When you hit the road for a long, revitalizing run, sometimes six legs will keep you motivated than just two. We are talking about your four-legged friend. If you have been raising a dog for a while now, you must be aware that in addition to being great companions, dogs also happen to be inspiring running partners, and running with your dog will serve to be mutually beneficial. Running with your dog(s) will improve the quality bonding time to get to spend with each other, would provide more motivation to work out, and will eventually turn out to be a time you both would look forward to.
Your dog will always be available and won’t mind an impromptu run. In fact, he’ll enjoy running and spending time with his master. Just like running helps you stay fit, it will also help you dog remain healthy. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, almost 53 percent dogs in the US are overweight and around 18 percent are obese. Like with humans, dogs also face high risk of being affected by a wide range of diseases, some even prone to the risk of earlier death. Lack of proper exercise can also affect the personality of your dog, thus leading to numerous behavioral issues.
So, while it is wise and beneficial to run with your dog, there are also some things that need to be done and kept in mind before involving your canine friend in such activities. Here are 10 tips to help you benefit more from running with your dogs.
See Your Vet First
Before you start running with your dog, it is important to make sure that he is physically fit enough to engage in the activity. The best way to do this is to have him checked up by your vet. Since dogs don’t complain like we do about any health issue they may be experiencing, having them checked by a canine rehabilitation therapist to look for health problems that you are unaware of is extremely essential. This step is a must especially if you are looking to cover long miles with your dog. The vet will be able to diagnose and warn you about any existing conditions that may influence your dog’s ability to run, and can also suggest some cool-downs, warm-ups and stretches for your four-legged athlete. Also, once you start with the exercise, keep your vet updated about the changes in your dog’s health.
Know Your Dog’s Breed
You have been taking care of your dog for a long time now. Don’t bamboozle him now by not taking into consideration his nature when it comes to determining if he will make a good running partner. Some dog breeds happen to excel in running, but there are also breeds that cannot cover long distances. Learning everything about your dog’s breed and identifying his limitations will help make your runs more productive and safer for the both of you. Flat-faced dogs, like bulldogs and pugs, are not meant to be athletes. Also, short-legged canines like shih-tzus and dachshunds are prone to back problems, which make them unsuitable for running. On the other hand, medium and large dog breeds, like border collies, terriers, etc., are excellent runners.
Consider Your Dog’s Age
When your dog is still a puppy, it is natural to be tempted by his energy and take him for a run. But remember, he hasn’t grown fully. His bones are still developing and you have to wait for a couple years (based on the breed) until you involve him in running. If you wish to take your growing puppy for a run, consult your vet about the distance your dog can cover and also about the intensity that will suit him best.
Another aspect to note with respect to the age of your dog is that, older dogs need to be slowed down. When you start noticing that your aging dog isn’t as enthusiastic about running as he used to be, then it might be time for you to slow things down. Take him for shorter runs and then gradually reduce them to walks. It is important not to stop exercise all of a sudden.
You may be fit enough to run marathons, but the same cannot always be the best routine for your dog, especially if he’s new to running. First frame a routine, start slow, and build up gradually. Start with short distance runs and gradually build speed and distance. Following a 10 to 20 percent rule should work fine. Increase mileage not more than 10 to 20 percent every week. Start with 10 percent initially and then move to 20 percent based on your dog’s energy and reactions. If you find that your dog seems tired or less energetic around your home after a mileage increase, slow down your routine accordingly.
When a dog is well-rounded, he will be able to perform more than just running. This is why it is important to prepare your dog’s body for physical activity, just like you would prepare your own body. Before running, take a few minutes to help him practice warm-up and stretching exercises. You can do this by taking him brisk walking for about ten minutes. Strength training your dog is equally important as well. Taking him for a slow walk somewhere where the sand is deep is one effective strength training technique.
We humans sweat a lot when our body gets overheated during running and other physical activities. But dogs don’t sweat, and they need to remain hydrated just as you do. Therefore, when you go for a run, carry plenty of water sufficient for both of you to stay hydrated. Make sure the water is cool (not cold). Increase the amount of water you carry depending on the day’s weather. If its summer or the temperature outside is higher than usual, make sure you have additional water bottles in your running belt. Also, never allow your dog to drink from a puddle or the gutter. The water can be contaminated and can affect your dog’s health. Always carry clean, fresh water.
Run With Free Hands
Of course it is important to make sure that your dog is on a leash when running. While you may be confident and comfortable commanding the dog with your voice, others may not be as comfortable and would have no clue about the control of your dog. You may be thinking, “How can I run with free hands when my dog has to be on leash?” There is a simple yet effective solution to this doubt: hands-free dog leash.
When you run, you must be able to run naturally with your arms flowing, and hands-free dog leashes help you achieve exactly that. These leashes will also help keep your dog close and at your side during running. A hands-free dog leash also comes with slots where you can store your keys, dog treats, phone and also some money for emergencies, everything in an easily accessible way, making it extremely convenient.
Pay Attention to Your Dog’s Paws
You wear shoes when running, but your dog doesn’t; therefore, be attentive to the running surface and make sure that your dog’s delicate paws are not harmed by hazards such as pebbles, broken glass, thorns, hot asphalt, and other dangerous objects on your path. Your dog will run following your lead, so it is your responsibility to protect him from hazards. If you notice even a slight limp, stop and try to determine the cause; if needed, quit running for the day.
Paying attention to weather is also important. During hot weather conditions, the roads are obviously going to be hot, which can hurt your dog’s paws. In such cases, before you start running, check the pavement by placing your palm on it. Long runs during frigid temperatures should also be avoided.
Give Your Dog Nutrition-Rich Food
When dogs engage in physical activities, they tend to burn fat to fuel the required energy. Therefore, your canine companion needs more protein- and antioxidant- rich food to help him maintain a perfect balance. Feeding him real food, such as sweet potato, yam, cooked broccoli, fish, chicken and other proteins will serve best. Once your dog eats, wait for at least an hour before you take him for a run. Also, prevent him from drinking lots of water before running as it can cause bloating.
Clean Up After Your Dog
For most of the time, you would be choosing public streets and other public places like parks for running with your dog. In that case, it is important that you practice the habit of cleaning up after your dog. Always carry a few plastic or paper bags with you to manage this periodic mess. While in some regions it is the law, it is basic courtesy to clean up. If you don’t like to use your hands for this purpose, buy a dog poop scooper to do the job.
Remember to follow these tips for running with your dogs and your running experience is sure to be fruitful.