BY AMY BEHRENDT, FREELANCE WRITER
The wind blowing around you, the ground beneath your feet, and your four-legged friend by your side: There’s nothing better than a summer run with man’s best friend. After a long winter around here and our unpredictable spring weather (suddenly hot, then cold, then snow, sometimes all in one week!), we welcome summer with open arms.
Running with your dog not only provides great exercise, but a chance to bond and explore nature together. Whether you take it to the pavement or to the trails, adventure is out there!
Dr. Aprill Rykal from Menasha runs with her German Shorthaired Pointer/Lab Mix Rascall. Her advice is, “Start slow and be consistent.” For example, she always runs with her dog on the left side. Verbal commands such as “over” also help keep the two from running into one another.
The best part about running with her dog is the companionship and having someone to hold her accountable to get the runs in. Rykal says that Rascall sometimes pushes her more than she really wants to go!
Maybe you are a runner looking to start running with your dog, or maybe you and your pooch are starting your running journey together (or somewhere in between). Whatever the case, congrats to taking those steps! If you are training for an upcoming race, check the race details! Many events allow dogs to run with you. Imagine your brow dripping with sweat and your dog panting as you cross the finish line together in celebration. Sound splendid?
If you have your run gear, sunscreen, the drive, & you’re ready to hit the ground running (figuratively & literally!), what are some other factors to think about? American Kennel Club Vice President Gina DiNardo provides the following tips to consider before logging those miles.
1. Get clearance from your veterinarian. Your dog must be old enough—he can suffer serious injury if overly-vigorous exercise takes place before growth plates are closed. The age at which this occurs varies with breeds. For young puppies & very large, heavy breeds of any age, sustained running is hard on the joints. Your veterinarian can also give your dog a general health check to make sure she is good enough condition to start an exercise program. So keep your dog’s age in mind as he enters the senior years. Just like humans, dogs begin to suffer from age-related conditions, such as reduced mobility, decline in vision & hearing loss. You don’t want to overexert a senior dog, especially if he’s not in good condition.
2. Consider the breed. Just because your dog is a running breed like a Greyhound or Whippet doesn’t mean that he can run long distances. These are bred to be sprinters. Anything more than a mile is a long distance for a Greyhound, but with proper conditioning he can certainly do more. After all, a pretty fast run for you is just trotting for him—not a full-out 35 mph run. Dogs bred for stamina to handle distance include Dalmations, Siberian Huskies & many sporting breeds. Dogs where the face & nose are shortened (brachycephalic faces), including Pugs, Bulldogs & Boxers, may have trouble breathing when exerted heavily & should be exercised with great care.
3. Build up. Once your veterinarian has given the go-ahead, start off slowly to build up endurance. You would not start your running career with a marathon on the first day & neither should your dog. Half a mile every other day is a good start. It’s important to condition her slowly—just as you would yourself.
4. Humans are suited to long-distance running. We sweat all over & know how to pace ourselves. Dogs, not so much. A Labrador Retriever in excellent condition has a lot of stamina, but his enthusiasm can get the best of him—he might run until he drops. It’s your job to be the one who knows best. Know the signs of heat exhaustion & know what to do if this happens. Take water for your dog and/or a collapsible bowl.
5. Run early in the morning or in the evening, not during the hottest part of the day. Pavement can get very hot & can hurt your dog’s paws. It’s also just plain hotter closer to the ground, where your dog is. In the winter, snow can accumulate between the dog’s toes, & salt on the road or sidewalk can be harmful. You’ll need to wash your dog’s feet after the run. You can also try booties that are made to protect dogs’ feet.
6. Training. Your dog needs to know the basics of loose-leash walking by your side before starting jogging. It is dangerous to have a dog that crosses in front of you or lunges to the side or ahead while you are jogging. Your dog also should be socialized & able to handle anything or anyone she sees on a run, just as she would be for any activity that she participates in with you. Use a special leash—one that is different than the one used for other walks. Your dog will learn the difference & will know that this is a run, & not an amble to the park or a potty walk. And by the way, take your dog on a potty & sniff walk before the run & afterwards. This will eliminate the need for frequent stops on your run.
7. Something to consider for yourself: a hands-free leash. Holding a leash in your hand while you run doesn’t allow you to use your arms properly; you might end up with shoulder or back pain.
BREEDS MADE FOR THE RUN
So, if you aren’t sure if your dog is a good choice to run with, DiNardo shared the breeds that can go the distance.
Australian Shepherd: Bred to herd livestock, the Australian Shepherd needs a lot of activity and a sense of purpose to be content. Due to the breed’s intelligence, versatility, and endurance, Aussies excel in many AKC sports and can make excellent jogging partners.
Whippet: If you’re looking for a speed runner, look no further than the Whippet. Whippets are known for their speed and power, and are capable of reaching 35 mph.
Greyhound: A fantastic race companion, the Greyhound is the fastest breed of dog and has a natural tendency to run. They’re extremely athletic and will make a great workout buddy.
Border Collie: The Border Collie would be perfect to join an active person on a long run. These dogs are extremely energetic and need lots of exercise.
Siberian Husky: Another good long-distance runner is the Siberian Husky. These dogs would be perfect for a winter run, since their thick double coat keeps them insulated in cold weather.
German Wirehaired Pointer: The German Wirehaired Pointer has a ton of energy and a weather-resistant and water-repellant wiry coat, making it a great running partner no matter the weather conditions.
Rhodesian Ridgeback: If you’re a moderate-speed runner, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a great companion. This breed is active with a lot of stamina, capable of running at a fair speed.
Vizsla: Vizslas are extremely athletic, thriving on hard exercise and being a part of an active family.
Dalmatian: The Dalmatian would make a great partner for fast, long-distance runners. They’re known for their endurance and speed.
Labrador Retriever: Labrador Retrievers are fantastic high energy running buddies. Their happy attitude will keep you going no matter what!