If you are looking for an eager, always ready to go running partner, look no further than a furry, four-legged friend! Of course, there are certain steps you should take before heading out the door with Rover.
A larger breed dog is better for running. Smaller dogs don’t run very fast, and they’ll tire out earlier trying to keep up. Wait until your dog is at least 1 year old to be sure his or her bones are mature enough to take the pounding. And when your dog turns seven years old, stop the running and take him or her on walks instead.
Many people like to let their dogs run free. This may not be a problem, especially if your dog comes right to you when you call. But if your dog takes off after another animal or a person and won’t come, put a leash or harness on. And always make sure your dog has an identification tag and/or a microchip in case he or she does get lost. Train your dog to run right next to you—pulling on the leash may strain the neck and shoulders, and it makes breathing more difficult.
Just like people, dogs need a good checkup before running. Make sure the veterinarian gives a thumbs up to ensure your dog can run his or her way to a long healthy life. Heart problems or hip and back problems may keep your dog from being your running pal.
And just like people, dogs need time to build strength and stamina. Be sure to start off slowly and run short distances at first, such as one mile. Only go longer when you’re sure your dog can keep pace. Try to run in the early morning or early evening when it’s not hot because dogs dehydrate faster than people since they have a coat! When it is a little warm out, you’ll need water for your dog to keep him or her well hydrated. Either teach your dog to drink from a water bottle, carry a little collapsible water dish to pour water in, or choose a route where water is available. And if you happen to run when it’s dark to avoid the heat of the day, be sure both you and your dog have reflectors on.
Grass and dirt are better running surfaces for dogs since they’re softer and cooler and easier on the feet. Asphalt and concrete can get hot during the day and cause your dog’s feet to swell. Another tip for foot care: be sure your dog’s toenails are kept short and haven’t cracked so your dog doesn’t get his or her nails caught on something and rip them out. After each run, check your dog’s feet—the foot pads will get tougher with time, but you want to be sure there aren’t cuts, abrasions, burns or bruising.
Feed your dog after you run. People don’t like to run on a full stomach, and neither do dogs. Take as much care with your dog’s nutritional needs as you do with yours—they need to eat properly and take in enough calories to maintain their health.
If you get tired, you know you can cut your run short. Be sure to pay the same attention to your dog: if he or she seems tired, do the same thing and cut the run short. Some signs that you need to stop are heavy panting, considerable slowing, foaming at the mouth, eyes glazing over, weakness or shakiness in the legs, inability to stand up, any involuntary movements, or agitation and distress. You may want to find a class that teaches first aid for dogs so you are prepared if there is an emergency.
If you notice your dog limping or having stiffness in the joints, massage the area and lay off the running for a few days. When you start running with your dog again, go slowly and don’t run too far immediately to make sure you don’t aggravate the injury.
If you don’t have a dog to run with, check your local shelter. You can volunteer to run with a few of the dogs to see which one will make the best running partner before adopting. There are many dogs available who are looking for a good home. So not only could you find a great new friend, but you can also save a life!