Running With Your Dog.
For all those fitness enthusiasts out there it may not have occurred to you that running with a dog might be the best sort of personal training buddy you could have! Studies have suggested that running with a partner increases motivation and the best exercise companion surely has to be one that never whinges about the weather or complains they don’t want to miss something on the television!
Dogs are always enthusiastic and ready to go and relish every opportunity for a good work-out. Of course not every dog, or every breed, are suitable as running partners, but nevertheless running with a willing and appropriate four legged partner could give your fitness regime that extra element of motivation.
This Holidays4Dogs article looks at the idea of taking your dog running, what breeds to consider and how to get started on a fitness regime with your pooch. Whether you are considering taking on a new dog to run with, or whether you are keen to start your existing pet on a running programme with you, there are a few things to consider before you take your furry pal running.
If you have a puppy you should never start them running until they have properly grown into adults – with some breeds this might not be until they are eighteen months old. It is important that your dog’s skeletal system is mature enough to cope with the strain of running longer distances; otherwise you could end up damaging your dog long term.
Young dogs with short hair and long noses make the best running companions. Short snouted dogs like bulldogs and pugs are more likely to have problems with running long distances on a regular basis and this kind of exercise should really be avoided. Border Collies, lean working type Labradors, gun dogs, Huskies, Pointers and Dalmatians all make excellent running dogs. Any mixes of these breeds are also good candidates.
Fit for Purpose?
Before you begin on any rigorous training programme it would be wise to get your dog health checked by a vet. It is also a good idea to consider any other risk factors such as hip or elbow dysplasia. If your dog has come from un-tested parents it might be best not to start on a major exercise programme such as long distance running, unless you are prepared to get your dog screened first to establish the health of these joints. As with humans who are embarking on any kind of endurance training, your dog needs to build up his stamina gradually. So even if you are already a seasoned runner, you need to take your dog’s fitness levels into consideration.
Basic training is the next thing to think about. There will be nothing worse than running with a dog that lunges this and way and that, endangering himself and causing you a very real trip hazard. It is also essential that your dog gets on well with other dogs and understands he cannot meet and greet every dog he sees once he is running with you. Likewise, he needs to know that he can’t stop every two minutes to mark trees and lamp-posts!
If he doesn’t already do so, begin by training your dog to walk nicely on a loose lead and build up gradually so you can jog and then run, with your dog staying in the same position, on one side or the other. You can use treats to help achieve this and if your dog pulls ahead, turn around and go in the opposite direction. Running is often good for dogs that pull because sometimes a dog will surge ahead simply because his pace is much faster than yours. You may find that running will help to train your dog to keep alongside you. However, don’t be tempted to set off on a sprint on the first attempt as your dog is bound to become excited – your aim initially is to train him to run in synch with you.
Remember to build up very gradually. A dog will keep on running with you, even if he is exhausted, so it is important not to drag him on a ten mile hike in the first instance. Monitor your dog’s reactions and gait, and watch out for signs for excessive panting or limping.
You will need to take into account water breaks, especially in warmer weather and it will therefore be necessary to carry water for your dog to drink. You can buy water bottles specifically for dogs with a fold out tray to drink from, unless you know your route has water spouts or streams where your dog can quench his thirst.
Your dog needs to be a on a good diet with plenty of meat protein and you could consider joint supplements such as glucosamine. Make sure you never run your dog on a full stomach – wait at least an hour after feeding before running.
Keep an eye on your dog’s paws, especially his pads. Check before and after each run for signs of cracked or sore pads. You can buy special boots to protect your dog’s feet as well as conditioning wax which helps to keep the paws supple and assists with grip.
Running your dog in a harness, rather than a collar, means that if there is any pressure on the lead this will be distributed more evenly without pulling on the dog’s neck while he is working out.
A longer lead would be also be beneficial – about 6ft – and there are special leads available which attach round your waist so you can run hands free.
If you are running in low light a reflective collar and lead might also be a good idea.
All in all, running with your dog can be a great motivator for you as well as being excellent exercise for a dog that’s full of beans! Plus, regular running with your dog is another excellent way to build a close bond with him; and next time it’s raining before a run, he definitely won’t be the one to complain he can’t be bothered