Having your dog as a running partner is an appealing idea for a lot of folks; you both get some healthy exercise and fresh air as well as spending time together and strengthening the bond between you. However, there are many things to consider and plan prior to taking your pooch along with you for a run.
6 Considerations Before Running with Your Dog
1. How Old is Your Dog?
Age needs to be a serious consideration when you think about taking your dog running with you. Until about 18 months of age dogs have open growth plates – soft areas that sit at the end of the long bones in young dogs. Taking a dog on extended runs prior to the 1 ½ year mark can cause long-term, irreparable damage that can affect your dog for the rest of his life. Young dogs are also more prone to spiral fractures, and they don’t have the cardiovascular system for endurance.
The general rule of thumb is to hold off taking your dog on long, directed runs with you until he is at least 18 months of age, and for some large and giant breed dogs even longer.
Conversely, elderly dogs may also not be up to the task – consider your pooch’s overall condition before deciding to take an older dog running with you.
2. Is it Safe For Your Dog to Run?
Keep in mind that very small dogs (a Chihuahua, for instance) or short-legged dogs like a Dachshund may not be physically suitable for running over any sort of longer distance. Additionally, brachycephalic dogs – those with shorter heads and flat noses, such as Pugs, French Bulldog, etc.- are not suitable as running companions due to the structure of their faces and breathing apparatus.
If you really have your heart set on taking your canine buddy along when you go running but he is physically unable for any reason, you could consider a pet stroller for him to ride in.
3. Conditioning is Important
It’s always a good idea to get a complete vet check-up on your dog before commencing your running adventures. Once you have the all-clear from the vet, start conditioning your dog very gradually. Start by taking him for a walk, then gradually integrating increasingly longer jogging sessions into the walks until his stamina is built up and he is able to keep up with you running on a continual basis. Watch closely – if your buddy is panting or lagging, it’s a sign that he has had enough and needs a break.
Train your dog to always run on the same side of you, close to your leg. He needs to move on a loose leash, without pulling you along. These simple measures will help to avoid tangles and tripping when you are running together.
Make sure to leave enough time to warm your dog up and cool him down by walking for several minutes pre-and post-run.
4. Heat, Cold and Other Considerations
Always be aware of the outdoor temperature prior to commencing a run with your dog. On hot days, avoid running on asphalt, blacktop or sand – a run in a shady area, or early in the morning or later in the evening, will be a better choice.
Generally speaking, dogs can comfortably handle temperatures between -10 and +15 degrees Celsius, or between 15-60 degrees Fahrenheit.
5. Equipment Requirements
Depending on your dog and the time of year and location(s) where you run, you may need a variety of equipment.
First and foremost, it’s imperative to carry some fresh water for your dog. Allowing him to drink out of puddles, streams or lakes could lead to illness if there are pathogens, or toxic algae in the water. You might want to invest in a collapsible water bowl.
If you run at night, ensure that your dog has a reflective vest, collar or leash.
Running on snow or ice can damage your dog’s paws, so you might want to purchase booties for him. If booties aren’t an option, coat his paws with petroleum jelly or a paw wax. Avoid running on surfaces that have been treated with ice or snow-melting products. They may irritate your dog’s feet, and if he licks them clean after the run he may become ill.
Whether your dog wears a collar or harness, a leash is highly recommended. Retractable leashes can be a nightmare, so it’s best to stick with a lead 4-6 feet long that fits easily into your hand, or clips to your waist.
Be sure to carry some dog waste bags with you and be prepared to carry any full ones to the nearest garbage container.
6. Special Considerations for Trail Running
Running in the natural world rather than a city environment is more appealing for many, including your dog. The different sights, smells and sounds found on a trail run can be energizing and exciting.
Even if you are running in an area where having your dog off-leash is safe and legal, it’s a good idea to keep your dog on a leash when trail running. Wild creatures such as squirrels, bears and deer may prove a big distraction or danger to you both if your pooch chases after them. Additionally, poisonous plants and pathogens in water sources can be a hazard that you don’t want your dog exploring.
Be sure to yield the right-of-way to other trail users and keep your dog close to your side as they pass.
Tick protection is also a must if you are trail running with your dog. Talk to your vet about this when you take your pooch in for his pre-running check-up.
Trail running is generally easier on your canine buddy’s paws and joints, but it’s still a good idea to check him over thoroughly at the end of a run.
With proper preparations, running with your dog can be an enriching experience for both of you. Happy trails!
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