My dog, Kiwi, looks like she is a cross between an Australian Shepherd and a Golden Retriever. She was a stray that I adopted when she was about 4 months old. She goes running with me regularly for several reasons.
- While she is with me, she watches everything within 200 yards. I am more aware of my surroundings because of her alertness. She seems to be most concerned about other dogs and young men. Smart dog. We do have occasional discussions about squirrels and cats, but she really knows that’s not what we are out and about for.
- She doesn’t let people approach us uninvited. She’s very clear on this point. She can usually tell if they are just passing by or honing in on us. If someone is crowding us, like say a group of male high school runners who think they own the path, she picks just the right moment to make an impression.
- She helps me with my pacing. If I am running too slowly, she actually almost walks and looks bored.
- If I get hurt, she is very attentive and calmly comforts me.
- She’s knows what I wear for running, summer or winter, and is on my tail the moment she is suspicious about the possibility. She watches me closely most of the day, but when she thinks I’m going out to run, she stays within inches. When I do go without her, she mopes in a corner.
While I love to have her along most of the time, there are a couple of things I have to be a bit careful of when I am completely barefoot.
- If we get tangled due to coming across an uncontrolled dog (which is not always a loose dog) or her reaction to warn them, I have to be ready for the possibility of needing to do some quick foot work. Otherwise, my feet might get some extra sole sanding by the pavement.
- If she bumps up against me, either due to watching something or because she wants to be extra close for herd protection, her toenails can scrape my upper toe skin. I have only had this happen twice in almost three years of running barefoot.
- Speed work can be riskier with her. If she doesn’t adjust to my pace well, or gets over excited about racing, it is harder for me to stay aware of the ground. Such inattentiveness increases the likelihood of me stepping on something I’d rather not. She has been known to cut in front of me in order to, ahem, win.
- When the preferred pathway is limited, due to where I want to put my feet or general obstacles, I have to be careful that her presence doesn’t accidentally push either of us too close to traffic.
There are advantages to being barefoot while running with her, too.
- If she does push up against me, or do anything that challenges my balance, it is very easy to regain that balance in the next step. That was one of the first things I noticed about running with bare feet. The sense of balance was greatly enhanced. Both being low to the ground, as compared to most shoes, and having full use of my foot muscles and toes makes adjustments in balance much more intuitive. It’s like my feet just automatically communicate with my brain!
- I am more aware of what the pads of her paws are dealing with. Hmm, she’s not fond of running in the thick roadside gravel, either…
- Since running barefoot allows me to run further without injury, she gets more exercise. (She’s pretty frustrated when I ride the spinning bike.)
There are a few things about running with her that have nothing to do with being barefoot. Like the fact that she is a herding dog. When other members of the family run “with” me, but actually slightly ahead or behind, poor Kiwi goes nuts trying to herd me to stay with the group (unless we are out in the desert and she can be off leash). Other than this overpowering instinct, she is very well trained thanks to our classes with Scotch Pines Dog Training. Here is one last picture of Kiwi after she has been running with us out in the Owhyees of southwest Idaho, being able to spend a lot of time off leash and chasing rabbits. A well exercised dog is a happy dog. Even if you can’t run like a dog, maybe you should consider running with one.