Man’s best friend makes a great running companion, but is your dog ready for this?
Dogs are great motivators. Not only do they get you outside each day, but they are keen to do anything, anytime. Making your dog your loyal trail running companion will make him super fit and well behaved – he’ll be too tired to get up to mischief while you’re at work. For some, dogs add an extra level of security while running at night. But there’s more to getting your dog out the door and running at your side. Before you lace up your shoes and grab the leash, keep the following in mind:
- Does your dog lunge at other dogs and people, chase traffic and generally misbehave on a lead? If so, you should get these issues sorted by a professional before you start running with him.
- Keep your dog on a leash unless you are in a designated off-leash area. Many forest trails remain on-leash to protect native birds and because of pest control programs. If your dog is off-leash, don’t allow him to run ahead and out of sight where he might frighten other trail users. It’s best to keep him at your side, or just in front, and perfect your recall so he always comes when you call.
- Know your breed. Some dog breeds are athletic and can handle running more than others. Bulldogs and other short nosed breeds can’t handle long runs – or even short runs. If you’re unsure, research your breed or ask your vet.
- Avoid running in high temperatures. All dogs can develop heat stroke, so time your runs with the coolest part of the day – before 10am or in the evening. Signs of heatstroke include excessive panting and drooling, glazed eyes, sluggishness, being disorientated, foaming at the mouth and bright red gums and tongue. If your dog starts to vomit, have a seizure or collapses and becomes unresponsive, get him to your vet.
- Avoid feeding large meals or allowing excessive drinking at least one hour before and after the run. This is crucial in breeds with deep chests that are susceptible to ‘bloat’ and gastric torsion – a life-threatening condition.
- Water, water, water! Make sure water is available prior to, and after, a run. Some dogs may also like to have small amounts during long runs – easy in many forest trails where there are streams, but carry extra water just in case.
- Your dog’s pads aren’t protected like your feet. Watch where you’re running, take note of uneven ground, hot and rough surfaces and adjust your run. Dogs make great running companions accordingly. If your dog goes suddenly lame on a run, stop immediately and see a vet.
- Gradually increase distance. Just like us, it takes dogs time to build up their fitness. Start off slow and covering short distances, then gradually increase the distance and time running. Once you are at a level that you and your dog are comfortable with, be consistent. Don’t expect your dog to be able to run at full gallop for the duration. A pace which allows your dog to trot next to you will be more comfortable and safer. Discourage your dog from eating or drinking anything strange on the run. Rotten food material can be very attractive to dogs, but there might be poison bait stations along some trails that your dog might get at.
- Vet seal of approval. It’s a good idea to get your dog checked out before they join you in a running program. Different ages and breeds of dogs will tolerate running differently, so you could also chat to your vet about your dog’s diet and the amount of running that is good for him. And it goes without saying – always pick up after your dog, no matter where you go with him!