Below is a recent article from parkrun Australia. There’s obviously a lot of dog lovers in New Zealand too and their dogs do bring a different dimension to our parkrun mornings, often making friends of their own each week! The pictures are from New Zealand parkruns around the country. Would be happy to hear thoughts from our parkrun NZ dog runners!
Have you ever stopped to think about the importance of dogs at parkrun? Mostly we don’t think much about them except that they bark at the start, they’re excitable, cute, and sometimes, dare I say, they can get in the way! But dogs actually have a much bigger impact on our society than just the cute factor. We chatted to three dog owners, Maggi from Altona beach, Serena from Kirra and Rebecca from Coffs harbour, to put together a list of 7 benefits dogs can have at your parkrun.
1. Greater Interaction at parkrun
Dogs at parkrun benefit the whole community as it encourages greater interaction between participants. People who have dogs are seen to be more approachable so more people will start a conversation with someone who has a dog more readily. Serena initially started parkrun at Minnippi, QLD, with her adorable red and white Border Collie named Billy. Serena comments, “without a doubt I talk to a lot more people when I am out with the dog. When he was younger, he was an adorable little fluff ball of a puppy that used to get so much attention from just about every person who saw him. He was definitely a conversation starter.”
2. Boosts motivation to exercise
Anyone who has a dog will know that they are creatures of habit and they love a walk every day. Serena, who usually runs parkrun with her dog Billy at Kirra, says, “having a dog is a huge motivator to get out there”. Going for more regular walks or runs with your dog will not only improve your health, fitness and wellbeing but maybe even your parkrun time! Rebecca says her dog Missy is a big motivator, “when we put on our running shoes, Missy brings us her lead so we cannot back out. Those puppy dog eyes make us feel too guilty!” Maggi only occasionally runs with her poodle, Hamish, but he has helped her to a PB at her home parkrun at Altona Beach.
3. Stress Management
Studies have also shown that owning a dog can reduce stress and anxiety for the dog owner. Patting a dog can be soothing and reduce stress. Dogs at the start line of parkrun definitely creates a friendlier and more approachable space. If you are feeling a bit nervous, go and find a dog to pat! And you will find that the owners are always very approachable and happy to talk about their dogs. Having a dog can also improve your overall wellbeing, “our dog brings a lot of joy to me and my partner, and it has encouraged us to make many changes in our lifestyle. I definitely think owning a dog has improved our overall wellbeing,” comments Serena.
4. Dogs are non-judgemental
Dogs have complete and utter love for their owners. Dogs don’t care if you don’t get that PB, they love you no matter what. In fact, a study conducted by the University of Western Australia found that dog owners have better self-esteem! So if you are a little nervous about parkrun, why not bring your dog as a confidence booster?!
5. Connecting with nature and getting outdoors
It is well documented that getting outdoors into natural surrounds improves your mental health and wellbeing. Maggi takes her dogs on holiday with them in the caravan and she says, “having a dog helps us to get out into the fresh air.” You are most definitely more likely to get outdoors with dogs and venture into new places, perhaps some new trails and even some parkrun tourism.
6. Decreases Loneliness
Having an enthusiastic little buddy around definitely makes your walk or run a little less lonely. “Running and walking Missy is fantastic, I chat along with her and just knowing she is there enjoying the run or walk feels like I have a running buddy,” says Rebecca. And Serena notes that she feels less lonely even when she has her four-legged friend at home and she laughs, “when I’m out walking, it’s less weird talking to a dog than talking to myself.”
7. Builds Community Spirit
Dogs at parkrun help build the community spirit and the individual atmosphere of each parkrun. Rebecca thinks that her dog is an integral part of her community, “Missy has become part of Coffs Harbour parkrun, the kids love her and she gets just as much encouragement as anyone else out there. Every Saturday morning people come up and say hi to Missy. She even knows where the dog bowl is at the end of the run.” And Serena says, “Billy is a vocal runner, he gets super excited at the start of parkrun and will bark and howl if anyone claps during the briefing because he thinks we’re starting without him!” Other parkrunners make comments about Billy’s amusing antics, all of which builds the spirit at Kirra parkrun.
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