How to Run with Your Dogby Katherine Barrington
For many runners, running with a partner is a great way to increase motivation. If you do not have a running partner, consider running with your dog. A dog will adjust to whatever pace you set, and unlike a human running partner, he will not get caught up in the number of calories burned or miles run. If you intend to run with your dog, however, you need to take the time to properly condition your dog for it. If you attempt to put your dog through long-distance running without the right preparation, he could be injured.
Wait until your dog is full-grown to begin a running routine, so the dog's bones have time to mature. For small breeds, this may occur closer to 9 months than 1 year, but large-breed dogs require a full year or longer for their bones to be strong enough for long-distance running.
Build up your dog's endurance by taking him for long walks. This step is particularly important if your dog is overweight or out of shape. During these walks, monitor your dog's fitness level and make sure he isn't experiencing any pain.
Begin a running routine by taking your dog out for 15 or 20 minutes at a time, three days per week. Give your dog a five-minute warm-up period before each run. Consider the outside temperature and the opportunities for shade along the way. During warm weather, it is best to exercise your dog during the coolest parts of the day, and then only if the coolest part of the day is cool enough. Ask your veterinarian about the temperature limit you should apply to your decision about whether the dog can accompany you on your run. Dogs cannot cool themselves as efficiently as you can. Many are loyal enough to try to keep up, and the result can be disaster. It is up to you as your dog's leader and mentor to look after his safety. Do not put your running goals ahead of your dog's well-being.
Increase the length of your runs by five minutes each week. This is a safe way to build up your dog's endurance while also allowing time for the pads on his feet to toughen up.
Keep your dog on a leash while you run. Dogs have a natural inclination to wander and check things out; a leash is a simple way to keep your dog by your side, and a gentle tug now and then will keep him in line.
Stick to trails whenever possible. Running trails are more likely to be soft, which will be easier on your dog's joints and pads than running along the side of a road.
Provide your dog with plenty of water. You may be able to teach your dog to drink from a water bottle or your hand, but you're carrying a limited water supply, and these techniques waste water. Consider carrying a small water dish with you. A dog needs plenty of water on runs, and you don't want to run out.
Monitor your dog closely during the run. Watch him for signs of fatigue, pain or overheating. If your dog begins to pant excessively, slows down or refuses to continue, stop running. Cool your dog by wetting his coat with water, and let him rest in shade. If there's a stream nearby where he can safely immerse himself in water, take advantage of it. Otherwise, get him inside as soon as possible to avoid heat stroke.
Let your dog cool after the run by walking for five or 10 minutes. During this time, offer him water and check the pads of his feet for signs of injury or soreness. If the pads appear sore or broken, you have pushed your dog too far. Adjust your running schedule. Do not allow him to run with you again until his pads have healed.
Praise and reward your dog for good behavior. Carry a few small treats in your pocket, and reward your dog when he responds well to your commands or ignores temptations such as other dogs or animals encountered on the trail. While your main purpose for running may be exercise, it should also be fun for your dog.
Items You Will Need
- Water bottle
- Portable water dish (optional)
- Take your dog to the veterinarian to be sure he is healthy enough to handle a running routine. Besides advising you on whether your young dog's bones, muscles and joints are ready for the stresses of running, your veterinarian will assess his overall health and discuss a conditioning schedule and dangers of overheating.
- Give your dog the opportunity to relieve himself as needed during the run. Be sure to clean up after your dog.
- Do not run with your dog after he reaches the age of 7. At this age, your dog's bones and joints may weaken and the stress of running could cause injury. Small-breed dogs may be able to keep running up until 10 years of age.
- Overheating can be fatal for your dog if not treated properly. If your dog overheats, get him inside an air-conditioned area as soon as possible. If the dog shows no signs of improvement after 10 minutes, or if he starts to vomit, seek veterinary attention immediately.
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