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Grooming & Wellbeing

Running with Your Dog: Meet a Professional Pack Runner

Running with your dog can have some real benefits for you and your canine companion! Not only does it keep you fit and healthy, but your dog will be healthier, fitter and stronger. Here Matt Boyce, a professional dog pack runner whoruns City Paws Club, tells us all about running with dogs, why he loves it, and how he spends a typical day as a dog runner!

Running in the woods

Tell us about your typical day running with dogs

As a professional dog walker and pack runner (which means I basically take groups of dogs out running!), the day starts at around 6am when we make the rounds to collect the dogs from clients’ homes. When the pack is complete, we drive to a rural location such as Wimbledon Common, Richmond Park and other green locations to start the early bird pack run or walk. We then return to our daycare centre where we water, feed and massage each dog as part of their cooling down process.

Once relaxed, we undertake training sessions with clients who wish to engage in the daily programme. Depending on the relationship between the dog and the owner, training can range from the basic to advanced, and is always a lot of fun for everyone. At the close of the day we do a final pack walk and then return the dogs to their homes exercised, relaxed and happy! I’m usually done by about 9pm in the evening, which is a long day, but unless it’s been tipping it down with rain, a good one!

 

Matt with the dogsDogs in the river

Why did you start running with dogs?

I’ve always loved taking my dogs out for a run, ever since my childhood in the West Country. When I moved to London, I didn’t want to give up that sense of satisfaction that I and the dogs enjoyed after a good blast in the great outdoors. I also noticed how many high-energy urban dogs were not getting the exercise they craved and so the City Paws Club pack run was born!

Tell us a bit about the pack runs

Although we take dogs out each day for regular exercise as a pack, there are certain breeds that are capable of going the extra mile or 5! These guys are best suited to our cross-country pack run's to stimulate their internal instincts. Running with the pack is a sort of meditation for both dog and human that we cherish on each adventure. We try and stay off trodden paths and keep verbal commands to a minimum.  Dogs can understand body language much easier than verbal commands and quite often it takes only the slightest adjustment to change the direction of the pack.

How often and for how long do you run as a pack?

We take the run pack out twice a day.  We go out as early as possible to avoid other dogs, runners and other distractions.  We typically run for 1 hour making sure to take regular rest and hydration breaks along the way.

Throwing a stick for the dogs

What benefits do the dogs get while running as part of a pack?

Not only are the dogs in the pack healthier, fitter and stronger but they are also better behaved.  Each dog is assessed before joining the pack to see which group they are best suited to.  This way we can work them closely to ensure they get the maximum benefit of being part of a pack.

Why are pack runs good for dogs?

The pack run offers a range of benefits including superior fitness, better behaviour, improved capacity to fight off illnesses (such as hip dysplasia and arthritis), and in some instances quicker rehabilitation from injury. Above all it is fun! We enable dogs to engage with their instinctual nature to exercise and operate as part of a pack, which is excluded from their everyday life because they generally live in smaller groups and, in the majority of instances, alone. Running in a pack is great for the wellbeing of a dog both physically and mentally. If any of the dogs I train could speak, I’m pretty sure they’d tell you!

 

DachshundGroup of dogs

How many dogs and what type of breeds do you have each week?

We have many different dog breeds in the pack and the numbers can vary between 30 to 50 dogs per week. Each day the team and I break the pups down into manageable groups of around 4 to 5. We mix all sizes and breeds together as they tend to work out their own place in the pack without too many grumbles. Where issues arise such as age, fitness levels, specialist groups or if clients make particular requests, we step in and re-jig accordingly.

What do you think is the key to a dog’s happiness?

Each dog is as individual as its owner, so it’s difficult to offer a catch-all concept of happiness, but in my experience some of the most important factors that have helped me build strong relationships with the dogs I’ve worked with are consistency, love, a sense of belonging and mutual respect. These coupled with good living – eating, exercise and play – have made for some pretty happy pooches!

Do you have any dogs and if so, how many?

We have a miniature Dachshund called Flea who is 13 months old and is clearly the alpha dog in the pack! The family dog back in the West Country is a Border Collie called Riley. He’s an agility specialist so he’s always up for stretching a leg!

Have you had any embarrassing or funny moments whilst out running?

Remember Paula Radcliffe’s infamous pit stop at the Beijing Olympics? Try doing that with five dogs!

Holding the dog

Do the dogs get on well?

We find that the dogs love the sense of freedom and togetherness we provide when we walk or run, so any personality issues are generally overcome by exercise, play and goodtimes! Unfortunately, there are some dogs that have been exposed to certain situations that require one-on-one training before we can include them in the pack. It is rare that we will ever turn a dog away, but at the same time we need to ensure that our safety standards are adhered to, and that it is fair for the other dogs in the pack.

For more information please contact Matt at matt@citypawsclub.co.uk or visit their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/citypawsclub. Thanks to Nick Wild for the great photos, check out his Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/nickwildphotographer.

Matt Boyce

Matt is a professional dog pack runner who always loved taking his dogs for a run when he was growing up in the West Country. When he moved to West London he noticed how many high-energy urban dogs weren't getting the exercise they craved and so City Paws Club was born! To find out more visit Matt's Google+ profile or go to the City Paws Club website.

Matt Boyce

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