If you’re a runner and have been thinking about bringing your four-legged friend along for the ride, here are a few things to consider before you decide to star in this year’s version of Runs with Dogs!
Make sure your dog is capable of running
Dogs with shortened snouts (called brachycephalic breeds, like bulldogs or pugs) often struggle to breath, and don’t cool off as efficiently as other dogs do by panting, so they’re at risk of over-heating on longer runs. Short-legged dogs (like dachshunds and basset hounds) are more susceptible to intervertebral disc disease, which can cause pain, nerve damage, and sometimes even paralysis. Similarly, large dogs are more susceptible to hip dysplasia, which can cause arthritis and may even cripple them.
You would be wise to remember that each dog’s personality is different, too, so even if they are a breed that usually enjoys running, you’ll want to watch closely to make sure they enjoy it. And of course, always have your vet assess your canine’s health before beginning to run.
On the leash
Before you begin a running regimen, make sure your dog is able to loose-leash walk, and has been trained to stay to one side of you—and always the same side—when you run. When running with your dog, use a harness instead of a collar leash, to prevent sudden tightening across their vulnerable necks. This will minimize the risk of pain or injury. For similar reasons, use a longer leash than you might normally use while on a walk. And remember—always keep your dog on a leash, unless you’re running in an area which allows dogs to be off leash and they can reliably follow your commands.
Start slowly, and work up to longer distances
In the beginning, start with short sprints while out on your usual walk. Then, slowly increase the length of the sprints. Finally, lessen the periods of walking so that overall, you’re spending more time running than walking. However, with that being said, even after you’ve slowly worked your way up to consistently longer runs, always begin and end your runs with walking.
Don’t forget to teach your canine cues for when to run (something as simple as “let’s run” will work) and when to walk (something that sounds different from the running cue, like “slow down”).
- Have a plan for dealing with distractions along your run.
- Stop frequently and walk so that your dog can go to the bathroom and have a chance to explore new sights and smells.
- Don’t forget to hydrate both two-legged and four-legged runners!
- Consider trail running, as the dirt trails can be easier on their delicate paws and joints, as well as yours!
- Don’t forget that heat and humidity affect animals more easily than humans. You may need to dial back on your running schedule on hotter days.
- Pay attention to subtle cues. Since your dog can’t tell you that their feet hurt, that they need a break, or that they’ve been injured in some way, you’re responsible for assessing their safety on each and every run.
- Don’t forget to pick up after your dog!
Here’s to a new way to stay healthy and active with your favorite canine companion! Enjoy!