You might have already seen the New York Times article about getting to the root of the so called "runner's high" by now, but what really caught my attention in the article was the proven concept that it applies to dogs. To me, this explains a lot! As you probably know by now, Tucker is one lean, mean, running machine. And if you follow me on Twitter, you probably see my near daily post-run tweets about what interesting factoid came about during our run. Yes, our. I run a lot with Tucker. He's become a pretty fit dog. Except for the heat. Once that hits, he drags. But in under 70 degrees, he's flying! And aside from the obvious point that no running means he has more energy to spend elsewhere, once we go for a run, we always return and he is much more calm. It should come as no surprise, but I've got a dog addicted to running, and it may be because he likes the runner's high just as much as I do!
So back to the story...Here is the meat of the article that gets to the study and what they did:
But Dr. Raichlen wondered if the endocannabinoids had had a more
momentous role in the development of mankind as a whole. Had we
continued to run, as a species, not because we had to run, but because
we had become hard-wired to like it?
To test that idea, Dr.
Raichlen and his colleagues decided to compare the endocannabinoid
response to running in species that both do and do not historically run —
to see, in other words, which animals experience a runner’s high.
were chosen to represent the nonrunners (mostly because, Dr. Raichlen
says, “we could adopt them out into the community afterward,” unlike
other local noncursorial animals like possums and skunks).
and dogs became the designated cursorial, or distance running, species.
The scientists recruited 10 local recreational runners and 8 dogs of
They then took blood samples from all of the
people and animals and, after some preliminary, gentle training (“using
positive reinforcement,” Dr. Raichlen says), had each person or animal
run on a treadmill for 30 minutes at a pace equivalent to about 70
percent of his, her or its maximum heart rate.
On a separate day,
the people and dogs walked for 30 minutes on the treadmill, while the
ferrets, which had found walking on the treadmill difficult to master,
rested for 30 minutes in their cages.
The scientists drew blood after each session. They checked all of the samples for endocannabinoids.
turned out that, as expected, the humans had shown significantly
increased levels of endocannabinoids after running. So had the dogs,
suggesting, for the first time, that they, too, experience a runner’s
But neither species had developed increased endocannabinoid levels after walking.
the ferrets didn’t show higher endocannabinoid levels after either
session. They gained, it seems, no neurobiological pleasure from
What these findings suggest, besides that ferrets will
not make ideal training partners for marathon runners, is, Dr. Raichlen
says, that “a reward response” to aerobic activity “appears to be part
of our evolutionary history.”
Liking to run, it seems, may have helped to make humans what they are.
Obviously, running = playtime to dogs when you consider the alternative of sitting inside a home, so they look forward to any chance to get outside. But for me at least, there is a big difference between Tucker's reaction when he sees his running leash vs his walking leash. When I pull the running belt out from the bin, he know's its on. If I pull the walking leash out, I get a ho hum reaction.
So what do you think? Do you have a dog or other pet that has become addicted to running?