I took the dogs out for a nice hike this morning.  They sleep so differently when they are tired, from when they are just bored.  All three are still napping away in the living room as I write.  

After our hike I went to market (which is held Thursday and Saturday mornings) and I picked up some veggies for soup, my dairy products and some meat for the animals.  I bought some nice pork today, organic and free range.  It was expensive because I bought it from a butcher rather than straight from a farmer.  I also bought some chicken.  It is twice the price of what you buy in the grocery store.  I know they hike up their prices a little at this butcher shop, but essentially their prices reflect the cost of raising meat in a much healthier way.  I had a long talk about the lifestyle of the chicken I bought, and while not perfect, it’s not bad.  Or at least not horrible.  I shudder to think what they do to chickens to get the price cut in half at the supermarket.  I know most people eat grocery store meat without batting an eyelash, but I’ve done so much research into it now that I hesitate feeding it to my dogs.  But I digress…

When I take the dogs to the park, I usually bring a ball with me.  I bring a Holee Roller as my ball of choice.  It is big enough to kick around, soft enough that it doesn’t hurt the dogs to catch or get hit in the face with it when my aim is off, and folds up nicely into a pocket or tote bag.  The main reason I bring the ball is to keep the dogs focused on me.  Otherwise they tend to run pretty far.  That’s fine at the farm, where the fields have fenced boundaries and there are no other people.  But around here I walk in woods that have a road on the far side, and we encounter other people and dogs regularly.  As well as deer and other animals.  Keeping a focus and the dogs in close proximity is important.  

So I walk along, kicking the ball, and the dogs chase after it and take turns bringing it back to me.

That said, I really prefer them to run with each other.  When we get to the big, flat field areas, I always put the ball away and encourage the dogs to chase each other.  That way they run hard, they run fast and they twist and turn and do all sorts of crazy maneuvers.  Watching them run like that makes me feel like they are getting a real work-out, something much more intense than I can ever get them to do with just fetching in a straight line.  Ross and Mira are holy terrors, with Ross running flat out and Mira hot on his tail.  She is faster than him, but likes to chase, and he is very nimble and can twist and turn on a dime.  This challenges Mira, which she obviously enjoys.  She tends to run with her shoulder at his hip.  When he changes direction, which he does every few seconds, at top speed, she leaps up and comes down in the exact same position, but on the other side.  The choreography is amazing and I can stand and watch them run for as long as they want to run.  Which is usually a good long time!

I know so many dogs that never get to run like this.  I quite frankly don’t understand how people can have high energy dogs like border collies, and never or rarely let them run.  I take my crew out to run almost every day.  I’ve been doing this for years – ever since I’ve had dogs in fact.  And since I don’t have property of my own, I have to train my dogs to a fairly high level in order to let them run like this in public:

I think it is because of this that I have gotten so involved in dog training.  How else can you have border collies and no property?  (I’ve had border collies for just shy of 20 years now and have never had a yard!)

I actually was inspired to write on this topic after reading Susan Garrett’s blog entry about this very issue.  Here, she discussed how she believes one of the reasons her dogs run so hard and so fast is that they get to practice this every day while running on their property (28 acres, lucky dogs!). I had never thought of it the way she did, i.e. in terms of how it helps them build their agility skills.  For me, what is important is that the dogs get a chance to just be dogs, to run their hearts out and to use every muscle in their bodies as fully as possible.  But it comes down to the same thing.  It’s good – no, fantastic – for the dogs.