Since the weather is finally getting nice and summer is just about here, you might be giving running with your dog a thought. I run with my dog Kina, a Malamute/Husky, and even though she’s literally, “Born to Run,” our running relationship hasn’t always been a great one. You’d think you could just hook the leash on and go, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. So here’s some tips I came up with if you’re thinking about taking Fido for a spin around the park.
1. Know your breed and get a clean bill of health BEFORE you start running
It’s important to know what kind of runner your dog is genetically prone to being. A dachsund isn’t going to have the running ability or endurance that a collie will. If you have a mixed breed dog, research the breeds you believe the dog to have and go from there. Big doesn’t necessarily mean, “great runner” and small doesn’t disqualify a dog from being a good runner, either. For example, a Great Pyrenees is a terrible runner, while Corgi’s are fantastic even though they have short legs. Also keep in mind that dogs can also have bad hips, knees, elbows, shoulders and backs, just like us, so be sure to get a clean bill of health from the vet before beginning this adventure. You want this to be a great experience for both of you. Not one where you’re dragged on the concrete chin first (this may or may not have happened to me. It did.)
2. Have the right equipment
You would think the longer the leash the better, right? Nope. Save the long retractable leashes for leisurely strolls. When running with your dog, the safest way is with a shorter, sturdy leash no longer than 4′. This will give you control over your dog should there be a distraction, “Squirrel!” and help in training your dog to heel to whichever side you’re most comfortable with. When you’re running both of you will have less time to react to obstacles, so you will need to keep the dog as close to you as possible. Also a harness is the safest way to run with your dog versus a collar or lead to again have the most control over their body you can in the safest way. You can get really sturdy leashes and harnesses at Target or Walmart for less than $20 combined.
3. Start slow and work on training
Even though I have a dog that was ‘born to run’ Kina still needed to build up her fitness before she could run 3 miles at a steady pace without a rest. Just like when you started running, you will need to start slow with the speed and time out running. A good rule of thumb is walk a quarter mile, run a quarter mile, and increase that time in slower increments. ALWAYS LET THE DOG BE THE JUDGE OF FATIGUE. A dog can’t talk and tell you if they’re tired or if they’re hurting so watch their body language. If they stop running, you stop running. If they sit or lay down, let them until they are ready to get back up. Never, ever push them. As far as training is concerned, you want them to heel to one side while you run, and other basics like yielding to other people and dogs on the path, as well as not chasing bicycles.
4. Always, and I mean ALWAYS, bring water
Dogs don’t sweat. They cool themselves down through the pads of their feet and panting. Even a bald dog doesn’t sweat. It’s so important to give your dog generous water breaks each and every single mile, especially in the summer months, when you’re out running. Old Navy has a great traveling water bottle for dogs for about $5 that clips right to the leash. Also let your pup stop at puddles and get her feet wet. Study signs of over heating and heat stroke in dogs and be aware of the symptoms should they start.
5. Watch the surfaces you run on
Hot concrete and asphalt in the summer is not easy on your dog’s paws, so if you have to run on these surfaces, do so during the coolest part of the day. If you can run on grass, crushed limestone, or a groomed trail, that’s ideal. Be sure to check your dog’s paws at the beginning and end of every run and never make them run on cracked pads or other foot injuries.
So with these tips in mind, running with your dog should be a really great experience for both of you!
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