Training the Running Dog
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Training the Running Dog

Training the Running Dog


Training the Running Dog

By L. E. Eubanks

How You Can Teach Him to Run Fast and Correctly

MY grandfather, an ardent sportsman in his day, used to say that "a slow dog is only half a dog." Admittedly, there are other purposes for dogs than "sight chasing" of game; but we naturally count on at least fair speed in all dogs. It is one of the essential qualities when in health. Citing the slowness and loginess of pugs and some other house dogs does not disprove my statement that swiftness of movement is natural to canines; such dogs are not well,• that is, not in a normal condition for a dog; they are petted and coddled and overfed till they are utterly useless, as far as sporting purposes are concerned.

Certainly, some dogs are immeasurably faster than others. The largest dogs are the least inclined to activity, but even St. Bernards, Newfoundlands, and mastiffs, dogs of comparatively take-it-easy disposition, speed up when trained for it. The eighth annual All-Alaska Sweepstakes dog team race was won last year by Leonard Seppala's Siberian wolf dogs. They covered the course of 412 miles (from Nome to Candle and return) in remarkably good time, and they are not small dogs, by any means.

You must first consider the breed of your dog. If he is either extreme in size, a pug or a St. Bernard, you can not develop much speed in him— except as compared to other dogs of his breed. As I have hinted, some large dogs are fast, those of the hound type; in fact, all hounds are good runners; the coonhound sometimes is very fast, and the short legged beagle, the premier rabbit dog, often can catch a fox on a straightaway. Even the heavy bloodhound sometimes surprises his owners with his ability to run.

"Pacing" a dog and working him with others are the most effective ways of developing his speed. One fellow paced his Airedale with a motor-cycle—and nearly ruined the dog. When we ask an animal of any kind to keep up with a motor vehicle we must remember the terrible speed of these things. A cyclist can fly up grade so easily that he does not realize the power required of the trailing dog, and the latter is so proud and affectionate that he will kill himself to keep up. Be especially careful on this point; your aim should be to increase the dog's pride and grit; but if you break his heart a few times, you will also break his constitution and his faith in you. His dog sense will tell him after a few fruitless trials at keeping up with "high velocity" vehicles that you are not giving him a square deal. And remember that a dog, like a man, cannot be an efficient coworker without trust in his partner.

In this riding ahead of the dog to bring out his speed, be careful not to get too far away. By staying rather near him you can tell more exactly how he is standing it. A stiffened, "wind-broken" dog is ruined for fast running, just as is a race horse in such condition, so begin very gradually.

Perhaps the better way, at least at the start, is to run your dog with another one. If your dog is a natural hunter, he will pursue the game when it is started; but if he is none too strong in this sense he may lag behind. You see, he is not so anxious to follow another dog as he was to stay with you, his master, on the motorcycle.

Such a dog must have his pride awakened; working him with a slower dog, perhaps a puppy that knows even less about running than he does, will make him feel "big" with responsibility. After he has led the puppy for a few weeks and begun to feel important, he will try hard to stay ahead of fast dogs. If you are so situated that you can graduate his progress by using different running mates (each one a little faster than the preceding), this will be an ideal system. Sportsmen should be—and generally are—ready to cooperate with each other in matters of this kind. A man with a puppy that he is just starting can help you and himself at the same time.

Dogs that are already fairly fast, or that are unusually proud and energetic, often can be placed with great runners from the very first. They will keep trying until they possess all the speed they are capable of. An Airedale, for instance, is not a great runner, but he is an extremely proud, vigorous dog, and a great fighter. He doesn't care so much for a race, but he will run his legs off to keep up with swifter dogs so as to be "in at the finish."

Look out for bad positions in the runner and try to correct them at the beginning. Dogs, unlike the human sprinter, do not have to study the running stride; but they sometimes develop habits of carriage that detract from speed. Occasionally a dog, especially a trailer, runs with his head too low. He will never do his best pace in this position; it causes an instinctive caution against running into objects and divides his attention.

There are two ways of curing this. If you can arrange some impediment for him to collide with, and do it two or three times without injury to the dog, he will drop the habit. The safer plan is to get him so worked up in a race after an animal that can stretch him to his utmost (sight running, of course) that he lifts his head instinctively. Some dogs that are used almost exclusively for trailing will never hold their heads as high as they otherwise might.

Feeding and grooming mean the same to a dog in training for speed as they do to a racehorse or college athlete. A bath of tepid water, a good rub-down, and a brisk brushing keep a dog clean and supple and make him feel tip-top. A daily rub is helpful, though your dog will not thrive on too much bathing.

The food should not be confined to any one thing. Too much bulky, sloppy, and fattening food certainly is not good for the running dog; but on the other hand, if his menu contains nothing but concentrated foods like meat, he will get sick. The popular dog biscuits are good, and miscellaneous table scraps, generally speaking, are all right. Always watch for signs of trouble from any particular article of diet.

Do not feed heavily, but never try to reduce a dog's weight by diet alone; regular, vigorous exercise is the proper reducer; it thins him out and at the same time hardens his muscles and tones up his wind. A light meal in the morning after a fifteen minute romp, and a. dinner at 5 or 6 p. m. is a good system. Give the dog his big dose of road-work about mid-afternoon if this is practicable; at any rate, never within two hours after his meal.

Outing , Publishing Company. Outing. New York: Outing Publishing Company, 1920.

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