Six years ago, when my Sheltie, Nemo, and I ran the Iams Doggy Dash, held in conjunction with the New York City Triathlon, there weren't that many races made for dogs. It was definitely much more fun training for a race with Nemo by my side. As race organizers realized that people wanted more activities to do with their pets, more dog oriented races have popped up--even at the highest levels of competition
An Austrian company started the annual Iron Dog competition seven years ago and was a trailblazer for tailoring endurance events for pets. Now similar races have been created in Germany, the Czech Republic, and the United Kingdom, which is hosting its first dog triathlon, the Tridog, next year.
The courses are often shortened from the equivalent human-only races to prevent dogs from overheating, which was something I was concerned about when I ran with Nemo. I took a lot of precautions to ensure that he was happy and healthy the entire time. Our dogs will follow us anywhere and it's important we look out for their best interests. Not all pups are meant to run triathlons and it's our job to know what is over our pet's limits.
Unlike their human counterparts, many of these races have organized training meetups to help ensure participants are properly conditioning their dogs. While running is something that canines do naturally, endurance running, distance swimming, and trotting alongside a bike are skills that need to be gradually introduced and built up over time.
Human races have exploded in popularity over the last few years, and the increased numbers have been accompanied by a surge in injuries. Many of these are thought to be attributed to a lack of training and conditioning. I hope that's not something we see with the rise in canine races. These events have the potential to inspire people to be more active with their dogs, as long as they do it safely and thoughtfully.