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Running With Your Dog

We all want healthy lives for us and our faithful companions. Running and walking with your dog provides fun, bonding, and a healthy lifestyle. And in my experience, our canine friends are always ready when we are.

Before running with your dog, it is important to consider their breed, age, and fitness level. Certain breeds just aren’t built to run; Dachshunds with short legs would find distance challenging, and Bulldogs and Pugs have different nasal and airway anatomy. We need to wait until growth plates (cartilage at the end of bones) have completed their bony development, which occurs at 18 months in bigger dogs, before starting to run. Hard surfaces and long runs should be avoided until this development is complete, but walking will form a strong fitness base and transition into enjoyed running at the appropriate age. And dogs, especially older ones, can have arthritis or medical considerations which make running contraindicated. At your dog’s regular check-up, ask if he or she is “good to go”. Do not feed an hour before running. Dogs lack our sweat glands to get rid of body heat, so think about hydration. When it’s the least bit warm or we are going any distance, I bring the “Gulp”, a dog water bottle that sits in a tray that is easily clipped on your shorts or hand held.

We strongly recommend short and sweet in the beginning. Start slow; warm up with walking. Ten minutes may be adequate in the beginning, allowing musculoskeletal progression and leaves your dog “begging” for more. Consider the now mainstream mixing in walks with your run. First times out your dog may be eager and too fast and pull on you. If so, shorten the leash to 2 to 3 feet at most. Other dogs may not quite get it or be distracted and lag behind. With the right verbal and tactile reinforcement and the bond that come from running together, you will soon be in harmonious pace, except at squirrel sightings. If you would rather run with free hands, get a belly strap or cross body leash. For more leash tips, click here.

Running the trails put us in a natural setting and is easier on the joints. Also, the shade provides heat relief, including no hot asphalt on those paws. My chihuahua joins the big dogs on the trail, but there is large gravel at the put-in, not kind to little paws. Although we could use dog booties, we hand carry for 30 yards. Tick control is absolutely essential when your dog is outside, around tall grass, or woods.

Have fun, be healthy, and enjoy the bond.
Alan Gassel, DVM