Are you a dog owner that loves to jog? A dog owner who considers your canine companion your best friend? It’s only natural to want to share as much of our lives as possible with our four-legged pals. This includes our fitness routines.
As adults, it’s important to train in preparation for running and walking, or as part of any exercise regimen. It’s equally important to prepare your canine companion for the same activities. Running with your furry friend can be a fantastic experience, providing both exercise and bonding opportunities. Before you hit the pavement, there are some important do’s and don’ts to consider to provide a safe and enjoyable experience, for both you and your dog – unleashing the most out of your leisure time.
Do’s of Running with a Dog
- Begin Slowly and Gradually Increase Your Intensity: Like humans, dogs need time to build up their endurance levels. Start slow and short, and gradually increase your pace on your runs. Don’t forget to start each session with a warm-up. Consider a brisk walk to loosen up muscles and prepare for the road ahead.
- Consider Your Dog’s Breed and Size: The distance and ability your dog can run often depends on the breed, the size of the dog and their health. Build, strength and endurance are key factors in a dog breed that make it well suited as a running mate. Generally speaking, very large and small dogs should limit their distance and intensity when running. Some breeds are more energetic than others, such as Border Collies and Labrador Retrievers. Whether it’s short sprints or long marathons, these mid-sized types are well suited to train in tandem with you. Other breeds, such as brachycephalic breeds (i.e. short-snouted dogs, including English and French bulldogs, Bull Mastiffs, Boston Terriers, Boxers, Pugs, Shih Tzus, Lhasa Apsos and Pekingese) can have unique challenges with fitness and heat tolerance. With these breeds, opt for a walking regimen and stick to shaded or cool areas to avoid overheating or other issues. The American Kennel Club provides a list of breeds that are well suited to join us on our jogs.
- Prepare Your Dog Mentally and Physically: Regardless of breed, the health of your dog is a key factor when considering running as a pet pastime. Mentally, your dog should be obedience trained for you to maintain control while out on your jaunt, especially if you’ll be encountering busy areas, other people and other animals. Your dog should be trained on a lead for the running experience to be comfortable for you both – you don’t want your dog pulling on the leash and causing any unnecessary strain. The physical health of your pup is equally important. Check with your vet before ‘em-bark-ing” on any activities that require exertion. Dogs that are not yet full grown should not yet be your running partner; their bones and joints need time to be fully developed so as not to put any stress on their rapidly changing bodies. Older dogs should be given extra care, particularly to their cardiovascular health and their joint health. Shorter runs, or walks, would be ideal for your senior fury friends.
- Hydrate: We all need to stay hydrated when we’reactive. Bring a collapsible, portable water bottle and dish to help keep Fido feeling refreshed.
Don’ts of Running with a Dog
- Ignore the Seasons: Physical exertion outdoors requires different considerations for different seasons. Running in the summer has its benefits – the sunny weather, long days and clear paths make it an ideal time to take to the trails. With the sunshine comes the added perk of warm weather; however, it can be too warm. This is especially true for our pets. Just as it’s important for you to prepare for running in the heat or the elements, it’s equally important for us to consider how the weather can impact our pets. When temperatures push past 15 degrees Celsius, it’s important to know – and avoid - the signs of heat exhaustion (or the more severe, heat stroke) in your dog. Canines are less able to regulate their body temperature, and don’t sweat like people do. Watch out for excessive panting, excessive drooling, muscle tremors, and rapid heart rate, among other symptoms, See a veterinarian if you suspect your pet could be suffering due to exposure.
- Overexert or Overexpose Your Pup: Cooling vests offer sweet relief to summer heat when jogging in warmer weather or for long stretches. And when the temperature drops, it’s time to bundle up! Cozy dog sweaters or insulated jackets help keep our pets warm when winter carries a chill. Don’t forget that even though your pooch might have a fuzzy layer of fur, Canadian winters can become extreme quickly. If you’re feeling a shiver, chances are your dog is too. Their paws are sensitive and require care as well, which leads into our next ‘Don’t’...
- Forget to Arm Your Pet with the Right Gear: There are several items you can bring on your run with your pet that will help make the experience better for you and your pal. First, make sure you bring the proper running leash and collar – or harness – that will allow you to maintain control over your dog and allow for easy, comfortable strides. Say goodbye to those awkward glances from fellow joggers as you and your dog become a tangled mess and look like a professional marathon duo by investing in the proper leashes for the task. Second, bring a bottle of water that’s dog-friendly. There are a number of products on the market that allow your pup to drink on-the-go. This is especially important for long runs or warm-weather-days. Third, consider paw protection if you’re running in the cold or on the pavement. Your pooch’s paws can be sensitive to extreme temperatures the same way our extremities can. And finally, understand your dog’s unique needs. If your dog is not light-coloured, don’t forget to wear reflective gear that allows your dog to maintain high visibility on darker winter nights or during rainy days. Additionally, if your pet has specific behavioural needs, you can purchase colour-coded leads and bandanas that alert passersby as to whether your dog is friendly, anxious, good with people, bad with other dogs, or a number of other signifiers.
- Neglect Cool Downs and Post-Care: Always make sure to give your pal some time to rest and offer them some water to recover. Check their paws for any abrasions or signs of wear that may need to be attended to. And don’t forget some loving praise, and a small reward, for a run well done!
With the right care and preparation, your canine companion can help keep you on track as you prepare for an event at the GMS Queen City Marathon this September. And they’ll be delighted to help you celebrate when you get home!