Why Run With Your Dog?

Personal training for dogs. You’re kidding, right? Actually, no, we’re not. Research suggests up to 40% of our dogs are overweight, and they suffer from the same health complications that overweight people do. Veterinarians (including myself) are becoming more and more concerned about the increase in joint pain, heart disease and other obesity related illnesses in dogs. Hence, Pooch to 5k. Dogs can’t lift weights, or use the gym. If you’re going to increase their fat burning, you need to increase the intensity of their exercise. This means that a daily stroll just won’t cut it any more, it’s too laid back. The Pooch to 5k program will help you get your dog from doing nothing much to comfortably running 5km, over a period of 12 weeks.

Because you’ll be running with your dog, you’ll also get a great workout three times a week, as you train yourself to run 5km. Why not subscribe to our dog health and fitness newsletter and grab your dog, and you’re ready to go!


Feeding Your Dog For Endurance


If you’re going to run with your dog, you need to provide enough energy to meet his increased demands.

Have a look at your bag of dog food, and find the nutrition analysis. It will give you a figure for metabolisable energy, expressed in kilojoules or calories. Some ingredients, such as fiber, do add to the energy content of the food, but it’s not easy for your dog to digest. This means that it’s not readily available for your dog. Metabolisable energy is the amount of energy in your dog’s food that he can actually use. Dogs who run need more metabolisable energy than a sedentary dog.

Dog food manufacturers have recognised this and have started producing a range of foods for active dogs. These foods have higher levels of metabolisable energy, and may have higher protein levels, because your dog’s needs have increased, but his stomach capacity hasn’t. These foods may also have increased protein levels to help repair any micro-damage to muscles associated with strenuous exercise.

When you run, most of your energy needs come from carbohydrate metabolism. That’s not the case in your dog, who gets almost 90% of his energy for endurance from fat metabolism. There is some carbohydrate used for energy production in dogs. It is converted to glucose and then stored inside muscle cells in the form of glycogen. It is used for short bursts of exercise, and is used up very quickly.

You may have heard of human athletes “carbo loading” before an event, where they eat lots of pasta and potatoes to maximise the glycogen in their muscles. This has been tried in dogs, and it doesn’t work. There is an increase in muscle glycogen if you “carbo load” your dog, but it is also used up quicker so there is no real benefit. When glycogen is used to produce energy, a by product is lactic acid. Higher levels of muscle glycogen associated with carbo loading dogs means higher levels of lactic acid are produced, and this causes sore muscles.

There are three main sources of energy for your dog when he starts to run.
1. Inside the muscle cells, molecules of ATP and CP are broken down to produce energy. The energy is produced instantaneously but is used up in only one or two seconds. This energy powers that first enthusiastic jump at the start.
2. When this energy is used, your dog starts using up glucose and glycogen stores to keep his muscles going. This energy source can meet his needs for up to a few minutes. Think of an agility run or a flyball race – glycogen is most likely the source of the energy for these few fast minutes.
3. For longer events, such as the 5km, 10km and longer runs that we do with our dogs, they rely predominantly on fats for their energy needs. The sled dogs who race in the Iditarod race in Alaska have a diet that is around 70% fat.

An ideal diet for an endurance dog should have protein levels up to 30%, and fat content up to 50%. Feed him to condition, so if he’s a bit lean, give him more to eat. If he’s a bit too curvaceous around the middle, cut back on his food intake.

Categories : Nutrition



Great article Audrey. It’s time everyone understood that dogs who run a lot (and some working dogs make even ultrarunners look like slouches) need a huge amount of food and good quality. We’ve been working to try and convert our local farm dogs from their normal diet of cheap biscuits and dead sheep, to high quality endurance-type food. It’s hard work effecting change of course, but the dogs improve dramatically.
The human analogy is so important. I’m sure Francis would not contemplate starting an ultrarun without breakfast, and would have supplies of food and drink all the way around, but some dogs are expected to survive on a drink from a creek and one huge meal at the end of the day, in 40 degree heat. Beats me why.



Great article! I have a flyball dog, and when she started competing heavily we had to switch her food because she was eating so much just to keep weight on. We switched from a grain-free food to a food with barley, because I could not find a high enough calorie grain-free food. Going from 330 calories to 500 calories/cup made a huge difference, and it hasn’t effected her coat or digestive tract, thankfully!

Not many people think about the food they feed their dogs, but it is so important, especially if you are starting a new activity.

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