Dogs and Joggers Pound the Pavement for Fitness and Forever Homes

Diana Faria
by Diana Faria
Austin Pets Alive! and a local running group have teamed up to create RuffTail Runners, a program that pairs runners with a shelter dog so they can both have some fun in the sun while exercising.

Finding for a workout buddy is hard. Both of you need to have flexible hours, keep pace with one another and be willing to put in a solid commitment. Thanks to a partnership between Austin Pets Alive! and a local running group, jogging isn’t so ruff!

RuffTail Runners started in 2011 when a shelter employee from Austin Pets Alive! approached Rob Hill, who coaches a local running team called Team Spiridon, and pitched the idea. Initially, Team Spiridon would take on the more energetic dogs who needed some more training to be more adoptable, and ran with them. However, they soon realized that every dog would benefit from daily runs with the members and the idea took off. The program was initially called “Jog-a-Dog” however the name was soon changed to “RuffTail Runners” to avoid conflict with a treadmill manufacturing company.

Related: How To Start Running With Your Dog

The RuffTail Runners program is beneficial to both the runner and the dog. For the human, they finally have a partner that keeps up with their pace (no matter how fast or slow they are). This is especially beneficial when a runner has had a previous injury and can no longer keep up with their regular jogging/running partner, or their dog has either passed away or is too old to keep up with them.

For the dogs, not only do they get plenty of fresh air, sunshine and exercise, but they are also exposed to the world and it makes more people aware that they are up for adoption! Many runners are encouraged to put a vest on the dog that says “Adopt Me” every time they go out for a run. Not only is there a chance that potential pet parents look over at Fido and absolutely fall in love with him, but there have also been cases where the dog gets adopted by the person they usually run with. Such a happy ending!

Related: Safety Tips For Running with a Dog at Night

The Austin Pets Alive! shelter is open 11:30 am to 7:00 pm, but the program has become so popular that members of RuffTail Runners man the front desk before 11:30 AM each morning in order to get the most of the day. Each dog has a mileage limit per day and it isn’t uncommon for runners to show up for a running partner and realize that the dog has already run their daily limit.

The RuffTail Runners consists of 40 to 50 members and combined, they average about 300 runs per month. Because the program has increased in popularity so much, Hill has implemented more rules to keep everyone safe. This includes guidelines as to how much the dogs can run and in what temperatures. It is also important to note that not every dog in the shelter is eligible for the program – they need to meet a minimum health and behavior standard in order to run. Hill is also adamant about having runners warm up their dogs before a run by going through a warm-up routine before starting their run.

All in all, this is an absolutely wonderful program to have dogs up and out of the shelter and have more people realize that these dogs are ready to live in their forever home. If people don’t come to the shelter, have the dogs come to them!

[Source: Runners World]

Diana Faria
Diana Faria

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