Saturday I was reminded of the WC Fields quote – “Never work with children or animals”. It was the Dogs for Duchenne 5K in Lakewood Ranch and I decided that it would be a good time for our 2 year old chocolate labrador, Bella, to do her first race.
Bella is 77lbs. and a ball of energy. While she responds to basic commands, she is still a little hyper especially around crowds and other dogs. So when I signed her up for the race, I was still asking myself was this a good idea? In hindsight the answer is a definite yes.
We did a good amount of training and she built up to trotting the required 3 miles without stopping. We were given a harness by our friends at Three Dog Bakery and purchased a bungee lead that had a waist attachment. This would allow hands free running. So all the pieces were in place.
The proceeds for Doggies for Duchenne (“D4D”) benefited both the Humane Society at Lakewood Ranch and the Another Day for Gray Foundation. These are both great causes to run for. I believe over $12,000 was raised with the event.
Race day came and we headed to the start line. There must have been over 20 dogs of various sizes as well as over 100 regular 5k runners. The scene would have been a challenge to even The Dog Whisperer. Some dogs being well behaved, others wanted to socialize and some just wanted their voice to be heard. All in all, the dogs behaved pretty well considering.
As the horn blew for the start, all of Bella’s training was thrown out of the window. She bolted out of the gate and off down the road with me in tow. Any of you that have Labradors know that, even though they are a large breed, they can pick up some speed. Thank goodness for the bungee lead – otherwise I would have been flat on my face! I didn’t really need to run the first mile, merely hold on for the ride. Bella, to her credit, did not lunge at other dogs as we ran together. She was more focused on catching the dogs in front of her. By the time we reached the water stop just after mile 1, she was ready for some water and settled in to a nice trot. I was feeling it after a 6-7 minute first mile, but good old Bella was still going.
As we continued, I was pleased that she responded well to hand signals and commands on what direction to follow as well as staying by my side as we trotted. This is a major improvement
After mile 2, Bella was starting to lose her attention span and the 3rd mile was a lot slower. There was a lot of side to side movement, grass sniffing and I learned the benefit of the waist attachment. I learned that you can pirouette as your dog goes side to side and behind you without getting tangled up in the lead. This is a must for all dog runners.
We crossed the finish line triumphant – dog and man. Then we found out that we forgot to pick up a timing chip at the start, so our time didn’t get recorded. In all the effort to control Bella before the start, I also forgot to start my GPS watch so I haven’t a clue what our final time was. It was something in the 30 minute range which was good for Bell’s first race. Still we had a great time and Bella is now a race dog.
The post race party was Bella’s biggest challenge. It was in a small space with lots of dogs, food, tents and people. This made me realize that we need to work more on her socialization skills, especially around other dogs. Not that she is vicious or anything like that. She just wants to lunge and play and forgets that she is 77lbs.
If you’ve never run with your dog, it is a great experience. It is a great bonding time for you and your dog – we will definitely do it again. My best advice to anyone considering dog running would be to invest in a hands free leash and make sure you carry water. The better trained your dog is the more control you will have.