Dogs love to be with us, and they usually have boundless energy. In fact, they could be the perfect exercise partner—as long as you pay attention to some basic do’s and don’ts of running with your dog.
The Do’s of Running with Your Dog
Do check with your veterinarian. Before starting any new exercise program, be sure to bring your dog in for a preventive care exam. It’s important to assess your dog’s fitness level and know how to avoid any joint or muscle injuries.
Do start slow. As with any new exercise, we recommend starting with a training plan that gradually increases time and distance based on your dog’s fitness. A couch potato shouldn’t be expected to jump up and run five miles; you need to protect your dog’s health by starting slow and building up over time.
Do give it a try! Running makes for great exercise and a wonderful bonding experience. With over 50% of U.S. pets either overweight or obese, it’s also a great way to prevent weight gain. This can prevent major health issues in the future, such as kidney and heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and even cancer.
Do tote plenty of water. It’s no secret that Texas summers can be brutally hot. Carry plenty of fresh, cool drinking water for both of you, including a collapsible bowl or dog water bottle. Remember, allowing your dog to drink from creeks, ponds, or puddles puts them at risk for contracting intestinal parasites.
Do head for the trails. Trail running with your dog may be one of the best and most enjoyable types of running. The trails are cooler, shadier, and dirt and grass trails are easier on joints and paws. Be sure to check in advance that dogs are allowed, and always practice good trail safety. And don’t forget parasite control!
The Don’ts of Running with Your Dog
Don’t assume your dog is a runner. Yes, all dogs can run, but not all dogs enjoy it. Furthermore, some breeds can overheat too quickly, putting them in danger. Consider another activity if your dog falls into any of the following categories:
- A brachycephalic breed (pug, Boston terrier, bulldog)
- A giant or toy breed
- Your dog’s body doesn’t lend itself to running (long-backed, short-legged dogs)
Don’t start them too young. In addition to breed, consider your dog’s age. Very young dogs are still growing, and their joints are not yet developed enough to withstand the strain of running. Large breed dogs develop more slowly, so check with us before starting a running program if you have a young dog.
Don’t forget basic training. Basic training is important for every dog in any situation, and running with your dog is no different. Your dog should master basic commands such as “sit,” “stay,” “leave it,” and “come” before they start running with you. Teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash and knowing how to turn at your command also ensures your safety while out for a run.
Don’t run when it’s too hot outside. Save running with your dog for the early morning or evening hours (or skip it altogether if a heat advisory is in effect). Run in the shade, and avoid blacktop, asphalt, sand, and other hot surfaces that can burn paw pads.
Don’t ignore warning signs. Watch your dog closely both during and after a run for signs of overheating or overexertion. If your dog stops and refuses to continue, don’t force them. Excessive panting, drooling, dark red gums, and weakness are all signs of heat stroke, which is a life threatening condition. Stop, find shade, and let your dog rest if you notice any troubling symptoms. Douse their body with tepid (but not cold) water, and get to a veterinarian immediately.
We hope these tips have given you some inspiration and knowledge to start running with your dog. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to give us a call!