Wednesday, February 08, 2006

 

Nordic Walking with our Canine Friends

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From: Jeanne Goldberg
Philadelphia, PA

My dog, Lucy, a Cocker Spaniel, is my steady partner in Nordic Walking. Except for an instructors course I took with ANWA (American Nordic Walking Association), she has been with me on every walk. We have walked on nice sunny days, in pouring rain and in the cold--pretty close to freezing.

In the past, when I took her out to the park, she got no exercise and neither did I. Of course she didn't particularly want to be fit, she just liked to smell every pole and tree. I walked along a little depressed because I live in the city and had to take her out many times a day, each time getting no exercise.I always start out giving her time for her "pit stops" and then give her a few along the way. I don't stay long. I say WALK with a strong voice and she know I mean "get going."

Once in a while she smells something along the way that interests her and she tries to get me to stop. Sometimes I do, but not always. I just stop to let her "go." I wear a 'belly bag' and hook her leash onto that. I give her enoughroom to avoid the poles but not so much she would be too far away and endanger herself or get in the way of others.

I always make sure to take water for both of us. It is also important to watch where you walk. We have some trees at the waterfront where I often walk that drops seed balls with spikes and I have to be carefulshe does not step on them. When I cross a street I usually grab the leach because the lights are not long and I have to move fast. I also want to make sure she is near me in case a reckless motorist pulls out too fast.

I have walked on wooded trails, along the waterfront, along a lake and on hardtop with her. We did our first five mile hike this week. I usually keep her on the side away from traffic. I have a retractable leach and you have to make sure it is closed sothe dog does not pull away from you. Mine was open one time and she went behind me and out in front of a bicycle that was going by. A lady screamed but he did not stop. The leach caught my wrist andI got a big gash in it before the bike broke the cord. That hurt! I have a scar that looks like I tried to slit my wrist.

I am talking to a dog trainer about putting together a program for Nordic Walkers and their dogs. I figure if we have a few dogs together we might have some new challenges that he could help us with.

Lucy says hello....

Enjoy!

Jeanne

Comments:
To Jeanne and other dog loving Nordic walkers,

I have been Nordic walking with my canine friends for nearly 21 years now. My first dog Casey walked with me for more than 15 of his 17 years. (I'm convinced that he lived such a long, healthy life mainly because of our near daily 2-3 mile "quadruped strides" together.)

When Casey left us, we soon got Willy, and a year later, his brother Max (both Bijon Frise, cocker, poodle mixes). They both took to our walking with poles just as fast as Casey had.

We too have always used a waist pack and looped the leash around it. We've found over the years that a fixed length leash works best. If it is just a bit longer than from the waist to the ground, when fastened to the dog's collar it keeps them close enough, but not too close. (Since we began walking with two dogs at once, we've found that a single leash that has two short leads attached to the end keeps them striding along side one another and eliminates a May pole-like weaving of two leashes over the course of a walk.)

We are not dog trainers, but in each case so far it has taken very little time for our dogs to learn to walk either along side of us or just behind us.

They also learned very quickly the difference between walking for exercise and an ordinary "stop and sniff everything in sight" walk. When we pick up our poles and fasten them to the special leash they quickly learn to request stops only when it is actually necessary. They seem to love quadruped exercising walking every bit as much as we do.

When we walk them on an ordinary leash, they still seldom go more than a few feet without stopping to sniff and/or leave their marks.

Our dogs have all been around 10 pounds, but we have several friends with 60 pound plus labs and retrievers that have had pretty much the same experience. With larger dogs that have the potential to do some damage if they suddenly bolt after a squirrel of cat while fastened securely to you, I recommend the use of a leash with a section of sufficiently strong bungee cord attaching it to the belt or waist pack. That way if the dog suddenly pulls you'll have a chance to brace yourself and prevent a possible dislocation of some body part before it occurs.

When we pass others (bikes, cars, people or pooches) on the sidewalks, streeets or trails, I just hold both poles back to create a little chute-like enclosure (me as the front, the two poles as the sides and the length of the leash restricting escape from the back) and that way we don't end up creating an unwanted obstruction to traffic.

I hope these tips are useful to all who would like to share their Nordic walking experience with their canine friends.

Stay Well,

Tom Rutlin
 
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