Running with your dog is a great bonding opportunity and exercise activity. In addition to deepening your relationship, running has health benefits, for you and your dog. Running strengthens your dog’s heart and lungs, alleviates boredom and provides them with mental stimulation from the various sights, scents and sounds they'll encounter on the trail.
If your dog is exhibiting signs of hyperactivity, like jumping up on people or pacing nonstop, running can help them burn off excess energy. And if your dog is a little overweight, running can help them get into better shape.
However, before you can start running with your dog, there are a few things you should keep in mind to ensure that the experience stays safe and enjoyable. Read on for the four do’s and don’ts you should follow when running with your dog.
Check With Your Veterinarian
If you’re planning to run with your dog to help them lose weight, it’s best to consult with a vet first. Overweight dogs may have some joint problems that make it difficult for them to run. Moreover, the exercise may aggravate their joints and cause them pain.
Your vet can help determine if your dog is healthy enough for running. For example, short-nosed breeds like pugs and French bulldogs may not be suited for running, as they might have a hard time breathing so they are better suited to long, slower walks. Large breeds like Great Danes aren't suited for running as their size will put too much pressure on their joints. They benefit from longer, slower walks.
Bring Appropriate Gear
Just like how you need running shoes, exercise-appropriate clothing, water and other workout essentials, your dog also needs their own gear. Make sure to bring these necessary items for your dog.
When you start running with your dog, it is ideal to keep them on a leash for their safety. A leash will also help you maintain your dog's running speed. You can use a customizable dog running leash that ties around your waist so you can keep your hands free while running with your dog.
Collar or Harness
A collar or harness gives your leash something to attach to. You can also attach identification tags with your contact details, so people can reach you in case your dog gets lost or runs off on their own. In addition, these accessories can be customized to feature neon colors and light reflectors, so your dog is easier to spot in the bushes and low-light environments.
Your dog needs to stay hydrated while exercising, so make sure to bring water and make them drink periodically. You can pour the water into a collapsible cup, so your dog won't have a hard time drinking and you can pack the container away afterward.
Although you should encourage your dog to do their business before running, there may be times when your dog will want to stop and poop. If this happens, it’s good to be prepared and have a poop bag with you to clean up their mess. You can attach a poop bag holder to your dog’s leash so you always have them on hand.
Run Only if Your Dog is Leash-Trained
Depending on the location of your trail, your dog may encounter other people, other dogs, different kinds of animals and many other things that can catch their interest. While these stimulants can enhance your dog’s running experience because of the variety of scents they provide, a distracting stimulant can also be something that may endanger your dog if they’re not properly trained.
For example, if your dog sees a squirrel, they may start running in a different direction to chase it. This can cause you to trip, as the sudden pull on their leash can put you offbalance. If your dog isn’t leash-trained, your dog may continue running after the smaller animal. You may get dragged along or the leash might break, which will make it difficult to regain control of your pup. Without a leash, your dog can become lost or get into an accident.
Your dog must know basic commands before running with you so you can ensure your safety as well as theirs. A basic command you should teach them is “leave it,” so your dog can ignore a stimulant. You should also teach them to “heel,” so they learn to remain beside you while walking and running. In addition, you should train them to return to you at a call of their name and a recall like “come back.”
Don’t Push Your Dog Beyond Their Limits
If your dog is running for the first time, they may not be able to run long distances at the very start. For this reason, start your dog at a short distance and at a pace they can easily handle. Doing so can also allow you to observe if your dog enjoys the exercise or shows signs of exhaustion easily. In addition, a steady speed at a short distance can help build up their tolerance as well as their stamina. Once your dog has improved, you will eventually be able to increase the distance and speed they run.
If your dog is panting hard and slowing down, don’t keep pushing them to run. Also, make sure they have access to fresh water the entire time during the run -- stop often to give them a chance to drink. These are signs of exhaustion, so give your dog time to rest and some water. You should also watch out for a dry nose, as it’s a sign of dehydration.
You shouldn’t schedule running days consecutively as this will tire out your dog. Make sure your pooch has a rest day in between running days to give their bodies time to recover. Rest days will also help them think of running as a happy exercise to look forward to. If your dog seems uninterested in running even after a full day of rest, this might be a sign of fatigue. Hence, don’t force them to exercise and let them rest.
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