Running can be a great way to exercise with your dog, but it’s important to keep their health and well-being in mind when undertaking any exercise regimen. You should never force a dog to run just because you want to, and by paying close attention to their cues, you can make sure that you’re always respecting their desires. Here are some things to take into consideration if you want to run with your dog:
Know Who Your Running Mate Is
The first step to running with dogs is to assess them so that you can estimate their limits. Consider these factors:
- Health: Take your dog for a complete veterinary exam before beginning.
- Age: It’s important to avoid beginning a running program with a puppy who has not yet fully developed. Most dogs stop growing at around 9 months old, but double-check with your veterinarian before you begin.
- Weight: If your animal companion is overweight, you’ll need to begin with a regular walking program prior to running. Start with 15 minutes of brisk walking and increase to 30 minutes.
- Size: Keep in mind that smaller dogs have smaller legs and cannot run as fast or as far as larger dogs and for every step you take, they are taking at least four times as many.
- Type or Breed: Some dogs are better suited to running, while others will naturally have a harder time with it. In general, short-nosed breeds and giant breeds will struggle more than retrievers, shepherds, and terriers (just to name a few).
Know What to Look For
It’s important to pay close attention to the dog you’re running with to see how well he or she is holding up during the run. Look for these signs of trouble:
- Exhaustion: Dogs are loyal to a fault and will run past the point of exhaustion just to stay with you. If you notice that your dog is glassy-eyed, foaming at the mouth, or holding his or her head or tail down, stop the run immediately.
- Dehydration: Humans have the ability to form sweat all over our bodies, but dogs can only cool themselves by panting and sweating through the pads of their feet. If you’re not running near a water source, be sure to keep a collapsible bowl and drinking water on hand for a cool-down mid-run.
- Paw pain: Even if dogs don’t appear distressed, running on pavement can wear down the pads of their feet, causing pain and irritation. Inspect paws for injuries after runs. If your “best friend” starts limping, stop immediately and check paw pads for cuts, glass, thorns, or other debris.
- Before beginning the running schedule, make sure your dog is leash-trained and well socialized with or at least tolerant of other dogs.
- Always wait at least two hours after your dog eats to take them on a walk or a run in order to avoid digestive issues.
- Warm up and cool down before and after each run with a brisk five-minute walk.
- Be sure to take breaks during your runs, which will allow you to observe how your dog is doing and give them any needed rest. Alternating between running and walking can also be a good approach.
- Once you and your dog establish a running baseline, increase the mileage only by about 10 percent a week.
- Recent studies have shown that dogs experience a runner’s high just as people do, so try to keep runs regular, as their bodies will come to expect the endorphins!
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