Dogs and running. Seems like a natural. Dogs run all the time, chasing kids, squirrels, or tennis balls, hence they should love running with us, right? We can’t help but think about this clip from the movie Funny Farm when we think about dogs who like to run! http://youtu.be/lSjwen4KDDs If you think a running routine could be a great bonding experience and exercise option for you and your dog, you’re on to something…
First, consider how you’ll start. Sure, all dogs run. Most dogs can sprint it out for a short spell, but just like people, building up mileage takes time. A couch-to-5K approach works best here recommends Dr. Tom Watson of Carolinas Veterinary Medical Hospital in Charlotte, who runs regularly with his dog, Spot. Increase mileage by no more than 10% to 20% weekly, and add in walk breaks as you build mileage.
The farther you go, the more you’ll have to think about your running partner’s needs.
Will it be hot and humid? Cold and rainy? What if he needs to “go”? Where can we get water along the way? Public parks are generally good sources for water fountains, some with basins low to the ground for dogs. Many trails and greenways have streams or other water sources, too. In some neighborhoods, you can find water fountains and dog bowls in front of homes or businesses – we LOVE this! Carrying a handheld bottle just for your dog is a must-do with distance and hot weather. And that bag the newspaper came in? Makes the perfect picker-upper for “number 2”!
“A dog will run until he drops,” says Turk Akbay, who’s worked with more than 1,000 dogs as a trainer with Off Leash Dog Training in Charlotte. Akbay instructs his clients to pay attention to cues from their dogs that they may be on the brink of overdoing it. “I’ve seen dogs’ footpads just turned into hamburger from the asphalt,” says Watson. “They’ll keep on going just to be with you.” A tired dog is a happy dog, but be the brains of this dynamic duo and be prepared to cut your run short if necessary.
Watson and Akbay both emphasize a foundation of proper obedience training if you plan to run with your dog. Teaching a dog to walk with you in a controlled and predictable manner means running with him will be safer and more enjoyable for you both. In most city limits, dogs are expected to be on leashes regardless of how well they’re trained. Some parks and trail systems may allow dogs off leash, but check first before turning Roscoe loose on unsuspecting runners, hikers, or other trail users. If your dog is not able to run or walk at heel off leash, keep him connected regardless of the trail rules.
At six months, a puppy is close to as big as he’s going to get. Watson says this is a good time to begin introducing young dogs to running. Start with coordinated walking and build from there, being conscious of mileage. And don’t rule out running for your older dog, he adds. “Running will help older dogs keep that muscle tone that supports their bones and joints,” says Dr. Watson. That’s good news for larger dogs that are most likely to experience arthritis. Be careful, and watch your dog for signs that he’s hurting, regardless of whether he wants to keep running.
Running with your dog can be great for you both. Dogs, like people, are creatures of habit and will quickly pick up on a running routine. Sharing an active lifestyle with your dog can be encouraging, motivating and naturally healthy for you both!