It is important to do this safely and provide the proper training before you take off running! If you are a runner and think that your dog would be the ideal running partner, you may be right. However, there are some very important things to consider before hitting the pavement to ensure her health and safety.
- Get clearance from your veterinarian. Your dog must be old enough – he can suffer serious injury if overly vigorous exercise takes place before growth plates are closed. The age at which this occurs varies with breeds. For young puppies and very large, heavy breeds of any age, sustained running is hard on the joints. Your veterinarian can also give your dog a general health check to make sure she is good enough condition to start an exercise program.
- Consider the breed. Just because your dog is a running breed like a Greyhound or Whippet doesn’t mean that he can run long distances. These are bred to be sprinters. Anything more than a mile is a long distance for a Greyhound, but with proper conditioning he can certainly do more. After all, a pretty fast run for you is just trotting for him – not a full-out 35 mph run. Dogs bred for stamina to handle distance include Dalmatians, Siberian Huskies, and many sporting breeds. Dogs with brachycephalic faces (including Pugs, Bulldogs, and Boxers) may have trouble breathing when exerted heavily and should be exercised with great care.
- Build up: Once your veterinarian has given the go-ahead, start off slowly to build up endurance. You would not start your running career with a marathon on the first day and neither should your dog. Half a mile every other day is a good start. It’s important to condition her slowly – just as you would yourself.
- Humans are suited to long distance running. We sweat all over and know how to pace ourselves. Dogs, not so much. A Labrador retriever in excellent condition has a lot of stamina, but his enthusiasm can get the best of him – he might run until he drops. It’s your job to be the one who knows best. Know the signs of heat exhaustion and know what to do if this happens. Take water for your dog or a collapsible bowl if you are certain there will be water available along the way.
- Run early in the morning or in the evening, not during the hottest part of the day. Pavement can get very hot and can hurt your dog’s paws. It’s also just plain hotter closer to the ground, where your dog is. In the winter, snow can accumulate between the dog’s toes, and salt on the road or sidewalk can be harmful. You’ll need to wash your dog’s feet after the run. You can also try booties that are made to protect dogs’ feet.
- Training: Your dog needs to know the basics of loose-leash walking by your side before starting jogging. It is dangerous to have a dog that crosses in front of you or lunges to the side or ahead while you are jogging. Your dog also should be socialized and able to handle anything or anyone she sees on a run, just as she would be for any activity that she participates in with you. Use a special leash – one that is different than the one used for other walks. Your dog will learn the difference and will know that this is a run, not an amble to the park or a potty walk. And by the way, take your dog on a potty and sniff walk before the run and afterwards. This will eliminate the need for frequent stops on your run.
- Something to consider for yourself: a hands-free leash. Holding a leash in your hand while you run doesn’t allow you to use your arms properly; you might end up with shoulder or back pain.
Running with your dog is a great way to get exercise and also bond with your best buddy. Your pooch may top out at two miles or he may become a long-distance runner. Each dog is different, and you know yours better than anyone, so watch carefully to be sure that he is running comfortably. Happy running!