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Teaching your dog to run with you is a great chance for some person-pup bonding time. It’s also convenient, allowing owners to stay outside of the home for longer, and combine dog walks with their running routine.
However, when it comes to running, dogs have a few specific needs. These include caring for their paws and joints, teaching them necessary behaviors, and finding the right environment for a doggy run.
Here are seven tips for running with your dog:
Puppies need time to grow and develop a healthy skeletal structure. It takes about one year for dogs to reach a point where their body is ready for running for longer periods, but the exact age can differ for individual dogs.
If dogs start running for long periods at too early an age – especially on hard road surfaces – they can be at higher risk of developing hip dysplasia,
a condition affecting the ball and socket joints in the hip. For this reason, it’s important not to rush dogs into long runs.
There are lots of things owners can do to prepare growing dogs to become future running buddies. During their first year of life, pups should get used to walking alongside their owner. Once achieved, they can be trained to jog for a few hundred yards when out for walks.
Learning to heel, stop at cross-roads, and staying focused are all key abilities for running. Dogs need to be comfortable with a leash, reacting to commands, and dealing with the normal distractions of the outside world. A great way to practice these techniques for running is to take your dog to a calm, empty environment.
Once dogs get into a regular running routine, it’s important to take care of their muscles and joints, just as you would look after your own hips and knees. Pups are pretty good at stretching out (especially Downward Dog), but they’re often less able to manage their overall condition.
For this reason, owners of active dogs should regularly monitor their pets for signs of pain or inflammation. Large dogs can be screened for hip dysplasia by a vet on an annual basis, while all dogs with ongoing joint issues often benefit from supplementation with an anti-inflammatory such as CBD oil.
Standard leashes are inappropriate for running. Hands free dog leashes are the way to go. Standard dog leashes can be awkward for owners to handle above a walking pace and are unlikely to give enough space between owner and dog. Standard leashes can even be potentially dangerous if they’re affixed around the neck and restrict a dog from moving naturally at high speeds.
Specially-designed running harnesses should help your dog stay secure without pulling, and keep a consistent distance between the two of you. They may also have reflectors and hands-free attachment options, allowing you to maintain a more natural running gait.
Having a specific harness for running leash is also a great way to enhance a sense of routine. Dogs will learn to associate different leashes with different types of activity, meaning that they don’t try to turn a casual stroll into a 10K.
While runners normally develop a good understanding of how to stay hydrated, it’s important to pay close attention to dogs’ hydration needs. Depending on the length and location of the run, dogs may need more water than humans, so owners should always be prepared to give their dogs a drink.
Keeping dogs hydrated needn’t be difficult. Owners can either plan running routes that incorporate drinking spots (stores, fountains, clean freshwater sources), or they can carry water with them via a running vest or bladder. Remember to also bring a bowl or container suitable for dogs to drink from.
There are lots of collapsable and portable bowls on the market, but it’s always worth trying out any products at home beforehand, as many dogs can struggle to drink from steep-sided cups and bowls.
Keeping your dog hydrated and comfortable tracks with the outside temperature. Dogs often struggle with ambient temperatures that humans have no issue with, and breed plays a significant role in the temperature range dogs can cope with. For any dog, though, heading out for a run in the midday risks the development of heatstroke.
Try to limit runs to temperatures somewhere between 15 and 65 degrees, and looking for shaded areas if you feel the temperature rising. During the summer, it’s best to stick to the early mornings and evenings when taking dogs outside.
While hard surfaces are more of a concern for younger pups, dogs of all ages still appreciate softer ground when it comes to running. If possible, stay off the sidewalks and look for local trails and natural environments.
Forests and beaches provide soft surfaces and lots of interesting sights and smell for dogs to enjoy. Harder surfaces may increase joint pain for both humans and dogs, and contribute to hip issues over time. Also, hot or icy roads can injure dogs’ paws, and owners may need to take steps to care for their pup’s feet, such as by using dog boots.