Running with Your Dog: 5 Tips to Get You Started
Dogs make great running partners, and in fact, most dogs love to run! But before you take your dog out for a run, there are a few things you should do first.
1. Get a Check-Up
Before starting any exercise program, it is strongly suggested that you visit your doctor, and the same goes for your dog. Take him to the vet and get his heart, lungs and joints checked out, because running is hard work. If your dog has any issues or injuries that you’re not aware of, you could be putting his health at risk.
Petplace.com recommends that you start out slowly and build up endurance. Give your dog a good warm-up by walking first, followed by a short jog – build on this. Let him cool down with a walk at the end. By the way, this is great advice for you, too.
Watch your dog for any signs of discomfort. Unlike you, he’ll ignore or even be unaware of his pain. If you see him struggling or tiring, don’t run.
2. Keep Your Dog on the Side, Please
Running with your dog is not the same as walking your dog. On a walk, your dog’s focus is not necessarily on you, but rather on all of the things he can smell, pee on and chase. When you’re out for a run, it’s really important that your dog focus on you and what you’re doing.
According to thebark.com, “Because you’ll want your dog’s front feet even with or slightly behind yours during a run, the first mission is to teach him to walk nicely on-leash at your side.”
Thebark.com recommends that in order to execute this training exercise properly, that you use a hands-free leash, but if you don’t have one, use one that is long enough for turns. Make sure you bring along plenty of treats – dogs learn best when a tasty reward is being offered.
The purpose of this exercise is two-fold: You’re going to teach your dog to stay at your side and to turn with you safely. Each time your dog runs ahead, stop and wait for him to come back. When he’s focused on you, give him a treat and start again. Repeat this training exercise until your dog gets it.
3. Right Turn, Clyde
The next thing you’ll want to teach your dog is turns. For both U-turns and about-turns, thebark.com suggests the following: “For the about-turn, walk forward in a straight line, turn 180 degrees to your right so your dog is on the outside, and then head back on the same line. Do this randomly when he gets even one foot ahead of yours. Make the turns more fun by jogging a few steps and then rewarding him when he catches up and looks at you.”
“The U-turn is like the about-turn, but in the opposite direction. You turn to your left in order to head back in the direction from which you started, which places your dog on the inside of the turn. Get slightly ahead of him and then cut him off as you make the U-turn. This teaches him that he should stay by your side so that you don’t keep cutting him off. If you have problems getting around your dog, hold a treat in front of his nose; when he stops to eat it, complete the U-turn while he’s stationary, then head in the new direction.”
4. What are You Running On?
The most common injury your dog could suffer while out on a run with you is damage to his pads. If your dog has been cooped up and is not used to running on the hard street surface, or even a dirt trail, then his pads are likely to be very soft. Get him and his pads used to running by alternating between runs and walks.
Check his pads after each run, and take care of any cuts or scrapes right away. If he is in pain or hurt – stop.
“If your dog shows signs of soreness or has trouble getting to his feet, you’ll want to take him to the veterinarian,” says Petplace.com.
5. Are You Having Fun Yet?
The most important thing to do when running with your dog is to have fun! Your dog doesn’t care about how fast you go or what you’re wearing – he only cares that he is with you. And if you’re not feeling it that day, just try and explain that to your dog – he doesn’t care about your excuses, so let his infectious energy wash over you. And if that doesn’t work, remember that a tired dog is a good dog.