Old Trainer

Distance running and dog costumes. Having fun with your pets

DEAR OLD TRAINER: My kids wanted to dress Boris and Katy, our Basset Hounds, in antlers and red sweaters with bells for the local kid’s Christmas parade. I told them okay and the dogs didn’t seem to mind, or even notice it for that matter, but it bothered me a little. What’s your opinion on costumes or human clothes on dogs?

Rita, Colorado Springs, Colo.

A: One of the great things about dogs is if you want to jump around and act foolish, your dog will join in and act foolish with you.

I’ve never put costumes on my dog, but I put sun glasses on them now and then when I take them to the ski area. Doesn’t bother them and the showoffs in the pack seem to enjoy the attention they get.

Dogs are experts at letting humans know if something makes them unhappy. Tails and ears drop, body language slumps, spirits droop. If you see that, forget the costume. If you see wagging tails and bright eyes and lots of energy—at least the Basset version of lots of energy—go ahead and dress them up.

DEAR OLD TRAINER: I just rescued Trig, a 3-year old Springer Spaniel/Pointer mix, to run with me. I run three miles a day at least four times a week and try to go five miles one day. At the shelter they said I should keep him in a pen at all times to conserve his energy so he can run that far. What do you recommend for training and can a dog run five miles?

Ryan, San Jose, Calif.

A: Congratulations on adopting a shelter dog. They know they have been rescued and form a special bond only rescued dogs feel.

The advice to keep Trig in a pen is nonsense. He’s a running machine with distance runner DNA on both sides of his family tree, and more energy than a power station. Conserving his energy is the last thing you need to worry about. He can run five miles three times a day and still want more.

The idea a heart is pre-wired to have only so many beats before it fails went out with Nehru jackets and rotary phones. The heart is a muscle. The more you exercise it the stronger it becomes. That’s why athletes in every sport work out year-round.

Canine athletes need conditioning just as humans do. A dog loses both physical conditioning and mental acuity when locked away. The more Trig runs the happier and healthier he will be.

Put Trig on an exercise regimen today. And I don’t mean walk him 10 blocks on a short leash. To Trig that’s the equivalent of a couch potato getting up and walking to the kitchen for ice cream.

Trig needs to run every day, but you don’t start with a 3-mile with him anymore than you do with a human. Alternate walking and running each quarter mile and work up to running a mile at the end of week one. Add half a mile every three days until you are doing three miles. Use an expandable leash, not a short one.

Treat Trig like the athlete he is—give him a water break half way through the run and keep him off hot pavement—and he’ll teach you to run more miles at a faster pace.

A trainer for more than 30 years, Jack Haskins has rescued, trained and placed more than 2,500 dogs. Send questions to theoldtrainer@gmail.com.