News - 2nd March 2017

parkrunning with Dogs


Dogs get you into the outdoors. Regularly. So does parkrun. This makes them a natural match. Few other running events welcome dogs. So for dog owners parkrun is extra special. At many parkrun USA events, dogs are part of the parkrun family.


Scout is an Australian Cattle Dog (ACD) who is among the regulars at College Park parkrun in Maryland, where she always runs alongside Ken Leonard. They are constant running companions, and they came to parkrun specifically because Scout is welcome. Ken says: “Now that I know parkrun, I guess I would have come even if I didn’t have Scout, but I was looking for something different where she could join me.” Scout loves parkrun. She’s excited to see all the other runners on the out-and-back course — she’s generally among the first few finishers — and after the run she enjoys playing with Martina, another ACD and College Park regular (together with Tom and Genevieve Hornik). The one concept that Scout struggles with is that parkrun is only on Saturdays.


Dogs certainly enjoy coming back week after week. At Livonia parkrun Cooper is a dog who comes regularly with event co-director Lynn Boven, and often adds color commentary to the run briefings. Cooper doesn’t have a barcode, but he would surely have earned his red 50-club shirt by now.


Dogs appreciate nature. So for some parkrunners they help to slow things down a notch. Eric Ward is a 100-club member from Durham NC parkrun, whose dogs are occasional companions. Eric says: “They help me to slow down and enjoy the scenery and the company.”


Different dog breeds have different parkrunning styles and needs. Ken Leonard’s vet advised him that ACDs are good running dogs. They’re compact and have good stamina. Some other breeds are more comfortable at a tailrunner pace. Lynn Boven reports that Cooper has some pacing issues, starting out a little faster than he can maintain for the full 5k. The hot US summers present additional challenges for many dogs, who can’t sweat like we do. College Park parkrun follows a bike trail by a stream. Ken expects Scout to make good use of that stream in the warmer months. At Roosevelt Island DC parkrun, the Friends of Roosevelt Island organization has created a special dog membership category called Ruff Riders to raise funds for a doggie drinking fountain for the island.


The only parkrun rules about dogs are that you bring only one dog, and that it stay on a short leash. Ken and Scout run with an improvised belt-and-harness arrangement that helps them to run comfortably (and quickly). The belt keeps Ken’s hands free, and he swears by the harness that allows Scout to run more comfortably: “The harness puts the clip up between her shoulders on her back. Clipping to a collar is more likely to lead to tangles and trips, and this way even if she gets a shock, it won’t hurt her seriously.”

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