Murphy knows when it’s time for a run.
He knows which drawer his mom’s running gear is in.
He knows why she’s packing water and cookies.
And the 1½-year-old Australian shepherd can hardly contain his excitement when his running leash comes out.
“He just starts freaking out. He’s at the door, ready to go,” said his owner, Christy Kriegler.
Murphy will show off six months of training at the Tails ‘n Trails, a local trail race for pooches and their humans. He’ll tackle a 10K on Saturday — more than double what he walked during last year’s race.
Pups, much like their humans, have to train and build up their mileage. Kriegler didn’t start running with Murphy until he was a year old and got the OK from his vet.
People can log miles on the treadmill during winter months, but odds are Fido doesn’t have a gym membership to do the same. When training man’s best friend as a running buddy, consult your vet first, said Cathy Guinane, director of community training at the Nebraska Humane Society.
Dogs should be out of the puppy stages before running so their bones and joints are fully developed, Guinane said.
Puppyhood is a good time to prep for running by teaching the basics. Dogs should know their name, come when called and be able to ignore distractions along the route. Most important, they should know how to walk on a loose leash and stay at their human’s side during a run.
If Murphy is tempted to check out another dog or a person, Kriegler says “with me” as his cue that he can’t go. As far as ignoring critters on their trail runs?
“He’s so fast that he drags me to see what animal there is. That one we’re working on,” she said.
Murphy can run up to 7 miles now. When Kriegler needs to tackle distances longer than that, she drops Murphy off at home, where he watches through the window as she leaves.
Rachel Warne, race director for Tails ‘n Trails, is an avid runner. One of her rescue dogs accompanies her on some runs. The 5-year-old shepherd mix is full of energy. But Warne has to ease the pooch back into the routine after winter.
“It’s kind of like a Couch to 5K,” she said. “You’ve got to condition them like you would any other animal or person.”
Mary Burch, director of the American Kennel Club’s family dog program, said training will vary by individual dogs.
If you want your dog to run a 5K with you, make sure they can walk that distance first, Burch said. Then try running for a quarter mile. Slowly increase their running distance by a quarter mile each week.
Use a surface that has some give, like grass or a trail, instead of concrete, Burch said, to protect their joints.
Once pooches are up to sniff ... er ... snuff on the running routine, their owners should be aware of the weather. The higher the mercury rises on the thermometer, the shorter a dog’s run should be. Owners should go out at cooler times of day. For any breed, 80 degrees is likely too hot, said Guinane, with the Humane Society. Consider the heaviness of your dog’s coat in deciding when to run, too.
Bring water for the dog and give them breaks along the route.
“They can’t look at you and say, ‘This is too much,’ ” Guinane said.
Running helped Jenifer Snook and her dog get in shape.
Snook adopted Whiskey, the part American Staffordshire terrier and part vizsla, eight years ago.
Snook talked to her vet about safety basics, and because she wasn’t a runner, they didn’t start off with long distances. Now the dog can run up to 10 miles with Snook. Since running with Whiskey, Snook has two full marathons and several half marathons under her sneakers.
“I used to be one who said I couldn’t run across the street to save my life and now I’ve run two fulls,” Snook said.
One perk for running with a pooch: You’re never alone on the course.
“You know you’ve always got somebody,” Guinane said. “You don’t have to set up a time. A dog’s ready to go.”