Around the Furlocity office, we love our dogs. We do everything with them. Walk, sleep, eat, bathe (don't ask), and for those of us with New Years Resolutions that last at least until the summer, we run with our dogs. Some more successfully than others.
Historically, I've run with my dog Batman and have been unsuccessful both in terms of running for long distances and running with a well-trained dogs, so I pulled together some of the best tips I could find from our successful runners and give them to you here. From picking a dog to recovering after the run, here's the ultimate guide to running with your dog.
Picking a Running Breed
The fact of the matter is, there are some dog breeds that make great running partners and others that don't. This is not as simple as big breeds vs small breeds, and is more a consideration of the ratio of body to legs, joint issues, and the length of snout. If your dog wakes you up from his snoring and can't get up on the couch without a boost, it might be more suited to short but frequent walks to stay healthy.
Great running breeds include:
Now, the above graphic is not an exhaustive list. There are many breeds that make great running partners, but they all have some things in common:
- Long legs (compared to the body)
- Long snouts
- Natural athletic builds
Not sure if your dog is cut out for running? Give it a try! Just like a human, if you're not used to running, having someone drag you along at the end of a rope while they breeze through a 5k probably doesn't sound like a great time.
Time for a Checkup
If you're out of shape, the first thing you want to do before taking on that first mile is see a doctor and make sure it's safe for you to exercise in this way. If your pup is looking to hit the asphalt with a spare tire, take it to the vet first to make sure there are no underlying issues that will hinder your efforts. Everything from simple arthritis to heart issues can take running from uncomfortable for your dog to dog-gone dangerous. (Sorry... I had to).
Dog Running Equipment
Yes... dog running equipment is a thing, and no, it's not as stupid as the Air Bud dog sneakers your spouse got him last Christmas.
There are a few things you should consider getting before you take on that first mile.
- Water - When you run, you get thirsty. When your dog runs, he gets thirsty. Pretty simple, right? The thing is, unlike you, ole' Buddy isn't wearing the latest moisture-wicking Under Armour. He's wearing a fur coat. If he gets too hot and dehydrated he can suffer heatstroke. You can either carry the water yourself or, if he can handle it, there are harnesses that allow him to carry his own water.
- Water Bowl - Of course, having a bottle of water with you works out great when you're thirsty, but when your dog's thirsty, that bottle's not worth much. Make sure you have a bowl with you. They make collapsible ones, so there's no reason not to.
- The Right Leash - Sure, you have a leash for your dog. In most states, not having one is breaking the law, but do you have the right leash for running with your dog? While retractable leashes have their uses, running is not one of them. Retractable leashes teach dogs to ask for more leash, and that's no fun when you're working up a sweat. Go for something that allows the leash to be to be slack when you're dog's right next to you, but doesn't allow much beyond that.
- The Right Collar - You likely have a collar too, but again, it's important to have the right collar for running so that both you and your dog enjoy the run. No choke collars. No prong collars. A straight collar or harness (though try to find ones made for running) will work best for running, and are what we recommend.
- Harness (maybe) - While there's some disagreement in the running community as to whether or not a harness is the right decision, there are enough people who like them for us to at least recommend giving them a try. Heck, if your dog's big enough, you'll be able to use them to hold the water and water bowl in the harness. Your dog might like carrying things... and you probably don't... so, ya know, win-win. You're welcome!
Almost Time to Run! Where to?
We've almost taken our first step toward that first mile toward that first marathon! Okay... maybe it's the first step toward that second step. Regardless, deciding where to run is almost as important as deciding to run in the first place. Here are some pros and cons to consider.
- Road - Running on the road can be great. A safe, even surface makes it less likely you or your dog are going to trip over a root. On the other hand, that asphalt is as hard on your feet and joints as it is on your dog's. Also, since your dog isn't wearing a shoe, consider the fact that he is running barefoot on hot asphalt. Damaged paw pads are serious and can stop your new running partner before he really gets going, so if you're running on roads pay special attention to the heat of the surface your pup is running on.
- Trail - Ah, off-roading. Running in the great outdoors can be simultaneously relaxing and exhilarating. That said, trying to keep your dog from chasing EVERY SQUIRREL IN THE WHOLE OF NATURE is not relaxing or exhilarating in the least, so keep that in mind. If your dog spends every waking moment at the window protecting your home from those evil chipmunks and birds and... wind... or whatever he was barking at... running on a trail might not be the best.
Finally! TIME TO RUN!
Now that it's time to run, safety first. Here are a few tips for keeping your pooch safe, because the only thing more tiring than a 10-mile run is a 10-mile trek with your injured dog draped over your shoulders.
- Stay Hydrated - This is probably good advice for you and your pup. An hour before your run, make sure to drink at least 16 ounces of water, and when you take this step, bring your pup in on the fun. Make sure his bowl is full of fresh, cold water, and bring his attention to it if you can. The most common hydration advice is to drink according to your thirst, and this works out for your pooch. If you're thirsty, stop and drink. When you do that, bust out that sweet collapsible bowl and let the pup drink too.
- Start Slow - This might not apply to everyone. If you know your pup runs around the yard all day every day, and if you've been doing the same, do what feels right. If you or your dog is a bit out of shape though, it benefits both of you to start slow and work your way up to the distances you want. There's nothing quite like an injury to one (or both) of you to bring your new healthy lifestyle to a screeching halt.
- Keep Your Pup Cool - This might be the most important piece of advice in this entire (extremely well-written and charming) post. The thing is... you and your pup aren't too different when it comes to the dangers of the heat, though your bodies handle heat differently. When you get too hot, you sweat. When sweating no longer does the trick of cooling you off, you can suffer from heat stroke. When your pup gets too hot, he pants to release that heat. When panting no longer does the trick, he can suffer from heat stroke. Heat stroke is no joke. It kills. Keep an eye out for your dog getting clumsy, breathing heavier than normal (above and beyond the breathing heavy that comes with running), an enlarged tongue, glazed eyes, and just general abnormal behavior. Avoid hot days or hot times of the day when running with your dog, and if you see any signs of heat stroke, get inside if you can and let your dog drink. If you can't get inside, find a shady spot and take a nice, long break. No mile marker is worth you losing your dog.
Taking Care After Running
YOU MADE IT! You may have stumbled, cursed, and crawled your way through, but you did it! And so did your pup! Now what? Once you get home, there are a couple things you should do for your dog. First, check for any limping. If you notice any, get to a vet. Second, check his paw pads for any cracks and/or bleeding. If you notice any, get to a vet. Vets are good. They get paid to handle this kind of thing, and can give you some advice for avoiding these issues in the future.
Now Get Out There!
The only thing left to do is get out there. If this is your first time running, it gets better. If you're an old pro and you're introducing your dog to running, it really doesn't get much better than this. You're doing something fun, exciting, and that benefits your health in a way that cannot be overstated. ENJOY!