimes. Glad that harness is working for you though!

  4. O, no, if Ollie is a rambunctious teenager than my labrador is a stuborn old lady ( she's 8). I have tried harness before ( my mother insists that I get a prong collar). I always use the harness but I have to admit she is not a perfect runner. She still tries to do her own thing sometimes. Glad that harness is working for you though!

  5. My problem is the opposite -- my dog just doesn't want to go! She will walk, but after a few blocks of running she STOPS until we turn around and head home!

  6. Brandy Z (aka Bayb Heart on Fb)December 27, 2013 at 8:25 AM

    My 2 big dogs (69 lbs and 77 lbs respectively) both pull sometimes also, and want to take off after squirrels, cats, kids on wheels, etc. I use easy walk harnesses on them (leash clips in the middle of their chest) which works great to keep them under control, but are NOT ideal for running (rubs under their legs and the strap across the chest limits their ability to raise their legs-to reduce jumping around). I am definitely going to check out the harness you described, for running. I had thought of using a head halter, but had also heard there was potential for neck injuries if the dog hit the end of the leash abruptly, with enough force. Both my dogs enjoy running with me and I've had to quit when I had to change equipment to be able to control them when all 3 of us are out together.

  7. This harness sounds like a good aid to keep Ollie under control... but don't forget about his training. He needs to be reminded that YOU are the pack leader. I know it sounds cheesy but have you read any of Cesar Milan's books. There are other trainers, but he is very good.

  8. Whew! Glad you were able to get Ollie under control again! My dog, Pippa, just turned three so I like to say she's drinking age now. When I first got her I didn't like the way her collar would pull on her neck when I had her leash attached. I got a harness and she LOVES it! Our walks are her favorite part of the day and we've been running together a few times and the harness really helps! I love the way it pulls back on her chest instead of her neck, which I think gives me more control. She gets excited like Ollie too, so I need all the help I can get. :)

  9. We used to run with our dog and found that a harness worked best. He's a big guy (some sort of bully breed mix) and would constantly choke himself on neck collars, plus we had little control when he'd say, see a squirrel! Like Ollie, he didn't mean any harm... just a strong guy who loved to be out running :)

  10. We have two dogs - both around 110# each. My older one, Greta, is too much for me to handle. I need to wear sneakers when I would walk her so that I could brace myself for squirrel or bunny moments. We tried xl harnesses and even a pig harness but they were all too small for her big barrel chest (and she used to be 150#!). She's 11 now and does not chase every squirrel she sees any more but she hasn't really slowed down either. My other dog, Zeus, would make a great running dog. But if I leave with him, Greta cries the whole time and gets jealous. Then she bullies Zeus for the rest of the day. It's a lose lose situation for all of us.

  11. That's great that the new halter works! I'd be disappointed if I couldn't run with my running buddy, too!

  12. I hadn't heard of this before. I was using a head collar to ride a bike with my dog, but this would be more comfortable for him, I'm sure.

  13. Dogs definitely improve my speed as a runner. But that's because I'm afraid of them. I once got bitten in the butt by this big, bad, bouvier.

    It sounds like your dog doesn't realize you're the boss of him. Once he realizes he has to listen to you, the problem will go away. I have watched the Dog Whisperer!

  14. Mr. Fergus was a HORRIBLE running partner in the beginning. He was too excited to go everywhere that he wanted to go, and he pulled and yanked and pulled and yanked some more. It was not fun at all.

    For the first three weeks that I had him, I would leash him up to go for a run, and every time he pulled me, I would switch direction immediately. We would run about 4k each time, but over the exact same 200m or so. Finally, one day, it just clicked for him that we could turn the corner if he stopped pulling me and followed my lead. And literally since that day, he has been at my side like a champ. He only ever pulls me if he gets really excited because we are running with another person or dog, or when we are about to enter his favourite off-leash space on earth. Otherwise, he is right there beside me and uber focussed on me. And dogs really do make the best running buddies! For sure!

    Now when people come into the house.... well.... that is another story.... BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK!

    Glad you found something to help you control Ollie on your runs. It would be sad not to be able to run with him.

  15. I tried a martingale collar with Elijah but he still continued to pull. I don't have problems with him running with me and he listens to my commands. Luckily I began training him at an early age. He understands leave it and know when I put on my running shoes and his collar, then we are "running" and play time is only AFTER we've completed our run. But he would constantly pull, meaning he would "lead" and I didn't want that. He needed to know that I was leading. So I moved to the prong collar. It took one good yank from him and he never did it again. Most people are afraid of them but they are not cruel. However it is important to put it on properly! If you get the right size and put it on properly, then it works great. With the combo of his training and the collar, I'm able to run with him on a hands free leash with no problems! :)

  16. I run with 2 Vizslas (60 and 65 pounds), and I use a Gentle Leader (head collar) on both, hooked together with a leash coupler, with that leash connected to a 4' leash that goes around my waist. It sounds like you found a great solution for Ollie's end, but I DEFINITELY recommend freeing up your hands/arms to swing in the natural motion. Plus, your waist creates a natural tug against him when Ollie sees something he wants to go for. I feel like we have a little dance on our runs: they go left towards the squirrel/rabbit/cat/dog, I lean right or just lean back or even just keep moving forward and they are pulled towards me, plus no blisters on my hands.

    I just use an extra leash that we had around the house to go around my waist, plus a carabiner to hook the ends together, but there are commercial waist leashes you can find if you poke around on the internet. I have looked at them several times, but I don't feel like I need to spend the money since this set up works so nicely. (I thread the leash that is connected to the dogs onto the 4' leash before I join the ends with the 'biner.)

  17. I am a VERY new runner and I try to run with my basset hound/rottweiler mix (body of the rotty, height of the basset hound--super awkward) to get some of her 2-year-old energy out. I always use a harness on her because she pulls all the time with just her collar and leash. Unfortunately, she still catches a wiff of things and tries to run off and, me being a very inexperienced runner, and it caused me to twist and sprain my ankle! :(

    1. aww! I am so sorry you got injured! I hope you heal quickly! Stay at it! It gets easier... I promise! Good luck!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...