Are you like me and are wondering why you’re running without your dog? I started thinking about how ridiculous it is to go running alone and then walk my dog separately. Why not do both at the same time? Obesity and inactivity are the 1st world problems for pooches today and as dogs are essentially made to run, bringing your pup along will be beneficial for him in countless ways. Here’s why you should consider starting to run with your dog:
- It will keep him fit and help avoid obesity. Obesity in dogs increases the risk of many ailments such as joint and bone problems and problems with the digestive and respiratory systems and heart issues.
- It can help with many behavioral issues. Bored dogs often cause all kinds of problems ranging from destroying furniture to other unwanted behaviors. A regular physical activity can improve your dog’s life quality enormously!
- Getting out the door will be so much easier when you have your best buddy tagging along!
- Many breeds downright require hard exercise on a regular basis.
Because I’ve never run with my dog, I wanted to search for some basic info to make it enjoyable for the both of us and most importantly: not harm my four-legged friend’s health! Here are some tips I found most helpful to consider before heading out with your dog:
WHEN IN DOUBT, CONSULT YOUR VET
If you are not sure whether running is good for your dog, do consult your vet before hitting the road. If your dog is young, old or has some chronic illness or old injury, talk to your vet to avoid any injuries or pain. Your vet is guaranteed to help you find an appropriate exercise form for your dog!
DON’T START THEM TOO YOUNG
Puppies haven’t finished growing yet and hard exercise like running can seriously damage their growing and soft bones and joints. Depending on the breed and estimated size of your dog, 12-18 months is the recommended minimum age to start any tough physical exercise. Small dogs can generally start sooner and large breeds usually require more time to reach their adult size. If you are unsure, see tip #1.
Just as you would when you start running yourself. Even though dogs are generally good at running and are indeed distantly derived from wolves, your furry friend is not automatically an athlete if the couch is all it’s ever known! Their muscles, bones, joints and tendons as well as their hearts and lungs need to adjust to this new exercise just like ours do. Always start by walking your dog briskly as you would anyway (let them take care of their business…) and start with about ten minutes of running the first time. Increase the duration weekly and keep an eye on your dog to see if they’re getting too tired.
DON’T IGNORE THE WARM UP
Dogs need to warm their muscles and tendons up just like we do. Start by walking first after which you can speed up to an easy jog before going up to your regular pace. Once accustomed to running, any healthy dog can keep up with any runner.
DO YOU HAVE A BRACHYCEPHALIC BREED?
Do you own a brachycephalic breed, such as a pug, chihuahua or a bulldog? Brachycephalic breeds have exceptionally short muzzles and can have mildly to severely obstructed airways causing obvious breathing problems- try running while breathing through a straw and you’ll get the pug experience. Not all brachycephalic dogs experience these problems but it’s better to be safe than sorry so please ask your vet before taking your brachycephalic dog for a run.
DON’T ASSUME YOUR DOG WILL LOVE IT
While most healthy dogs will love to accompany you on your outings, not all dogs will like it. It may be something to do with their health or they might just simply prefer the couch. Look at your dog’s signs; listen to him. Is he jumping up and down at the door as soon as you get your running clothes on or is he nowhere to be found at the first sight of running shoes?
CONSIDER YOUR GEAR
You don’t need any spacial gear when you’re first trying out running with your dog. If you do love it, however, it’s a good idea to give some thought to what kind of gear you’re using. Anything can happen while out (especially on the trails) and your dog pulling or you tripping and accidentally yanking on his collar can cause potentially serious damage to his neck! My tip is to avoid collars altogether and get a (running) harness to maximize your dog’s comfort. To free your arms, you can get a special running belt and attach your leash or bungee (and poop bags!) on it easily. If you run in the dark, get reflectors for you and your dog both!
Especially if you run lots on asphalt or your dog tends to have sensitive paws, irritation can occur. There are special boots for dog to avoid this problem altogether. You could also try running on trails if it helps. If you use boots, make sure no dirt or small rocks get in there and hurt your dog!
HIT THE TRAILS!
To me this is an obvious one! As a bonus tip, take your dog running to a new location to get him more pumped up about moving forwards!
Canicross is a dryland sled dog sport where the runner is pulled by one or two dogs. They hold competitions at least in Europe if you’re the competitive kind and what’s more, any breed can participate as long as they’re fit for the task!
TEACH SOME BASIC COMMANDS
If you’re not interested in canicross, teach your dog not to pull on the leash. If you’re into canicross, you’ll need to specifically teach him to pull. A helpful trick for this is to always use specific gear when practicing so your dog will learn to associate a certain harness to pulling and another for mere walks. Again, you can go to new places to get some excitement into your dog. If you run on trails in the nature, teach your dog to ’’leave it’’ in case you run into something you don’t want your dog eating.
REGULAR WATER BREAKS!
Offer water to your dog rather too often than too seldom. Just like when we sweat our butts off running, dogs cool themselves down by panting. As a byproduct, they lose heaps of water doing so. Take into consideration that some dogs will be so hyped that they won’t ’’remember’’ to drink even if you offer them water so be careful!
DON’T RUN WHEN IT’S VERY HOT
Monitoring a dog’s hydration level can be tricky for even the most experienced dog owners. Once again it’s better to play safe and avoid running completely in the hottest weather. You could consider running late in the evening or early in the morning instead. If you live in a hot area, you can always ask your vet for their view.
And that’s it, pretty much all of the most basic tips for running with your dog! As always, common sense will get you a long way and if you ever are in doubt, your vet will be happy to help! I hope you found this post helpful and I wish you and your dog have fun running together!