How To Train Your Dog To Enjoy Running With You
Running is a great form of exercise for us and our dogs. Dogs can make motivated enthusiastic running partners that also encourage you to get in shape and enjoy the outdoors. So how do you get started running with your dog? There are several factors to consider 1) overall health of your dog, 2) breed and age of your dog and 3) environmental factors.
What dog breeds make the best running partners?
Not all dogs are excellent running partners. You want a dog that has endurance but is also motivated to please and enjoys spending time outside with his owner. Some of the best breeds for running are Weimaraners, German Short Hair Pointers, Vizlas, Greyhounds, American Staffordshire Terriers, Labrador Retrievers, Beagles, Dalmatians, Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Catahoulas, Standard Poodles, Jack Russell Terriers and Setters. Dog’s with a flat face such as Bulldogs, Pekingese, Ihasa Apsos, Shih Tzus, Pugs, and Boxers can run but they tend to overheat much faster and thus extreme caution should be used when exercising these breeds.
At what age can you start running your dog?
This varies from breed to breed. Depending on the breed, a puppies bones will not be done developing until anywhere from 12-18 months of age. Before you actively begin running your dog you need to ask you veterinarian if your dog is old enough to run.
What else should you ask your veterinarian?
Ask your veterinarian if you dog is the ideal weight to begin running. Overweight dogs are prone to ligament injuries if they begin running without losing the weight first. Dogs with arthritis, breathing issues or other aging changes may not be the best choice to begin running with either.
How to begin training:
Once your running partner has been cleared by the veterinarian as a good running buddy the next step is to teach your dog to run with you. Begin normal obedience leash training which means you want your dog to walk comfortably on a relaxed leash next you without pulling. Retractable leashes are not good dog running leashes since they can easily trip you or your dog and allow your dog to get too close to cars. Instead begin training with a 4-6 foot leash. Bring treats and teach your dog to stay consistently on one side of you. Ideally your dogs front feet will be even with your front feet. If he starts pulling while walking ask him to sit with a treat and then continue calmly forward. Once he has mastered heeling at your side at a walk then you are ready to try running.
To begin running you need to slowly condition your dog. The first run should be a normal walk with ten minutes of jogging thrown into the walk. Continue doing this every other day for one week. If your dog is doing well keeping up and not exhausted after his walk you can increase the time jogging by 5-10 minutes per week until the desired goal distance is achieved.
But what if it’s too hot?
Things to consider when the weather is warm. When the weather is warm outside make sure you run with enough water for you and your dog. Collapsible water bowls that clip to the leash are an easy way to provide water for your dog. Run early in the morning or late in the evening when it is warm outside to take advantage of the cooler temperatures. Remember, dogs are wearing a fur coat and they are not wearing running shoes when they run. Thus make sure to consider outside temperature and humidity before running your dog. If the weather is warm you need to feel the pavement to make sure it will not burn your dog’s paw pads.
Signs that your dog is too hot when running. Dogs pant to cool down so this is the easiest method to gauge how hot your dog is. If your dog is alert and panting quietly with his tongue completely in his mouth he is fine to continue running. If your dog is panting with his tongue completely hanging out of his mouth and the commissures of his mouth are pulled back and his mouth is open wide he is too hot. He needs to cool off and if he is not returning to normal quickly you need to end your run. If your dog is refusing to continue running or lays down he is probably too hot and you should consider ending your run.
Fun ideas to do with your dog once you have become efficient safe running partners:
You can run a dog friendly race such as: The Fast and the Furriest 5k benefiting the Memphis Humane Society or the Four-legged 4K Race out at Shelby Farms. You can run the Memphis greenway or run along and across the Mississippi River downtown at the Big River Crossing. You can experiment with trail running at Shelby Forest State Park or at Wolf River trails. Most importantly you and your dog can enjoy time together and stay in shape.
Dr. Ellen Barry
The Pet Hospitals– Lakeland