This is a guest post by Ryann Lannan, Front Desk Counselor
Almost a year ago, I rescued my very first dog to be my running partner. Some may think that to be torture for both human and animal, but running was actually what made her transition so easy. My dog is a spook (unless we are in a sketchy area, then I’ll say she is the meanest dog you’ll ever meet), and when she got here, it was a task just to get her to leave the front yard. We were both miserable…for about a week. Then she began to trust that we’d come home again, that the strollers weren’t going to eat her, that the garbage cans weren’t going to attack. Now, she is the one who gets me out of the house every day.
Anyone who tries running with dogs will tell you, dogs make for the best running buddies.
Dogs love to run! They are always eager to get out and run around, and they will never flake or sleep in on you like your human running partner might. Plus, I cannot tell you how much safer it is to go running with dogs, even a marshmallow like mine.
Running is great for your dog’s physical and mental well-being. According to several studies, more than 50 percent of our nation’s dogs are obese. Just as in humans, obesity can cause diabetes, heart disease, respiratory problems, and cancer in pets. Running with your dogs also gives them something to do. Dogs who are cooped up in the house, or in the yard, all day with nothing but their own energy to keep them company will find something to do. Like destroy your furniture, annoy pedestrians walking by your house, or charge at dogs on the other side of the fence. ALL dogs need a job, and running with dogs is a healthy alternative to letting them de-stuff sofa cushions. Burning off all that extra energy also makes your dog easier to train. Can’t seem to get your dogs to settle down enough to “lay down?” Try taking him out for a brisk jog and trying again. Remember, a tired dog is a good dog.
So, how do you go about turning your dog into the perfect running partner? First, let’s talk breed. Dogs with “smushed” faces (i.e. pugs, Bostons, and Frenchies) should not participate in strenuous exercise due to respiratory complications that can arise. Breeds often listed as the “best” running partners include Labs, goldens, shepherds, huskies, sight hounds, collies, and mutts. However, regardless of breed, most dogs are willing and able to run with you if you train them correctly. Age is also a factor to consider. Puppies should not run because their muscles fail too quickly, and when that happens, bone grates on bone when they exercise. Physical maturity occurs at different ages for different breeds; consult your vet on when you can begin running with your pup. As dogs mature, health complications arise. Be sure your dog is in good physical health before beginning any running routine. Again, consult your vet if you are unsure about running with your dogs.
Next, let’s talk equipment for running with dogs. Use a wide flat collar, harness, or martingale collar with a four to six foot leash. DO NOT use prong collars, choke chains, or any other type of training collar which could hurt your dog if he decides to go after a squirrel or other small animal. These collars can cause serious harm if he goes after something he is not supposed to or if you have to make any sudden corrections. Just like while walking, you want your pooch by your side on a loose leash while running, not way out in front or behind you. Choose a four-foot leash which will give him plenty of room. My personal favorite is my six-foot German-style leash which, when worn across my body, allows me to run my girl hands-free and leaves her on an adjustable four feet of leash.
Now for the training. Most people will say that you have to be able to walk before you can run your dog. This can be true in many cases. If your dog already has good leash manners while walking, great! He will most likely transition into running well. Sometimes, however, I think dogs need to run before they can walk. My girl is a saluki, as stubborn as they come, and when I take her for a walk at my parents’ house, no amount of corrections or treats can get her to stop pulling in an attempt to find squirrels. In these types of cases, running is a great way to allow your dog to burn off excess energy before practicing loose-leash walking and jogging. Give your dog some time to burn off his crazies before slowing to a jog and teaching him to jog by your side. Carry treats if you need to, and reward him when he stays in the proper position. Eventually, you want him to begin running at your side and think of the outing as simply a faster walk.
Think of your dog just as you would a human friend you are teaching to run. Don’t try to take him out on a 10k right off the bat. Dogs, like humans, need to train before they can begin running long-distances. They also need recovery time, just like you. Start small — some sources say about a mile every other day — and gradually add 10% each week. I did not train my dog so mathematically. Breed and physical condition are factors to consider when choosing a starting distance for running with dogs. The biggest piece of advice I, trainers, and vets can give you is WATCH YOUR DOG. Your dog will run himself literally to death to keep up with you. Listen to his breathing, watch his tongue and ears. If he begins to lag, it is most likely time to stop and turn around. Make sure he gets plenty of water before, during, and after exercise, especially on hot days, since your dog can’t sweat to cool himself off like you. And be sure to monitor his feet. Raw pads are the number one running related injury in dogs. Lastly, be sure not to feed you pooch one hour before or after running. It is dreadfully uncomfortable to run on a full tummy, and may be one of the causes of bloat..
Given time and practice, your pooch will be able to accompany you on your daily run. He may even be the one to drag you off the couch!
P.S. Don’t forget the poop bags!
Thanks for reading!