by Alexandra Allred
It's a beautiful day and you've decided to try out your new jogging stroller with baby and dog in tow. Before your baby came along, you and your furry friend logged countless miles jogging around the neighborhood. Your dog has proven to be an excellent jogging partner so you have no worries about adding a jogging stroller to the mix now that your baby is here. After all, how else are you going to lose that baby fat?
As a dog trainer for more than two decades, I cannot tell you how many times (human) clients have come in with sprained or broken ankles/wrists, scraped knees and aching bodies after colliding with their dog while jogging. Most often these injuries occur with an untrained pet but even the best of dogs can have less than stellar moments on the daily jog. A squirrel suddenly darting across your path, a bike appearing from nowhere or another dog can cause great harm to you and your baby. All too often, the baby stroller gets dumped over. Even if you have strapped your baby in, he or she can be hurt - head injuries being the number one concern.
You can continue to jog with your dog and baby but you must adhere to certain safety guidelines. Of course, the safest way to exercise with your baby is to leave your dog at home, taking him/her for a walk later. But if you are determined to take both baby and dog at the same time, remember these golden rules:
1. The Stroller is Not A Hitching Post
Do not tie the end of the leash to the stroller. Joggers often find it cumbersome to handle both the stroller and lead, and decide to tie the leash to the stroller, believing they can handle the stroller better. More stroller/jogging accidents have been reported as a result of this technique than any other. While you are jogging along, your dog is searching for squirrels, cats, even blowing leaves that you might not notice until it is too late. To not hitch your dog to the stroller.
2. Wrist-Free Jogging
In the terrible event that another dog attacks you or your dog suddenly lunges forward, you must have complete control over the stroller. Many runners like to loop the handle of the leash around their wrist - again, thinking they have better control over the stroller. But if and when a runner is pulled off balance, the stroller can be knocked over. Even worse, the runner is pulled away from the stroller. It only takes a few seconds for the stroller to roll out into the street.
It is every jogger's nightmare. The only thing that could be worse than being charged by an unfriendly dog is to have your dog and baby with you. Remain calm. Pull your dog in close, stop running and use your voice. "No!" Tell the on-coming dog "No!" repeatedly, careful not to scream or shriek (as this will only excite the dog). Most dogs are people-friendly and do not wish to cause you any harm. Most likely, they are protecting a territory and simply want you to move away. Walk calmly, keeping your dog close and continue to reassure the other dog you mean no harm but you are in control. "No!" Usually, the dog will continue to bark, perhaps a little less aggressively, but will drop back, waiting for you to leave. However, there are instances in which the dog is clearly dog aggressive. He may not even notice you standing there as he is so focused on your dog. If attack is eminent, you must let your dog go. Never mind the huge danger factor of having a dogfight on top of your child, your dog will have no chance to defend him or herself if tethered to you. By letting your dog go free, you will all have a better chance of getting out of that dangerous territory safely and quickly. Again, most dogs drop back and will return to defend their turf. Your dog will either fight back or (we hope) run. Either way, this is safer for dog, owner and baby.
Even if the three of you escape unscathed, you must report this incident to the authorities. To ensure the safety of others and your next outing, the owners of the dog must be notified and warned about their dog's aggressive behavior.
Alexandra Allred, a former member of the US Women's Bobsled team, is an accomplished martial artist, animal trainer and continues to teach kickboxing while juggling her career as a full-time writer and mother of three. She is the author of ten books, including Teaching Basic Obedience: Train the Owner, Train the Dog. Alex has also written for Dog Fancy, I Love Cats, and Canine Press magazines and has been the animal expert for Redbook.
Copyright © Alexandra Allred. Permission to publish granted to Pregnancy.org LLC.