Don’t Jog the Dog

Just because many dogs can run fast it doesn’t necessarily mean they enjoy running long distances at a set pace, following some form of personal training regime or extreme sport you have devised for them and perhaps conceitedly believe they may enjoy. Dogs are well-known for putting up with anything in order to please their human carers. There is a fine line between running with your dog for enjoyment and running them into the ground. Given the choice most dogs might prefer a walk and a bit of boisterous play.

There are plenty of blogs expounding the virtues of enjoying jogging or running with your dog. They give helpful tips on special equipment that makes the task easier, the health hazards your dog might suffer, training methods and the best breed to choose. Is it reasonable though to actually choose a breed of dog on the basis of whether it is a suitable running partner. And if health hazards are involved, should we be putting a dog at risk just because we haven’t the time or patience to take it for a walk or you sadly cannot find a human buddy.

Keeping up – those are the rules

“I release the hound and let him roam off leash. I continue on my run and let Rodney sprint off, sniff, and do his thing. But he has to catch up to me by the time we get back to the path. Those are our rules. He revels in the burst of freedom, but he yields and returns to me at the end again. He comes close so I can clip him back onto the leash without stopping”.

gearjunkie.com-Running with your dog

As always some owners, as in all things take it too far, literally too far, often 20 miles or more and invent and participate in trendy and extreme and totally unnecessary canine buddy sports such as marathons, canicross, canibike and caniscoot. Others do not heed any advice and just take their poor dog off without any preparation regardless of breed or health considerations.

Some go as far as giving the dog special training to ensure they keep pace, maintain a steady rhythm, drink from a bottle on the move, do not stop to sniff, defecate or pee and keep to the middle of wide paths away from foliage that may distract them. Apparently it is an inconvenience to clear up after the dog or carry a poo bag.

“Running with a bag of dog poop is a bad time. I plan my running route so that Rodney can go near where there is a public garbage can. If you want to maximise your run, this is a crucial thing. Build this “strategy” into your running routes so you’re not stuck carrying a stinky bag for more than a few hundred feet.

gearjunkie.com
canicross marathon dog running

Veterinary profession advice

Veterinary professions around the world seem to sit on the fence in regard to any welfare issues involved in running dogs, neither condemning or promoting it. Many veterinarians consider 8 months to 18 months as the best time to start a dog running and of course an expensive full health examination to make sure it is capable. Dogs with arthritis, heart and respiratory disease and breeds with snub noses are thankfully ruled out but owners are warned about injuries, damage to paws on hot tarmac or by salt in cold weather. No consideration is given to possible mental health implications in regard to restricting them from enjoying their natural behaviours.

The pet trade as always doesn’t miss a trick and is obviously keen to encourage the trend as much as possible by providing dog running bootees, special running leads for one or more dogs, drinking canteens, sweat bands and who knows what. None of which would be necessary if we didn’t insist on having a canine running buddy instead of a human one.

One of the most infuriating things for some dog lovers and me is to see a person jogging with their dog, headphones on or looking down at their Fitbit or phone without checking on their dog at all. They are often oblivious that their dog may be in discomfort or needing a water break. Dogs will naturally slow down or stop just like us humans when they get tired, but for some runners this is not allowed. Many will soldier on because they want to please and are eager to remain at our sides or preferably in front which only makes them strive even more.

I am all for spending as much time as possible with your dog, but for me the increasing trend to utilise dogs in extreme sports and as part of personal training is a step to far. It is an unnecessary, unnatural and arguably harmful pastime which perhaps should be discouraged.

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Alpacas the new unwanted.

There has been a trend in the last decade or so to keep Alpacas to farm and as pets. It has become “trendy” in the last decade for people who live or move to the countryside and have a spare field to acquire them as a hobby. Where and why this started is difficult to understand, but it appears to be based on a romantic idyll of selling the wool and taking up weaving. 

Baby alpacas are relatively cute in the eyes of many people and one can see their appeal. They are described in many blog articles and advertisements as being adorable which is perhaps going a bit far. They are not a companion pet or a pet of any sort, but classified more in the exotic livestock category and even less suitable than keeping a sheep, cow or pig would be. And when full grown many cease to look that cute or attractive.

Even Facebook and Gum tree run adverts for unwanted ones.

The dream of owning these animals is popular in the USA, Canada, Australia and the U.K., with the aim of making money from their fur or breeding and selling them. Unfortunately for many the reality soon kicks in when they find them a lot more difficult and expensive to look after than they imagined. It is not just restricted to alpacas but includes emus, ostriches, llamas and goats. 

Alpacas have now joined the sad long list of the unwanted animals with sites like Facebook and Gum Tree running adverts for unwanted ones. To meet the demand new alpaca charity rescue centres are springing up in all these countries with the inevitable plea for donations. New homes need to be found which isn’t easy as they need space, special care and are expensive to keep. Many alpacas are being neglected or cruelly treated and so SPCA’s in the U.K., Canada, America and Australia are having to get involved and owners are being prosecuted. And all this because of this misguided romantic dream by people of keeping them.

In the USA and Canada farming alpacas was heavily marketed and the industry expanded too quickly with people trying to cash in on the popularity of alpaca wool and garments. It wasn’t long before production outstripped the demand for alpaca wool – something known as a ‘speculative livestock bubble’. Alpaca keepers and breeders soon found themselves in financial difficulties and unable to offload their animals, not even by giving them away. They cost anywhere from £200 for a male to thousands of pounds for a female. Some unfortunates end up being slaughtered for their meat. Some rescues have seen a threefold increase in the number of unwanted and abandoned ones recently with one rescue centre rehoming 405 since 2008. 

People are attracted to them by their ‘cuteness’

alpaca foal, cute, unsuitable pet
Cuteness personified, but wait until it grows up. Alpacas are not suitable pets.

So before buying alpacas think about this…

  • Alpacas need to live as a herd with a minimum of three or four animals;
  • Three or four alpacas require at least two acres of pasture;
  • You require a veterinary surgeon with expertise in dealing with them, preferably a member of the British Veterinary Camelid Society (BVCS)
  • They require shearing, worming and vaccinating yearly;
  • Their fur and nails need clipping every two months;
  • They need to have access to shelter;
  • They need dietary supplements;
  • They can be difficult to handle and may not like being cuddled or stroked;
  • THEY ARE NOT COMPANION PETS.

Alpacas and llamas are best left to live in South America.

Alpacas, alpaca herd, unsuitable pet
Alpacas are probably best left on their native South America tundra.