At the beginning of 2013 I decided I was going to try and do a lot more exercise outdoors, away from the gym. I much prefer to exercise in a natural environment and find gyms far too stuffy for my liking (specially when someone wearing overpowering perfume climbs onto the treadmill next to yours). The problem was that Madame was still at home with me full time and learning to ride her bike. So I needed a hand-free way of being able to walk Blaze whilst still being able to help her on her bike (up hills mainly). I purchased a specialised the Snooza Active Walker lead and away we went.
There was a bit of a learning curve with the lead at first. Blaze, being an excitable dog, would see another dog or person and try to get to them around me and over Madame. Which meant lots of tangled people, bikes and dogs. So initially my main goal was to get him to only walk beside me on the left, with Madame on her bike on the right, and to ignore oncoming/overtaking traffic. It took a few months (he is stubborn) but eventually he was happy to do as I asked and he was occasionally rewarded by getting to say hello to other people or dogs that we saw without the tangles. As Madame became more confident on her bike, she became faster which meant I was having to run sections to catch up with her. I then discovered Blaze and I needed to go through another learning process revolved around running. I believe I have already mentioned that he is excitable but I think it needs repeating because when we were running he would all of a sudden dart off to the side or slam on the breaks to smell something or look at a lizard etc. Which meant I ended up winded, doubled over gasping for breath and generally feeling like I had whip-lash around my waist. My reaction to these incidents was to yell a big NO at him each time he did it and made him sit, stay and look at me so he knew he was in control. So Blaze learnt within a month or two to stick to me like glue when running. He will have the rare memory lapse now and again (did I mention he is excitable) but he is generally pretty good when running with me now.
He has his limits though. When I first started running 5k regularly, he would decide that he had had enough after only 2k and I would spend the remaining 3k dragging him up and down (although not so much on the down sections) around the hills in our area. As we did it more often, he has gotten better but 3-4k of constant running is about his limit. He has on occasion surprised me though and run for longer than that. Usually when we haven’t been able to do a run in a few days (if I’ve been sick etc). It is for this reason though that Matt rarely takes him on his runs because Blaze is so used to my pace and shorter distances that Matts faster pace is too much for him. It’s also why I won’t generally take him with me if I am planning a run longer than about 6k.
At the end of every run, Blaze is pretty stuffed. Generally he will get just inside the front door and then lie down on the tiles to cool off a bit before going outside to have a drink. But the smile on his face makes it clear just how much he loves it.