Man’s best friend is ready to make your run comfortable again
If you’re a runner – whether you run up every morning or every now and then – you know what it feels like to have just one open road ahead of you. This sense of freedom mixed with the endorphins of a challenging activity is what makes runners (weather permitting or otherwise) come back for more. This is how your dog feels when he can let off steam in the dog park or in a huge backyard, right? So why not experience this freedom together?
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While walking your dog has a slew of benefits – bonding, exercise, training, exposure, to name a few – there are a few important things to consider before starting your typical walk around the block versus simply a jog around the block Swap town with your pooch. From simple logistics to health concerns and safety precautions, here’s what to look for when walking your dog.
1. Know that not all dogs are made for this
Height, health, breed, and age should all be considered before walking your dog. Consult the experts, including your veterinarian, a certified dog trainer, or even a certified canine fitness trainer (yes, that’s a thing!) Ambassadors.
“You really need to think about it, can your dog do this?” adds Jennifer Herrera, certified dog trainer at Hudson Barks. “In addition to being physically fit, is that a good fit for your dog?” For example, walking with a pug may not be the best idea, however, because of the size of the breed and the short snout that could make breathing difficult even large dogs do not automatically qualify as excellent running partners, explains Herrera. “It’s not just about size,” she says. “The Bullmastiff is a huge breed, but they don’t like to run – they’re slow, couch potatoes.”
Plus, one of the biggest mistakes new pet parents make is taking their pup out to run with limitless energy. While you might think this is a surefire way to wipe them out so they stop chewing on the furniture, it can be detrimental to your dog’s health in the long term, explains Schultz. “You don’t want to walk a puppy until its growth plates have closed,” she says, adding that this happens on average after about 18 months, but it is breed dependent. Any type of prolonged, vigorous activity while your young, pliable bones are still growing and strengthening could result in immediate injury or long-term problems with your joints or bones, both Schultz and Herrara agree.
2. Make sure that your dog is well conditioned
You wouldn’t wake up one day and decide to run a marathon without ever jogging more than a mile, would you? To the right. The same goes for your dog. Not only should you get the all-clear from your vet – you don’t want a bad run to be the way you learn about a medical problem – but you should take a small step into the activity.
“You don’t want to walk five miles with your dog right from the gate,” says Schultz. “It’s not good for your paws. It’s not good for your joints. ”Instead, start with a mile and then increase either your distance or time by 10 percent each week, she suggests.
In addition to cardiovascular conditioning, you’ll also want to make sure that your pup’s paw pads are conformed to any surface you’ll be walking on – be it sidewalk, gravel, or the pathway – to make sure they don’t get damaged or tear. You can do this by simply taking them on routine walks wherever you want to run with them for a couple of weeks, explains Shultz.
If your dog gets along well with boots, you can opt for a kit to better protect his feet. Some options to consider: Ruffwear Grip Trex dog boots, Pet Pawsabilities dog shoes or, if you’re running in colder temperatures, the KONG Sport dog boots. Just know that booties can alter your dog’s gait, which means that doing so could affect his walking stride in some way, says Schultz.
2. Consider increasing your pace
Instead of getting your dog to run at your speed, consider increasing your running pace to match his. “The natural pace of a dog is faster than that of a human,” emphasizes Schultz. Instead of feeling like your dog is dragging you along during the run (which isn’t fun for them or you), she recommends exercising with your dog before each run to increase your own pace so that both of you can enjoy it, to keep up with each other. You can even think of it as a motivation to add some momentum to your step.
3. Grab the necessary equipment
Think about it: you spend so much time (and money) finding the best running shoes, exercise headphones, and exercise goggles that won’t fall off your sweaty nose with every step you take. Equipment is important, and the same is true if you want to have fun running with your dog.
One important thing that can not only make the experience easier and more enjoyable for both of you, but also keep safety in check, is a hands-free leash. There are a number of things that could go wrong when running on your regular leash – most notably, losing it – not to mention that many runners prefer to have their hands free when counting miles. The Ruffwear Trail Runner dog leash belt system checks all boxes and a few more as it acts as a running belt with integrated storage for your keys, phone and treats for your dog, has a water bottle holder and has a shock-absorbing ridgeline leash that attach to the belt loop can. This bungee-style leash is a great option for running, especially because “it reduces the stress of pulling or dragging your dog forward or backward so he doesn’t jerk,” explains Herrera.
You should also always have a first aid kit for you and your pet and a collapsible water bowl on hand, recommends Herrera. And if you’re running in an urban setting, don’t run on a leash that is longer than 6 feet to avoid tangles, traffic, or too great a distance between you and your dog, she adds.
4. Change your mindset
If you decide to go running with your dog, the activity is no longer for you – it’s for him, says Schultz, adding that if you’re training for a race or other goal, you’ll do your own run separately and focus on walking your dog as an enrichment time for them. Think of it as an opportunity to bond with your pet. Not only do some breeds thrive on this type of physical activity – usually hunting or herding breeds like the Vizsla or Australian Shepherd are most comfortable running – but it’s also a great way to strengthen behavioral training and build trust between you two.
And above all, remember to have fun. Running with your dog is “not a place for corrections. It’s not a place to be strict with your dog, ”says Schultz. Lace up and leash and focus on being present for both you and your pet and you are sure to have many miles and memories ahead of you.
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