Ahhh, Spring! Finally, the season of warmer weather, longer days, and fresh air is upon us! You can bet you’re not the only one who is noticing the change of season; odds are your dog is too and she’s just itching to get outside to play!
One great way for the two of you to explore the great outdoors this Spring, and really any time of year, is to lace up your sneakers, grab a leash, and hit the roads!
Running is an excellent source of exercise for both you and your dog; however, if you have never tried to run with your four-legged pal, there are a few things you should know before you get started.
9 Do’s and Don’ts For Running With Your Dog
1. Do: Be patient and start slow
Remember, you are not Usain Bolt. If you and your dog are just starting out with running, you need to remember “slow and steady”.
It’s not safe or smart for either of you to train too much, too quickly; therefore, you need to gradually work into your distance and speed. Keep in mind that your dog’s pads are sensitive and need to be strengthened with steady mileage increases.
Because this is a new learning process for both of you, it may take some time and dedication to settle in and find a good pace that both of you are comfortable with. Don’t worry, though – as long as you persist, it will happen.
2. Don’t: Think your dog is a born runner
Not all dogs are built to run. In fact, some breeds probably shouldn’t run at all. Please take into consideration your dog’s breed and overall health.
For example, Dalmatians and Huskies are natural born runners, and with the right training could be your next marathon partner. Flat-faced breeds, such as pugs, Boston terriers, and Bulldogs have narrow nostrils and partially obstructed airways, which can lead to breathing issues when overexerted or overheated.
3. Do: Talk to your vet
Just like we need to speak to our doctors prior to starting an exercise program, it’s always a good idea to talk to your vet before beginning any kind of exercise regime for your dog.
Because dogs can’t (sadly) talk and tell us if something hurts, it’s necessary to cover all of your dog’s health concerns. Your vet can inform you if there are any precautions you should take prior to running, as well as what is considered a safe distance or speed for your dog.
4. Don’t: Take age for granted
Running with your dog could be detrimental to her bones and joints. It can take about two years for a dog to become fully grown and for the growth plates to close. On the other hand, older dogs may have joint problems, such as arthritis, that could slow their pace or even make them uncomfortable during running.
Other hidden health issues, such as heart and lungs, should all be taken into consideration, prior to running. This is why #3, talking to your vet, is so important before implementing an exercise program with your dog.
5. Do: Obedience
Training is everything, and that goes for obedience as well as running. You will find that when you combine the two, your outings together will “run” a lot smoother (pun intended!).
Having your dog learn to walk on a leash is vital, but so are other basic commands such as “Leave It”, “Sit”, “Stay”, and “Turn”. Keeping your dog on one side of you during walks will help to ensure he will stay on that same side during runs.
As far as the other commands go, you will want to make sure your dog isn’t distracted by squirrels, other dogs, or people while out on the road or trails and will listen in case you need to stop at a busy road.
6. Don’t: Allow pulling
A dog that pulls on a run can create extremely dangerous circumstances for both of you. In order to avoid any injuries, it’s important that you keep a tight leash during training walks. Have your dog keep her head by your knee while walking. This will help when you start to run because your dog will recognize that she must stay by your side.
Always remember to reward your pup when he is following your lead and showing good behavior!
7. Do: Check the weather
Remember to always check the temperatures before heading out for a run. Not only will it help you determine what to wear to be comfortable, but it will also help you determine how your dog will be feeling as well.
A good rule of thumb is to add ten to twenty degrees to the current temperature to determine your running temperature. So, if it is 60 degrees, your running temperature may be around 70-80 degrees, depending on your exertion.
Remember that your pup will get hot and may need to stop for water breaks. If you feel it is too cold or even raining, you can always purchase a sweater or raincoat for your dog to wear while running to protect her against the conditions.
8. Don’t: Ignore terrain
Going hand-in-hand, or hand-in-paw, with the weather, it’s always a good idea to know the terrain where you’ll be running.
If it is cold, make sure your running route isn’t icy or covered in salt that could burn your pup’s paw pads.
If it is a hotter day and you’re running on the roads, make sure the asphalt isn’t hot enough to burn your dog’s feet. Place the back of your hand to the road; if it’s too hot to leave there, then it’s too hot for your dog to run there.
If hitting the trails, keep an eye out for broken branches, roots, or rocks that could potentially cause harm to you and your dog.
After each run, it’s a good idea to check your dog’s pads to make sure they weren’t cut or scraped due to the terrain.
9. Do: Have Fun!
Running with your dog can be a lot of fun, so don’t forget to enjoy your time together!
Don’t get over stressed if you’re not going as fast as you expected or upset if you don’t hit a certain distance. Remind yourself you are doing something healthy for you and your dog. While you are out on the roads keep a few things in mind.
- Proper etiquette: If your dog must stop for a bathroom break, make sure you clean it up and dispose of it properly.
- More Active = More Food: Going from being sedentary to logging multiple miles every day can have a major effect on your appetite, as well as your dog’s. Make sure you’re supplementing the appropriate amount of food for the amount of exercise your dog is doing every day!
- Rest Days: Take them! They play an important role in the training process. Even dogs can get sore muscles and just need a break. Embrace the extra snuggle time you and your furry friend will get together!
- Be Mindful: If your dog is showing any signs of pain or discomfort, stop running immediately. If you suspect your dog has an injury, seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.
Above all else, every so often look down at your running partner and see her smiling face looking up at you! This is the entire reason you put your sneakers on and decided to get out that door.
Do You Run With Your Dog?
I’d love for you to share some of your tried and true tips for running with your dog a comment below, or stop by my private Facebook group for dog moms and join in the conversation there!
Oh, and if you’re looking for more ideas for exercising with your dog, I’ve got ’em!