We all know the benefits to our health of eating well and keeping fit. Perhaps you already run on a regular basis but have you ever considered taking your dog along? It sounds like a great way to keep yourself fit, and exercise your pet at the same time but is it? Here are a few key things to consider to make jogging or running a healthy outing for both you and your pooch:
Before you set paw to sidewalk for a doggy jog, always make sure your canine companion is fit and healthy, and can cope with the rigours of running. Get him checked by your veterinarian specifically with the rigors of running in mind.
The vet will assess the dog’s weight, cardiovascular health, joints, and general fitness levels. From there you can work out how much exercise the dog can cope with, so as not to overdo it.
Before beginning, you may wish to start the dog on a food supplement that protects and nourishes the joints, such as chondroitin and glucosamine. This gives the joints the building blocks of repair, and can help them recover faster from minor strains and sprains.
Dodge the Downside
Be aware that not all dogs are suitable for sustained exercise such as running. For example, squash faced breeds e.g. Bulldog or Pug, have a tendency to suffer from breathing difficulties because of their anatomy, so leave them to potter in the park, rather than train for a marathon. Also, dogs with heavy thick coats such as Chows or Malamutes are going to overheat quickly in heat, so while they are designed to run and run they won’t cope well in hot weather.
Give some thought to your dog’s breed. Some are better designed for short spurts of activity with a recovery time in-between, (Greyhounds and whippets), whilst others cope with a steady pace for long periods of time (Vizslas, Pointers, Weimaraners, and Dalmatians), and other breeds are in between (Border collies, terriers, Labradors, German shepherds).
Small dogs, such as Chihuahuas may be totally game and up for the chase, but their small size means they’re running much further compared to a larger breed. Also, take care with breeds such as the Dachshund or Bassett Hound, whose long back and little legs can predispose them to injury.
On the Run
For the dog that already has a good level of fitness, start with a run every other day, with the intermediate day as a normal play in the park. For a medium-sized dog, start with a distance of around two miles and see how he copes.
Keep vigilant for the dog seeming tired or breathless. Always pay attention to your dog’s comfort and well-being, and if he’s flagging you should stop. Next time, don’t go quite so far, and start to build things up gradually week by week. Remember it takes time to build up endurance.
Take the Lead
It’s best to run with your dog on a leash. This means you have him under control should other dogs distract him, or if he decides to wander off in a pursuit of a scent. It may be necessary to train your dog to run on the leash, ideally staying within a couple of feet of your heel and not pulling, or stopping to sniff.
Running while holding a lead inhibits the movements of your arms, so consider getting a runner’s leash. This is a belt-like contraption that fits around your waist and the leash clips to it. Other things you need to take along include water for the dog, and a bowl for him to drink out of. Another essential are poop bags (just because you’re running doesn’t mean you don’t have an obligation.) If necessary, get yourself (or the dog) kitted out with a small rucksack to carry these essentials.
In the same way you wear running shoes, if your dog starts to cover large distances, consider fitting him with dog booties. These are great if you run on rough ground, or indeed over hot sidewalks or frozen ground. Special booties designed for running are available, and you simply pop them over the dog’s paws and Velcro them in place.
Always make a habit of checking your dog’s paws for sores or inflammation, and if necessary give him a break for a few days to let things toughen up.
The Final Furlong
Remember, running is a great way for you both to get fit, but it should always be fun. Make sure your dog enjoys himself, perhaps incorporating an off-lead circuit round a field or park, so he can takes thing at his own pace if necessary.