By Autumn Lytle, Gazelle Sports Website & Technology Assistant
Sometimes, the best running partner has four legs instead of two. Dogs are great motivators (they are always, always excited to join you on a run) and great company. Plus, if you have an energetic dog who seems to never slow down, bringing him along on your daily run could be a solution! If you’ve been thinking about taking your dog with you out on the roads (or trails!), there are a few things you’ll need to know:
Wait until they’re ready
You wouldn’t take a toddler with you on a six-mile run (right??), so you should avoid running with a puppy who still has a lot of growing to do. If you run with your puppy too early, you could do permanent damage to their developing bodies. You’ll want to wait until your puppy is at least eight months old, possibly even longer if you have a large breed, whose joints and muscles take longer to develop. It’s always a good idea to ask your vet when would be a safe time to start running with your puppy.
Start off easy
Dogs will keep running with you even past the point of exhaustion, so it’s up to you to make sure he doesn’t overdo it. Just like when you first started running, you’ll need to start off easy. It’s best to wait until there’s a patch of weather that is neither extremely hot or cold, both temperatures in which your dog should avoid running in general. It’s not a bad idea to begin by taking a light jog around your block or a park to get a feel for how your dog responds to running. Use these training runs are to work on techniques like leash behavior that will come in handy down the road. Running with your dog has a very different feel than walking and it takes some getting used to, which is why a trial run or two will help you both get a feel for what’s to come.
Start off with an easy mile about twice a week. Depending on how your dog reacts to the run, you can continue to increase his mileage each week. You’ll have to do some research into your dog’s breed to see how far he should be running. Some dogs are built for speed, others for distance, and some really aren’t built for running at all. It is very important to monitor your dog after his first few runs. Does he recover quickly? Was he overly-exhausted? Did he cool down in a normal amount of time? All these factors will determine when and how long your next run with your dog will be.
Get the right gear
Although your dog probably doesn’t care about having the latest running shoes or the most flattering spandex, there are a few items to get your pup that will keep runs safe and simple.
- Harness: Using a harness instead of attaching the leash to your dog’s collar. Collars can have a strangling effect on dogs, especially with the sudden movements that come with running. Using a harness also gives you much more control over your dog’s movements.
- Hands-Free Leash: Running while holding a leash can feel pretty awkward and unforgiving. Every unscheduled sniff, every slight deviation from the path leaves you swinging in all directions. With the a hands-free leash, that can all be avoided. Enjoy hands-free control when you and your dog hit the pavement.
- Reflective Dog Gear: If you want your dog to join you on those early morning/late night runs, it’s important that you and your running buddy wear something to let drivers know your presence.
Pick a path
Running with your dog is not usually the best time to try out a new route. It’s good to know what to expect and when to expect it. Pick routes with the least amount of distractions. Even if your dog is well behaved, trying to navigate through people and traffic can be frustrating. Choose a route where you can spread out and just focus on the run and your running partner. Quiet suburb sidewalks work well as do less-traveled dirt roads and trails.
Mind the paws
Sidewalks can be rough on your pup’s paws, especially during runs. If you can, try to encourage your dog to run on the grass instead of the sidewalk when possible, giving his paws some relief. Running on dirt roads, as long as it’s not too rocky, is even a better option for your dog’s paws. The best option by far for the paws is trail running, but you’ll have to check ahead of time that the trail allows pets. If you start to notice your dog’s paws becoming rough and chapped, paw balm helps as well as paw lotion.
If you need to stop for a drink during your run, chance are your dog does too. If it’s hot out or you’re taking your dog on a longer run, have your route include a water stop or two. Make sure your dog has access to water after his run and a cool, shady place to recover.
Canine Race Etiquette
If you’re a dog enthusiasts, one of the best parts of a race is seeing all your furry fans lining the course as you run by. There are a few things to keep in mind if you decide to bring your own four-legged cheerleader to race day.
Know the rules
Most races do not allow dogs on the course and some don’t even allow them at the event. If nothing about dogs is mentioned in the race info, it’s safe to assume that dogs are allowed at the event, just not in the race itself. If you do want to race with your dog, search for “dog-friendly races” in your area and several options are bound to pop up. It’s important to follow the rules set by the race directors when it comes to pets since pet policy is usually not something they create lightly.
Know your dog
Is your dog a good fit for the race atmosphere? Even if the event allows dogs, that doesn’t mean you should bring yours. Some dogs can’t handle all the commotion, which can cause a great deal of strain on you and your pup. People will probably also want to pet your dog, especially children, so will your dog be able to handle that much attention? Also, if the race allows dogs, always assume there will be other dogs there. So if your pup doesn’t play well with others, gets way too excited when he sees another dog, or greets others with loud, scary barks you may want to consider leaving him at home.
Respect others and their dogs
Just because you were smart and took the time to consider if your dog would be a good fit for the race atmosphere doesn’t mean others did. Always ask before petting a dog and never assume it is safe to let your pup go up to another dog before asking the owner first. Make sure to read the situation before inserting yourself and your dog into it. Also, race security has increased over the years, including the presence of police dogs. As with service dogs, these dogs deserve a great amount of respect from both you and your pup, so make sure to keep your distance when you can. These dogs are not looking to make new friends or play, they are busy working and keeping others safe.