If you’re like me (and millions of other Americans), you love running almost as much as you love dogs. Having your canine companion as a wingman is a great way for you both to get fresh air, exercise and loads of quality time together. However, dog bodies need to warm up to running the same as human bodies do. So take it easy on your pup at the start.
Follow these simple tips to enjoy a happy and healthy run with your dog.
Consult Your Physician
Well, your dog’s veterinarian, at any rate. A check-up of the dog’s weight, age, joint health and cardiovascular wellness will ensure that Fido is healthy enough to run by your side. Older dogs especially can run into arthritis, hip dysplasia and other joint problems, while younger dogs may not have fully developed physiology.
A Breed Apart
It should come as no surprise that certain dog breeds are better suited for running. Herding and hunting dogs generally do pretty well. Dogs with very short legs, such as Dachshunds and Corgis, may have a hard time keeping up with your strides. Flat-faced dogs (aka brachycephalic) such as Pugs and Bulldogs can have trouble breathing under exertion, especially in the heat.
Get in Gear
You’ve got a cache of your favorite running gear. Stuff that’s light, durable, dependable. Afford the same for your furry friend. Invest in a lightweight running harness and fixed-length leash. Never use the retractable kind when you’re out on a run. Some companies manufacture doggie gear with reflectors or lights for added safety. Pick up a collapsible water dish – and don’t forget poop bags!
The Old Hot-Foot
Speaking of heat, the blistering Texas sun can be rough for even the most experienced human runner. Now imagine doing it barefoot on hot pavement. Yeowch! Touch the asphalt or concrete with your bare hand. If it burns your hand, it will burn the pads of your dog’s paws. Running on grass or dirt will be so much easier on feet (and joints, for that matter). Just watch out for debris, gopher holes and other tripping hazards.
Who’s a Good Boy?
Manners matter. If your dog isn’t very well socialized around people, traffic or other animals, taking him out for a jaunt could spell stress and danger for you, the animal, and those around you. It may be necessary to invest in some obedience classes.
Also, practice good leash discipline. Your pooch should be able to walk leisurely with slack on the leash and obeying a few simple voice commands. You don’t want him bolting off after a squirrel and hauling you off balance… or into oncoming traffic.
You may be excited to get your canine companion out on the running trails, but give him a break and start slowly. After all, you didn’t just leap right into your first 5-mile run, did you? An excellent way to acclimate your dog and to get a feel for his endurance is to start with a steady walk and then alternate periods of jogging. Once the dog is used to this system, start implementing more extended periods of running. If the dog lags behind or wants to lie down, give him a short rest. Overweight dogs will need to start things off particularly slowly.
Also, be sure to stop for frequent hydration, for yourself as well as the dog. Remember that he lacks your all-over sweat glands and is matching your daily run while wearing a fur coat.
By following these simple tips and having a little patience, you and your best friend can look forward to keeping pace for several years to come.