Having a companion while you go out running is very nice, especially when that running partner is your furry best friend. It is important to consider some things about your pet’s health first before you start training for your next marathon.
1. Make sure your dog is in good health
Any type of running is a high-impact activity, so your dog should be in good shape before you get started.
If you’re not sure, book an appointment with your vet – and definitely do so if your dog has a medical history of hip dysplasia or arthritis, as running can aggravate these conditions.
Last but not least, if your dog is overweight, they’ll need to get to a healthier weight through gentle exercise and proper diet before you get started, as running can put serious strain on their joints and cause long term issues.
2. Age matters
While it probably comes as no surprise that older dogs aren’t always up for a running regime, many people aren’t aware very young dogs shouldn’t be your running mate – you’ll need to wait until they are at least a year old.
Why? Their bones and muscles are still maturing until this time, and running can cause serious damage – especially long-distance running.
Consult your vet if you’re unsure if running is suitable for your dog as it can vary widely between breeds and individual dogs.
3. They may not be ok with it
While it’s uncommon to find a dog that doesn’t bound with joy at the grab of a leash or the word “walkies”, not all dogs will enjoy running with you.
Even dogs who fit the bill on paper in terms of breed, age and health – there will be the occasional dog that will simply look at you with a big, firm, ‘no way, nuh uh’.
Other pooches may really enjoy running, but may leave you frustrated because their nature dictates they simply must stop and smell the roses. All of them. At every second gate. If you find yourself faced with either of these characters, your best bet is to stick to walking with the dog and train for the running by yourself, or find another doggie running mate.
4. Breed is important
Breed is one of the biggest predictors of whether your dog is a suitable running partner, and what kind of running will suit them.
Hunting and herding breeds like German Short-haired pointers, Jack Russells, Border Collies and Kelpies tend to suit long distances (over 10km), while Greyhounds, Pitbulls and Golden Retrievers suit middle distances (less than 10km).
Very small and very large breeds don’t typically make good running partners at all, and it is not safe to train with dogs that have a tendency to overheat, such as pugs and bulldogs.
5. Start slow
Just like humans that are new to running, dogs will have the most success if you allow them to build up to it slowly.
Start by taking long walks each day (2km or more) to build your dog’s fitness, slowly replacing a few of these walks with slow runs – making sure your dog is keeping up and not becoming overly puffed or dragging on the leash.
Gradually increase the speed and distance until they are happy running at your desired pace.
6. Choose your route and time of day carefully
As well as choosing the right kind of run for your dog’s abilities, choose a route with soft surfaces – avoiding concrete, hot roads and debris including glass and prickles as they can harm your pooch’s paws.
Also avoid running on excessively hot days, and in summer, try to run early in the morning or late in the evening.
7. The right lead is important
Even if your dog is well-trained, it’s a good idea to keep them on a lead at all times.
Retractable leads are not recommended for running, as they can easily tangle or become wrapped around people or objects, and at running pace, this could lead to a nasty pull for you or your dog. Choke chains are also not advised as it can collapse your dog’s windpipe.
Go for a relatively short (1-2 metre) lead attached to a standard collar or harness.
8. You’ll need a collapsible water dish
It’s important to keep your dog hydrated throughout a run.
If possible, take a collapsible water dish or run a route where you know your dog will have access to clean water along the way – and don’t get too caught up and forget to let them stop!
9. After run care
After each run, check your dog’s paws for stick injuries or abrasions, especially the pads, and check for grass seeds between the toes.
Ensure they have access to fresh water and a place to rest when they get home (or in the car if it’s a long drive).
If you notice they are foaming at the mouth, panting heavily or have glazed eyes, immediately contact your vet.
10. Recovery time
Give your dog a day off a few days a week. This will allow their muscles and joints to recover.
Keep Gresham Animal Hospital in mind next time your dog needs a checkup, shots, vaccines, give us a call at 503.666.1600 or visit our website at: www.greshamanimalhospital.com/