Running is a great way for humans to get exercise, burn calories, and experience the outdoors. But did you know that running can be good for certain breeds of dogs as well? And, for those of you with kids who like to run, it can be a great family activity, too!
Before before you coax your canine friend off his comfy couch and hit the road for a jog, there are many things you should keep in mind to ensure you and your dog have a safe, happy, and healthy experience.
See a Vet
Running is a high impact exercise that is challenging for both humans and canines. Have your vet check out your dog to determine if he’s fit, and healthy enough, to run. If your dog has a pre-existing condition, such as a joint problem, arthritis, or hip dysplasia, running can be painful, if not impossible, and your vet may recommend brisk walks instead. Also, your vet will consider your dog’s age and weight, as older, heavier dogs may not do as well as their younger and trimmer buddies.
Determine if Your Dog is a “Running” Breed
Some dogs were not built to run. Breeds that should avoid a jog, according to Pet Health Network, include but aren’t limited to: certain lap dogs like Bichon Frises, as well as Boston Terriers, Pugs, French and English Bulldogs, and Pekingese. And, while some dogs are OK to run, they shouldn’t go more than a mile or less. These include Newfoundland, Mastiff, and Doggie de Bordeaux. According to Sarah Wharton at Marathon Dog Walking and Training, an average dog can run 2 – 5 miles, but not all dogs, like the sporting and herding breeds are built for distance. Some, like the Greyhound or Pit Bull, are best on short, fast runs, according to an article in Runner’s World. Take into account your dog’s breed while planning your run.
If your dog loves to chase squirrels, rabbits, bike riders, cars, or faces other “temptations” that he cannot seem to control, it would be a wise choice to work on distraction training first before attempting to run with your pet. Great advice given by Geralynn Cada, Crayons & Collars’ professional dog trainer. “Imagine being in the beginning phases of a run and your dog darts across your path tripping you to chase down a bunny or even a bike rider on the same path,” explains Geralynn. We’ll cover distraction training in an upcoming article very soon. Injuring yourself or your dog is not the goal when including your dog in your exercise routine.
What to Bring
According to trainer Mikkel Becker, bring as little as possible along on your runs. Mikkel recommends a collar or back-clip harness coupled with a fixed-length leash. Leave your retractable leash at home as these don’t provide much control. You’ll also want to bring along a water bottle as your dog should have a drink every 10 to 15 minutes. If your dog isn’t trained to drink from a bottle, she can be trained to. But until that point, you’ll want to bring along a collapsible bowl for your water breaks.
Before You Go
Just like humans, dogs should be sufficiently warmed up before hitting the road. You wouldn’t go directly from the couch to a sprint without stretching first, would you? Muscle preparation prior to physical activity can reduce the odds of an injury, and that goes for dogs too. Stretch your dog by offering a treat an allowing him to stretch for it. Then try fast walking, trotting, and then short spring bursts. Cool down by returning to a walking pace, stretching again to maintain flexibility. Also, test the temperature of the pavement by placing your palm or barefoot directly on the road to ensure it’s not too hot for your dog’s sensitive paws. If you can’t keep your appendage there for 10 seconds, then the temperature is not right for your dog.
Watch your dog for signs that he may be uncomfortable, tired, or overheating. These include falling back, breathing heavily, tongue hanging out of the side of his mouth, lying down on cool grass or panting excessively. If your dog exhibits these behaviors, stop immediately. Also, if it’s your dog’s first run, start out by running a shorter distance, such as a mile or less. Once your dog gets the feel for running and begins to build some endurance, Dr. Marty Becker recommends increasing the distance about 5 percent each week.
After the Run
Cool down by walking, quickly at first, then at a slower pace. Offer your dog a drink and try to stretch the muscles. Inspect your dog’s paws to ensure they aren’t injured or rubbed to a blister state, and remove any foreign bodies that might have gotten trapped between pads or toes.
With more than half of all dogs estimated to be overweight to obese, running is a great and inexpensive way to get your canine friend (and you!) some much needed exercise. By making sure you run your dog the right way, you can help keep your four legged friend happy, healthy, and you might just add years to his life.