Even with the first big snowfall coming to Ontario, it’s important to think of ways to stay active with your pets. And though you may not be thrilled about the recent snowfall – your dog is probably very excited by the fresh powder!
Dogs are fantastic running companions. Their athleticism, energy, and stamina can inspire you to begin running or push existing runners that extra mile. For those new to running with their dogs, it’s important to prepare, train properly, and follow safety guidelines. Here are some great tips from the active dog experts at Kurgo.
Consider Your Dog’s Breed: Dr. Susan O’Dell, Kurgo’s consulting vet, says “Whether you’ve just adopted a dog or your pup has been part of the family for years, it’s important to consult your vet first to see if your dog’s breed is a good fit for running.” Even though most dogs tend to have a lot of energy, not all breeds are suited for this sport. Snub-nosed dogs like Pugs, Bulldogs, Shih Tzus or Lhasa Apasos, often have trouble breathing during exertion – especially in the heat. Breeds in the sporting group, such as Retrievers, Spaniels, Setters, Pointers, and Labs are typically great running companions. Check with your vet before running with your dog.
- Consider Your Dog’s Age: According to Dr. Brenton Gwinn of Palmetto Veterinary and Medicine, you need to be careful when exercising a new puppy. “The key is moderation. The number one cause of growth plate and soft tissue injuries is repetitive exercise with a young puppy, so leave your leash and running shoes at home until your pup is at least 18 months, when their growth plates have had the chance to close. Short, strolling and rambling stop and sniff walks are great for puppies and great for socialization, but be prepared to leave your pups at home for long hikes.”
- Master Obedience First: Dawn Celapino of Leash Your Fitness, a fitness company that runs regular couch to 5K training programs for dogs and their people says that basic obedience will make running with your dog safer and more enjoyable. Before you start running, you’ll want to be sure that your dog won’t start biting the leash, running in different directions, and pulling on you. Start first by walking together and practicing basic commands, such as heel. You and your dog will be connected by a leash while running together, so it is vital that your dog is obedient and listens to you.
- Short Sprints First: Leash Your Fitness advises working short sprints into daily walks first. If you build these short sprints up each day, it will gradually ease your dog into running.
- Increase Your Normal Walking Speed: Show you pup that you’re ready to go by increasing your daily walking speed. By moving a bit faster, eventually increasing to a jog shouldn’t be as big of a change for your dog.
- Follow A Set Training Plan: Finding a good training plan is the key to success. Leash Your Fitness created a detailed 5K Training Plan for you and your dog. This will help you get in shape and prepare for running a 5k. Each day there is a suggested mileage to run or walk to get ready.
Find the Right Gear: Find the right products that work for you and your dog and understand that it might take extra time to find the gear that works best. This can be dependent on the type of environment you run in. For instance, you might like a shorter lead for running in the city, so that your dog stays close to you and away from passing cars or busy intersections. For those who will be trail running, a longer lead might be best. Always run with a dog harness versus a dog collar, so that your dog’s neck isn’t being pulled on. Many people prefer to run hands-free which requires a hands-free leash or wearing a dog running belt that has leash attachments.
- Hydrate for Two: When you need a drink, it’s likely your dog does, too. Melanie White of @melvinonthemove is an experienced ultramarathoner and trail runner. She advises taking regular water breaks and bringing along a snack for energy. “It is a dog owner’s responsibility to make sure that his or her pup is properly fueled and hydrated. Remember that running with your dog in heat is never a safe idea. While you may be able to tough it out, your dog cannot,” she says.
- Set Realistic Goals: Be realistic about your dog’s training versus your training. All dogs train differently, just like humans. It may take longer to ease your dog into running than you imagined. Be supportive of your pup and remember to reward him or her for a job well done.
Running and consistent exercise improves your dog’s physical and mental health, as well as your own health! Get outside and start building that everlasting bond with your dog as running partners.