A lot of people enjoy taking time out of their day to get in some form of exercise. For many, it’s running. Running is a great way to get your body moving while also soaking in new sights and scents. This holds true for dogs, too! Most pet owners are already familiar with what it looks like for pups to be zooming around the household or darting around the backyard, so why not experience it together? Running alongside your pooch can open up an entirely new bonding experience, while also meeting both your daily exercise needs.
Getting Your Dog To Run With You:
Check Their Health
Before you hit the ground running, assess your dog’s health. Your veterinarian will be able to confirm whether or not your dog is in the right condition to start. Several factors will be considered in the decision, including their breed. While we can’t always assume that every dog of a certain breed will or won’t enjoy running, some do tend to enjoy it more and are better suited for it. For example, some breeds will handle longer distances better in contrast to breeds that should do shorter sprints. Certain breeds will be more prone to difficulty breathing or joint and mobility issues. Age is also very important. Older dogs may not have the strength and capacity to run, while puppies’ bones and muscles may not be developed enough to take on running just yet.
Leash Training - Your dog must first be good at walking before you can expect them to be good at running. For them to be good at walking, they have to be leash trained. All they need for this is a leash and a good collar or harness. Being properly leash trained means they know to walk by your side instead of running and pulling ahead of you or dragging behind you. This includes not walking in zig zag motions or constantly switching which side of you they walk on. They understand that you have control during the walk, and therefore must adjust to match your pace. Also reinforce basic commands that may be needed during walks and runs, such as “stay,” “stop, ”heel,” etc. Proper walking etiquette paves the way for a safe and pleasant running experience.
Introduce Running & Build Endurance - Just how people need to be introduced to running, so do dogs. They can’t run a marathon right away after only having been on walks! There are many approaches for how you can teach your dog to start running. One approach is to run for a certain amount of time each week and then increase it the next. For example, you can have your dog run for ten minutes each day for a week, and then bump it up to 20 minutes the next week. Another approach is to do quick bursts of running and then alternate it with bursts of walking. On one walk, you may do bursts of running for a minute and then walk for five minutes before repeating the pattern. The walk the following day can then change to increased time running and decreased time walking. It’s all about giving your companion’s bones and muscles the time to grow stronger. You must also give your companion time to gradually learn how to match your pace and run for longer periods of time.
Cues - Verbal cues are very helpful in creating a running routine for your dog. Come up with sayings, phrases, or words that will make the run a more synchronized one. When you want your pooch to switch from walking to running, you can say “Let’s run!” If you would like them to run faster, try “Quicker!” If you need them to slow down the pace, try “Slower!” These are only examples of what words you can use, but having some type of phrase to control their speed is important for both of your safety. Other phrases that could be of help are teaching them “Turn,” “Left,” “Right,” and of course the basic terms of “Stop,” “Stay,” “Heel,” “Sit,” etc.
Read Body Language - Always be attentive of if your dog is able to handle the speed you are going at. The pace may be too quick, they may be too hot, or running might simply not be the best for them. Look for any signs of being winded, overheating, discomfort, etc.
Additional Running Tips
Warm up. Take time to walk or do a slow jog for a few minutes to get you and your dog’s body warmed up before beginning a run.
Check the weather. Check if the weather is too hot or too cold for them to run. If you touch your palm to the ground and it’s uncomfortably hot, then it’s too hot for your dog’s paws, as well. Their paws may get scorched or they may suffer from overheating. Or the weather might be too cold, which can lead to hypothermia or the need to bundle up.
Bring water. It’s always important that your dog has access to water at any and all times, especially when exercising on hot days. Otherwise they could suffer from dehydration. Portable water bowls are convenient options to take on runs.
Take breaks. Take breaks from running every now and then to give your pet the chance to catch their breath and enjoy their surroundings. This is time for them to get a drink of water, stretch, or use the bathroom.
If you’re considering taking your dog for a run, there’s absolutely no harm in trying so long as you take the time to leash train them, acclimate them to running, and come prepared with necessary supplies. It can make a world of a difference in the way you bond and get yourselves in shape. But if your dog isn’t one to run or is not fit to, there are always other effective forms of exercise you could take on, whether it’s simply walking or throwing around a toy.