There’s no better workout buddy than your ultra-supportive best friend. All the more so when that best friend nearly jumps out of his skin with excitement every time you reach for your running shoes or get halfway through the phrase, “Do you want to go for a…”
But running with your dog doesn’t come without its hazards. Here are a few issues to consider before hitting the trail with your canine companion.
Evaluating Your Dog’s Suitability
It’s been a long time since dogs were wild animals, and some breeds are as far away from their wild running roots as can be. A Chihuahua, for instance, probably won’t make the best running partner, and even an exercise loving Border Collie or German Shepherd won’t be great at long distances if your individual dog has any sign of hip dysplasia.
Have a chat to your veterinarian to make sure your dog is a good candidate for the position of running buddy, and what distance is appropriate for him.
Even better, take him for a full check-up at your vet before you start your new running routine. They will make recommendations based not just on an evaluation of your dog’s health, but also on his age. This is important, as both ailing elderly dogs and pups with growing bones may be at risk of injury from too much exercise. Additionally, vets can make a recommendation based on your pet’s temperament – an important factor, as you’re sure to encounter many people and other dogs along the way.
The first time you went for a run, did you go for ten miles? Of course not. No matter how healthy and energetic your dog may be, they’ll still need to build up to the big stuff. Train up, and take your time doing so. The Pooch to 5k program has helped many dogs and their owners to start running and increase their distance gently. This keeps it fun and avoids injury.
Minimizing Tangles and Avoiding Hydrants
While it may be tempting to let your dog run free, leashing is essential to maintaining control. Go for just a plain light leash rather than a fancy retractable one, as this will allow you to exert maximum control over your dog and prevent tangles. Train your dog to trot beside you at heel so you don’t get frustrated by your stop-start run. Just make sure to reward him by stopping for a good sniff every fifteen minutes or so.
Pro Tip: A lot of runners insist on tying the leash around their waist to not only allow for correct form, but to act as a slight resistance band. Just be sure you are in control and won’t be dragged around by your dog which can ruin your form and lead to injury. Alternatively, avoid a knot by using a leash with a waist band.
Know How to Handle Dog Attacks
Running is a very primal activity, one that can cause other dogs in the neighborhood to react with instinctual aggressive and predatory behavior. To avoid the risk of dog bites, the best approach is to stop running, stay collected, and try your best to calm down both dogs. Own the space you’re in to make yourself look bigger and more assertive, but without doing anything threatening like lunging or hitting. If you are approached by an aggressive dog, walk away slowly and calmly without making eye contact. If your dog is attacked, drop the leash to allow them the best chance in the fight, and, if you can, get another person to help, and grab a dog each by the back legs then walk them in circles. They’ll be too busy trying to keep their balance to argue. In the off chance that you do get bitten by a dog, see a medical professional immediately. Also, be aware that dog bites can become a legal issue as well as a medical one.
Watching the Weather
Dependent on the breed, dogs can be especially susceptible to weather extremes. Dogs with thick coats, for instance, will overheat quickly in hot weather, while dogs with short coats have trouble in extreme cold. Heat, in general, will be difficult for most breeds, as dogs cool themselves only by panting, which leads to quicker water loss. Make sure to bring plenty of water along, and watch for any signs of lethargy. After a hot run, cool your dog down by soaking their entire body, and make sure to check their paws for any damage from hot surfaces.
Running with your dog can be a great way for both of you to stay in shape, support each other, and have fun. Follow these tips for a safe and fun run both for now and for years to come.
Adria Saracino is a marketer, blogger, and avid runner. When not doing laps at her fitness boot camp, you can find her writing about style on her fashion blog, The Emerald Closet.