Running can be as wonderful for us humans as it is for our four-legged best friends. Maintaining moderate amounts of physical activity encourages strong musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems for dogs just as it does for humans when done within reason and with proper precautions. As the weather heats up, trail running with dogs in particular is extremely enjoyable for both parties. Here are some tips to ensure that your dog stays healthy and enjoys the time as much as you do.
Have your dog screened and vaccinated thoroughly first: this may seem like common sense, but if your pooch hasn’t been seen by their vet in the year prior to beginning to run, or if the dog is new to you, take them in for a quick physical to ensure that there are not any underlying bone or joint issues that may be exacerbated with running. Certain breeds are predisposed to hip dysplasia and running could be quite painful for them.
Run with a dog, not a puppy: many vets recommend waiting until small breeds are at least 6 months old, and larger breeds are 1 year before you start seriously running your dog. This allows proper growth of the joints before subjection to greater impact
Increase your dog’s mileage and speed just as you would your own: When starting out a running program with a dog, begin running approximately 30 min, 3-4x per week. Increase either speed or mileage by 10% each week, but not both at the same time. This will decrease the risk of injury.
Try to stick to the trails until your dog’s feet are calloused: Running on cement for long distances withou.t allowing a period of hardening on the pads of your dogs feet can result in cracking and bleeding. By beginning on trails and grass, or shorter distances on pavement, you can allow for a gradual hardening of the pads. If your dog’s feet do crack and bleed and do not seem to acclimate, consider investing in booties.
Prepare for your dog’s fuel needs: If it is warm or humid out, and you will be running longer than 30 min, or if you are carrying water and gels for yourself, your dog will need them too. Dogs should be able to carry their own water and a snack, see the above websites for vest solutions. If your dog is panting excessively, take a water break.
Above all, have a wonderful time. My dog knows exactly which socks are running socks, and when she sees the Balegas come out she is excited. My sweet Labrador Sage and I love to do the 8.5 mile run from my home up and around a small mountain in our area (a nice 1300ft. elevation gain), and she has had 1 year of training to perfect this at the grand age of 2.5 years old.
Where have you and your four-legged best friend run?
Make your day great!