Running: A healthy and good alternative to walks?
Running with your dog is a great way for both the owner and the dog to get exercise but don’t expect to go out and start a great run with your dog. Running with your dog takes preparation and training.
The following tips may help you decide if you and your dog are fit to go out for a run:
1. Physical capability:
Short snouted breeds:
Young dogs should not be run. You should wait until their bones are grown and depending on size and breed that may take anywhere between 6 to 18 months. When dogs get older they really don’t need that level of exercise. A hike or long walk should be more than enough. Senior dogs, 6 years or older, should decrease their amount of exercise at that level.
Right dog for running:
Once you have your veterinarian’s okay the next step is to gear up. Not only for you but for you dog as well. Here is a list of things you should consider getting:
• Comfortable running clothes
• Gear to hold both your and your dog’s water
• Good running gear for your dog: harness and a 6 foot leash
Gearing your dog up with a doggie backpack is not necessary. The increase in exercise is more than enough! A harness is the best for running. A collar or the gentle leader can potentially be dangerous. A well fitted and comfortable harness is the right equipment for running. No pinch, prong or e-collars. Good exercise is the result of a positive experience, not a negative one.
Before you run wisely choose the surface you are planning on running on. You have the option of buying fancy gel filled shoes that absorb the shock of every step you take but dogs do not have that. Their soft pads may get injured fast and in the summer asphalt can burn them. Choose intelligently!
4. Condition your dog:
Like you, your dog needs to build up strength. If you are both starting from scratch make sure you make yourself comfortable in the runner’s world. You are basically becoming your dog’s personal trainer and your goal is to make your dog fit enough to join you. For you to reach that level you need to know about training yourself first! If you are already an avid runner you will have to introduce your dog gradually to the sport. A walk – run –walk is a great way to start. Gradually increase the duration of our running segments by shortening the walking segments of your training before increasing the amount of time you exercise in total. Don’t rush! Your dog needs to build up muscle tissue and strengthen its ligaments. Your dog needs a warm up just like you and as a human do not forget to stretch before and after your run. Like you, your dog may feel stiff and show signs of stiffness after your exercise.
6. Fun or no fun?
Always bring water even if there is a water sources close by. Offer your dog water often, preferably every 2 or 3 miles. Your dog may not always want to drink but provide your dog the possibility to do so. Ensure your dog gets water before, during and after your exercise.
Unlike humans dogs do not cool off their bodies by sweating. They have sweat glands but do not use them as such. Dogs cool off by panting and if the air is too hot, no shade is provided and/or the ground is burning you are setting yourself up for a disaster. Don’t run your dog when it is hot. Overheating is a serious condition and many dogs every year just die of overheating by being outside in the heat without the extra exercise. Watch for excessive panting (the tongue may become incredibly large-like a spoon), an increase in salivation, a drastically increase of the heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness and red gums often go paired with signs of overheating. Stop immediately and cool the dog off. Last year a young pit bull was saved by a Ranger when they met by coincident. The young men running the neighbor’s dog thought she was fit enough to run. The Ranger cooled the dog off by putting her in his truck, turning up the air-conditioning and putting wet towels on her body and ensuring her body temperature would slowly go down. The dog got lucky and survived but a good intent could have turned lethal for this young dog if the Ranger had not shown up. Don’t expect someone to help you. Calling 911 will not bring you help. There are there to help humans, not dogs.
9. Cleaning up after your dog:
A dog running business is a tricky business. The professional needs to be knowledgeable on the field of personal training, human and canine physiology and especially canine behavior. They should at least be up to date in dog cpr and first aid (refresher at least every two years).
Ensure the business has qualified staff that knows what they are doing. The dog runners should have the ability to read signs of stress, fatigue, tiredness and discomfort. The business should also provide you with a progress report. Businesses that use choke, prong or e-collars should be avoided. Punitive methods will make your dog’s running experience less pleasurable and you really just want your dog to have fun!
11. Alternative to running:
Nathalie Mosbach Smith
(Owner of The Dog Hikers, K9 Consultant and pawDOGraphy in the SF South Bay. Article published March 28, 2011 @http://www.k9consultant.blogspot.com/2011/03/running-with-my-dog.html)