If you’re looking to become more active and take up running, your dog may well be the best training partner you could hope for. They won’t be busy doing something else and they’ll be ready to go when you are – no excuses, just plenty of energy and enthusiasm! Follow our top tips for getting started with safe and enjoyable running with your four-legged friend.
Born To Run
Before you get started you need to be aware that some dogs aren’t suited to running – this can simply be because they have a health problem or are too old, but it can also be down to breed. Flat-faced, short-nosed breeds such as a Pug or Bulldog find breathing too difficult when they work hard and some large breeds, such as Rottweiler, can be prone to hip dysplasia, so they should avoid it too. It’s worth mentioning also that you should never take a puppy running with you, as it would damage joints and bones that aren’t fully formed yet. If you’re unsure if your dog is old enough, or a suitable breed for running, just ask your vet.
It’s a smart idea to take your dog to see the vet before you start a running program with them. Your vet will provide advice on what level of running is safe and healthy for your individual dog, as well as giving them a health checkup, where their heart, lungs and joints should be checked for running.
Slowly Does It
A person who’s largely sedentary shouldn’t suddenly spring off the sofa and run a half marathon and the same is true for sedentary dogs. Doing too much exercise suddenly increases risk of injury for both you and your dog. A beginner’s 5K training plan is a great idea as your progress at a safe pace. The nature of these plans is interval training, so you and your dog can use the walking time to recover and catch your breath. We recommend the NHS Couch to 5K plan, which can be downloaded free as a podcast and guides you every step of the way.
Make sure both you and your dog have warmed up your muscles before you start your run, as it’ll protect you both against injuries. A walk is a good idea as this can also act as an opportunity for your dog to go to the toilet, so you’ll have to stop less once you’ve started your run.
No Pulling Rule
Your dog needs to walk nicely on a lead before you introduce running. Choose a lead that isn’t too long so you have good, immediate control and begin training your dog to run and stay by your side with no pulling allowed. Ideally, you’ll be holding the lead in line with your dog’s collar – this way they’ll be no extra pressure on your arm, or your dog’s neck. Once you’ve gotten into running you may wish to look into a ‘hands free’ running lead, which attaches to a waist belt.
Encourage your dog to have a drink before you leave for your run and take some water for your dog with you – pet water bottles are fantastic as dogs can drink straight from them. Offer your dog a drink every ten minutes to start with; at least until you get an idea of how much they need to drink while running. Don’t forget some water for yourself too!
Be Heat Aware
When it’s warm in the UK (summer will be here in a jiffy, we promise) you’ll need to be careful as dogs overheat more quickly than us. When it’s warm avoid running in the midday sun and make a point of running in the shade. Pay attention to the heat of the surface you’re running on too – a good test is to place your hand on it for 10 seconds – if it’s too hot for your hand it’s too hot for little paws!
When you get back from your run allow your dog to have a leisurely drink and then check their paws to make sure they haven’t suffered from any cuts or injuries. Cleaning them with a warm soapy rag is a good idea, as it will remove any dirt or grit from the roads. If you are going to give your dog a treat as a reward for being good on your run, leave it a while as eating too soon afterwards may well make your dog sick. Instead, offer them another toilet break in the garden, then give them some chill out time and then praise them and offer a treat.
Do you run with your dog, or are you planning to start? We’d love to hear any additional tips or to see your photos!