18 months ago, our receptionist Jo uttered a truly magical phrase to me.
“It will never be the perfect time to get a dog; you just make it work.
Anyway, I’ll always help you – you could bring it to work.”
In that moment, Jo had given me the licence my parents never would when I was little: I was finally allowed to have a dog of my very own!
I spent the following month or two thinking about what I wanted from a dog.
I wanted a buddy to take to the coffee shop, and the park… but I also wanted a dog to encourage me to keep to my running schedule over the winter months, where in previous years I had always given up and had to start my training again from scratch the following spring.
Ideally, I would also like a dog that didn’t shed fur everywhere, didn’t slobber, and who would be amicable to live as an office dog at the clinic.
(That last point will be particularly funny for any of our patients who have had their handbags searched routinely by Rufus in the waiting room for keys, tissues or food – all of which he will immediately claim as his own…)
The Wire Haired Fox Terrier is not the most popular breed in the UK to put it plainly. These dogs were the stars of the silver screen in 30’s classics like The Thin Man and Bringing Up Baby – and look more like stuffed animals than fearless fox, badger and rat hunters. They are curious creatures, with a comically naughty streak.
Energetic and strong-willed; these working terriers make excellent running buddies.
Helping a dog to get in to running is, strangely, much like helping a human to take up the hobby. It’s important to make sure your dog is old enough to challenge their joints and soft juvenile bones; so I waited until Rufus was 12 months old before introducing him to running on a harness.
In the first instance, we took breaks every 500m to make sure he wasn’t over-heating or getting too tired. But soon enough it seemed his appetite for running surpassed mine.
Fox Terriers in particular have a certain attitude for speed – why walk somewhere that you could run to? But most breeds will take to jogging alongside their master for 5k or so. Remember, a dog’s natural pace is much quicker than a human’s – so where you think they may struggle to keep up, in reality they’re probably only breaking out in a light trot. My boyfriend’s father even used to run with their Australian Terrier, Dougie (think of a dog with the size and short legs of a Westie, but with a glorious ginger coat)
For me and Rufus, our favourite kind of run is still a free-run, where he is off the lead and able to explore the forests of Sutton Park. That being said, there is something really lovely about working as a team with your dog on the harness and bungee lead.
Canicross is a dog sport, where you and your dog run, each wearing a harness, and connected by an elastic bungee. It has increased massively in popularity across the UK in the last few years, and there are even now Canicross specific running events, where dogs and owners can compete for time across a 5 or 10k cross country route.
Rufus has been in proper Canicross training for 6 months now, and can now manage a 5k course with ease. I suspect he would take it a little faster if I wasn’t holding him back! It’s been great to have a reason to keep running over winter, and I think aside from Lizzie (who runs our specialist Running Clinic, and has been coaching me on my technique, and my brother Matt who PT’s me in our clinic gym) Rufus might be the best trainer and motivator I’ve had to date!
If you’d like to find out more about Canicross, search for your local groups and events online – there’s tonnes out there!