Most runners find they enjoy getting their miles in a lot more when they have some company – and what’s better than the company of the four-legged variety?
As big a part of my life as the IT world is, it’s not the only thing I think about. I also happen to be an avid fitness enthusiast! I believe exercise and wellness are big parts of leading a happy, healthy, and successful life, and I’d like to pass that on to you.
In this series, I’ll share simple and effective tips and insight for leading a healthier life. Keep these in mind, and you’ll be surprised by how soon you feel a difference!
This week I’ll be sharing a few tips to help you make your dog a part of your running routine without putting their health or safety at risk.
The most important thing to keep in mind when you decide to train your dog to run with you is that, at least in this context, dogs are very much like people. You’ll need to be mindful of what their activity level has been up to this point and any physical limitations they might have, which means step one is taking your dog in for a check-up. Your vet can tell you if there are any potential issues that would make joining you on your runs a bad idea.
Your pet’s age and breed can be important factors here as well. Some breeds are better suited to this level of activity than others. Smaller dogs have short legs, which would make keeping up with you very difficult, and some larger breeds are prone to painful hip problems which make running uncomfortable for them. Pups with short noses and flat faces have narrow airways that make it tough for them to breath properly when they exert themselves too much.
Older dogs might have joint problems that will slow them down, while puppies can sustain bone and joint damage from running on hard surfaces while they’re still growing. No matter how big your puppy is, it’s always a good idea to check with your vet to find out when its safe for your particular pet before you start taking them with you on runs.
Once you’ve figured out if your dog is up for the challenge, it’s important to ease them into it. You wouldn’t fare all that well if out of the blue you were told to go out and run 5K when you haven’t been exercising regularly, and neither would your dog. Find a good training routine designed to build up endurance, and use those guidelines to set your pace. Always start off with a slow jog to warm both of you up.
Now that you have a plan, it’s time to work out the logistics of running with your dog. The next time you take your pup for a walk, pay close attention to their behavior. If they frequently get distracted, try to bolt ahead of you, or don’t always listen to your commands, you’ll need to work on fixing that behavior first. Ideally, your dog’s running leash should be between four and six feet long, and you should be able to keep your dog at your side for the duration of your run. This means teaching them to stick close and follow the pace you set for them, as well as a few commands to get them to leave things like garbage or sticks that they may find along your running path alone.
Since your pup can’t tell you how they’re feeling, it’s a good idea to stop for water breaks every ten minutes to make sure they’re staying hydrated. This also gives them a chance to catch their breath. They don’t sweat like humans do, so they can overheat much faster than we do. Keep a close eye out for signs of heatstroke or overexertion, like lethargy, weakness, drooling and dark red gums, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, or panting to the point of not being able to catch their breath. Invest in a collapsible bowl, or a water bottle with a special pet-friendly spout to make things easier on both of you.
If you have a long-haired dog, you’ve probably been giving them a summer haircut since they were a puppy. This can help keep them from overheating, but make sure you don’t shave them too closely since they need their fur to protect them from sunburns.
You’ll also want to make sure you’ve got a baggie or two with you in case your dog needs to make a pit stop and figure out ahead of time where along your running route you can dispose of your baggie. Training your dog to take care of business before and after your run can help cut down on mid-run stops to search for a perfect tree.
Finally, be mindful of their paws. If you typically run on paved paths or along the roadside, make sure the asphalt isn’t too hot. The pads of your dog’s feet are susceptible to burns, so test the pavement by placing your hand on the surface. If you can’t hold it there for ten seconds, it’s too hot for your pup to handle. If you’re running on a dirt trail or path, be sure to check their paws when your run is over to make sure they don’t have any cuts or other injuries from rocks, sticks, or other debris.
Dogs love getting to spend time with their humans. If your dog is physically healthy and well-behaved enough to go for runs with you and decides that it’s something they enjoy doing, you’ll find them eagerly waiting by the door whenever you take their running leash out. And what’s more motivating to go get your miles in than the sight of a furiously wagging tail and a big puppy grin?