Trailrunning with Pippin

Trailrunning with Pippin

Hey guys, my name is Emily and I am a distance runner based in Auburn, California. Recently, I introduced my dog Pippin to trail running. I’d like to take you along with us on one of our adventures...

The sun sets on a cool summer evening as Pippin and I drive down the twisting dirt to our favorite running trail. This evening, Pippin and I are running in the American River Canyon which is only a short drive from our North Auburn home. Pippin wags her tail when she sees the trailhead. She is eager to start our evening adventure.

Pippin is a six-month-old German Shepherd puppy and true to the GSD’s stereotype —a tornado of energy. Pippin wiggles in anticipation as I clip her leash on. I like to use a ten-foot carabiner leash for running with Pippin because the extra length gives her plenty of room to move. The locking carabiner also guarantees that Pippin will not become accidentally unclipped during a run.

We walk at first to warm-up— staring in quiet wonder at the nature surrounding us. After a few minutes, Pippin pulls on her leash and looks up at me. Her big puppy eyes urge me to “come on already.” And we start. Pippin begins our run at a sprint—charging down the hill like a furry freight train. But after a few strides, she calms down and matches my pace.

We run together climbing up hills and hopscotching over a small creek. We fly past pine trees and stop in a valley to gaze over the seemingly unending canyon below us. “Wow,” I breath as I look down at the American River. Pippin licks my hand to express her agreement.

Her large ears perk up as we listen to the river. We stop to admire a wild orchid as it peeks its shy purple head out from behind a boulder. When Pippin is ready, we continue the run. Our hearts are encouraged by the magic of nature.

At seven and a half minutes we stop and turn around. Because Pippin is still young, I only run with her twice a week for short periods of time. When Pippin is older, I will extend our runs to whatever her vet says is a safe and responsible distance. Right now, I am teaching Pippin to walk and run on a hands-free leash (check out how to make one with a 10’ leash!) so I tie the end of her leash around my waist.

I prefer to use the hands-free leash on the second half of the run after she has calmed down and grown accustomed to the trail. When Pippin is older and farther along in her obedience training, I hope to transition her to using the hands-free leash full time. Pippin and I start running back up the trail. She begins to slow a little. I slow down with her; there is no reason to hurry.

A few minutes later Pippin spots the car. She bolts forward her energy renewed by the promise of post-run treats. She flashes me a challenging grin and I speed up to match her pace. My face stretches into a wide smile as we charge the last hill together.

We finish at the car and walk for a moment to stretch our legs. I offer her water, which she laps up happily.

Before hopping into the car, Pippin decides to leave the trail a… gift. I grab a bag, hold my breath, and reach down and pick up the poop. I’m well aware that other outdoor adventurers have no desire to step in anyone’s poop during a morning hike. And besides being a nuisance to other trail users, dog poop is harmful to the trail’s ecosystem. As a trail user and nature lover it is my responsibility to pick up after my dog.

The moon has made an early entrance as the sun sets. Pippin and I shake hands to congratulate one another on a successful run. At home Pippin curls up on her bed and falls asleep. I look over and see her oversized paws running in her sleep as she dreams of our next adventure.

A Quick Note on Running with Your Dog

Running with your dog is a fun way to exercise and spend time with your best friend. But I recommend that owners evaluate their dog’s age, breed and health before signing them up for a doggie 5k. If you have any doubts about your dog’s running career, I would advise you to consult a vet before hitting the trails. Otherwise, happy trails!

About the Author Emily Negus is a freelance writer, ESL teacher and avid trail runner. She currently resides in Northern California with her two troublesome German Shepherds, Pippin and Chancey.

About the Photographer Anna Woodhall is a Northern California-based photographer specializing in nature and adventure photography. To see more of Anna’s work follow her on Instagram at