Running with your dog can keep you fit, but needs to be done responsibly

As a fellow “dog runner” and longtime reader of the Guardian, I was intrigued, and subsequently disappointed, to read Zoe Williams’ article (The dog and I can run together – what could possibly go wrong?, Weekend, 15 December). In a clumsy attempt to be humorous, Williams both belittles a burgeoning sport (canicross), provides misinformation and promotes the purchase of inappropriate equipment (the suggested dog “vest harness”), which could negatively impact on pet health.

Considering the Guardian’s wide readership and potential to influence reader behaviour, I believe it has a duty to publish informed and well-researched articles that value quality information over quick satire.

Running with dogs, or canicross, when practised responsibly, is a rewarding and safe sport that can indeed keep you “fit in your 40s”. However, it requires investment in appropriate equipment, a commitment to ongoing training (most importantly with regards to human-dog communication/commands) and a sensitivity to the appropriateness of different environments for running. None of these points were addressed by the author.

Indeed, the deliberate mental picture instilled from reading the article is one of an irresponsible owner, chaotically meandering through urban space, with a dog wearing an insulating harness that is designed to prevent him from striding naturally. No wonder he doesn’t seem to appreciate the ordeal.
Dr Stephanie Merchant
Department for Health, University of Bath