QUICK GUIDE TO RUNNING WITH YOUR DOG
Running with your dog is a great way to kill two birds with one stone. Your dog gets a proper amount of exercise and you get a reliable and friendly training partner, who will never let you down because they are too hungover or the weather looks a little uncertain. But there are some things to consider before your start hammering out the kilometres with man’s best friend.
WAIT UNTIL THEY ARE OLD ENOUGH
Most veterinarians don’t recommend running with a dog under 7 months old. Your puppy’s skeleton needs to grow fully before you can start hitting the pavements. In some breeds, this can take as long as 20 months. Running with them too early will cause their bones to grind against each other once they are tired and the muscles are unable to support the skeleton. This can do serious damage to the animal.
CONSULT YOUR VET FIRST
Most human gyms advise you to make an appointment with your doctor before you start any new exercise plan, your furry, four-legged friend is no different. Take them to the vet for a checkup and let them know that you are planning on running with your dog. The vet will likely take a look at its heart, lungs and joints, just to make sure there are no underlying health concerns.
EASE INTO IT
I would like to see you go from never running in your life, to doing a 5K straight off the bat. It would be killer. If your dog isn’t used to running, start out slow and build up the pace and distance. Start off on a gentle and easy 5K training plan to build up to longer distances. Assuming you can make it to the letterbox and back, that is.
BE WARY OF THE SURFACE
Running on hard and rocky surfaces could cause your dog’s paws some pain. If you notice them limping or nursing a cut in their paw, stop running. You might want to invest in some dog shoes if you will be running on hard surfaces. Dogs paws aren’t made for hard pavements so these might help with the abrasion.
Running on grass or dirt trails will be much gentler on their little paws. It is also better for their joints, especially for older dogs who need to be careful not to put too much pressure on their joints.
LIMIT POOCH PERFORMANCE
I wouldn’t recommend running dogs for more than 10 miles at a time, even if they have trained for it. Dogs are not able to cool themselves off as efficiently as humans. They can’t sweat for a start. Instead, they rely on panting and heat loss through their paws. For this reason, try to avoid the hottest part of the day and choose routes with plenty of shade. Stop for plenty of water breaks to cool off.
Although your dog may continue running with you over 10 miles, they do so out of loyalty to you. They are likely totally exhausted and overheating. For this reason, I limit dog runs to 10 miles or less and watch out for any signs of exhaustion like wheezing or unresponsiveness, in which case, I’m normally about to fall over.
USE A LEAD
I know a lot of people prefer to run without a lead, but I find that running with a lead is much easier. Not from a disobedience point of view, but purely because with a fixed length lead, my dog can easily keep pace with me and knows exactly where and how fast we are running.
There you have it. If you want to go one step further, once you and your pooch are ready there are several dog-friendly 5km races which you could enter together. The next thing is hitting the gym together!
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