Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Running with Basenjis

Many people have asked me how I trained my basenjis to run with me.  I always respond that it's not so much that they dogs are "trained," as it is that we've learned what to expect from one another while we run.  On a walk, the dogs are absolutely incorrigible -- they constantly cross my path to sniff a mailbox or a tree, they pull this way and that, they go faster or slower (or stop like a ton of bricks) depending on where their little noses lead them.  But on a run this just wouldn't work, because I'd constantly be tripping over them, yanking them forward, or yanking my arm off when they decide to go a different direction than me.  So to make running with basenjis possible, my dogs and I have taught each other a few things:
  1. When we're running, we're not allowed to stop unless it's at one of our regular potty points.  I know which trees and corners my dogs absolutely cannot resist, so I just give in and plan to stop for 10-30 seconds at those points to allow them to sniff and pee.
  2. When we're running, I always keep one eye on the dogs and one eye out for potential dogs/cats/rabbits/squirrels/kids on skateboards.  If it looks like they're getting distracted by a scent or if I see something coming up that I know they're going to chase, I tell them "this way!" while simultaneously bracing for it just in case they don't listen.  Most of the time they do, but sometimes a squirrel is just too tempting to pass up :-)
  3. When we're running, the dogs can either run ahead of me or to the side of me, but they are not allowed to cross my path.  If it looks like they're veering too close to center (or if I see something to my right that I know is going to draw them), I take a few stomping footsteps with my left foot and tell them "Left!" to remind them to stay on their own side.  A few times I have accidentally stepped on little paws and/or tripped over the dogs altogether when I wasn't paying attention, but it's actually been a good lesson because the dogs have learned to stay on their own side when we're going fast. 
  4. No matter what, we avoid sewers and manhole covers like the plague.  Sewers are obviously off-limits for dogs because we don't want any little paws getting stuck in the grate, but for some reason my dogs are also terrified of closed manhole covers, and if I'm not paying attention they will suddenly bolt across my path to avoid one.  Better to just keep an eye out for them and steer clear in the first place! 
While I know that most of these tactics are probably not in the Caesar Milan handbook for how to properly walk your dog, I've found that most basenjis are just never going to be able to follow "typical" doggie obedience behaviors.  But I also know that a tired basenji is a good basenji, and since both the dogs and I like to run, I figured that it makes sense to do it together.  By trial and error we have figured out how to make that work, and so every day the dogs wait anxiously for me to come home from work so we can embark on our daily 3-mile jog around the neighborhood! 

1 comment:

  1. I know from my own experience that running with a basenji is a whole lot less frustrating than walking with one! I think their normal, most comfortable speed is more like a trot than humans' natural gait.

    Unfortunately, my knees started giving me trouble after about a month of jogging. Ruby was so sad. :(