Embracing the ‘dawdler’

Team Thomas’ canine contingent is currently made up of three rescued collie crosses ranging in age and each of them is very individual. For a start they are all crossed with a different breed of dog which instantly sets them apart from each other and gives them distinctive qualities which are breed specific. For example, Donnie, the youngest is a ‘Sprollie’ Springer Spaniel cross collie and he is always darting around in the undergrowth sniffing out trouble as I’m sure many Springer owners can relate to. Judo, the ‘middle child’ is collie cross lurcher (we think) he has definite sight hound qualities and if he sees something to chase – is gone! Tegan, the oldest, is collie cross husky and therefore you’d think she would be the best placed in the team for the job of pulling in harness, being that huskies have for many hundreds of years been successfully used as sled dogs. However, when canicrossing, bikejoring or even scootering, Tegan is a dawdler.

Although Tegan is my sled dog cross who should be more genetically predisposed to pull, she is in fact, my dawdler- Photo courtesy of Rachel Lukoi Blakemore

Although Tegan is my sled dog cross who should be more genetically predisposed to pull, she is in fact, my dawdler- Photo courtesy of Rachel Lukoi Blakemore

What I mean by this is that although she makes an effort to pull in certain situations i.e. on the start line of a canicross race or if she sees a squirrel/rabbit/deer dash out in front of us on a training run, ultimately she likes to trot along beside me or even behind me, taking her time and soaking up the environment around her. The two boys are 99.9% of the time in such a rush to get to wherever it is they think we’re going, that they often miss the passing wildlife and have been known to continue running in spite of the fact I am face down behind them and still attached!

I’ve seen many people on dog sport forums asking the question ‘how do I get my dog to pull me better?’ and I can sympathise. If you are a quick runner there is nothing more frustrating than being held back by a dog who just wants to sniff and pootle along beside or behind you. I’m not a fast runner but I do know Tegan can put a lot more effort in than she does a lot of the time because I’ve seen her shift herself very quickly indeed if you rustle a cheese packet!

So how can you get your dawdling dog to speed up? Things I have found that help are as follows:

1. Give them something to chase – another dog or person in front can encourage a dog to speed up. If something interesting is in front, then 9 times out of 10 you can expect your dog to want to follow it and increase its’ speed to do so.

2. Make the routes you run interesting – don’t just follow the same route day after day, not only is it boring for your dog but your dog may well want to stop to mark its’ territory if the route becomes familiar and they begin to adopt it as an extension of its’ own space. Don’t run on wide open fields where your dog has the opportunity to get bored or not know where it’s supposed to run. By running on single track paths through woodland, your dog will find it easier to follow the trail and dogs often prefer this type of running.

3. Connected to this is what surface you are running on. If you’re running on hard surfaces that are uncomfortable for your dog then you might need to re-assess your run routes to incorporate more grassy trails that are nicer for your dogs paws.

Dogs tend to prefer lovely grassy trails over the harder packed trails but if your dog isn't pulling, avoid large open fields with no clear pathway.

Dogs tend to prefer lovely grassy trails over the harder packed trails but if your dog isn’t pulling, avoid large open fields with no clear pathway.

4. Talk to your dog – you might look silly to everyone else but by raising the pitch of your voice, your energy is given a lift too and by increasing your own energy, you can encourage your dog to do the same.

5. Keep your distances short until your dog is keen to run further again. If you make sure you end your run with your dog wanting more then you know your dog is enjoying the running and they will often be more keen if they know they are only covering a shorter distance.

Of course there is another option and that is to embrace the dawdling!

By allowing yourself to set pace with your dog you will still get to where you’re going, just a bit slower and you may even enjoy the extra things you notice around you because you’re not so focused on rushing along to the next thing. In a society where we’re all rushed off our feet all the time, it’s sometimes nice to just appreciate that you’re out with your dog enjoying something together and I for one will try to remember that the next time my ‘dawdler’ is smiling up at me as she stops for the 10th time in as many minutes.

My dawdler and me making our way slowly up a hill! – (Photo/Chris Clark) © Chris Clark 2012

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One comment on “Embracing the ‘dawdler’

  1. manicivy says:

    My husky, Zeke, will pull or at least run in front most of the time. Sometimes when he’s a little tired or some unknown reason he’ll back off the lead, run next to me & stare at me! It’s kind of funny & I know eventually he will pick up the pace again. If I’m really ready to get going I challenge him to a race & he can’t stand when I run faster than him so he will take off again!

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