One of the most enjoyable ways of keeping fit is jogging with your dog and it has the added bonus of keeping your dog in shape too something that’s very important with the recent rise in pet obesity! Having your canine best friend along makes running less of a lonely activity and turns it into a fun experience, while for many women, running with a canine buddy helps them feel safer and more secure. However, before you hop into your trainers and grab your pooch, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Always take your dog to the vet for a full check-up before starting any new, strenuous activity: make sure that it is in good physical condition and can cope with the rigours of running (e.g. heart, lungs, joints, etc.)
- Don’t give your dog large meals and or allow him to drink excessively one hour before and after the run. This is especially important in dogs with deep chests that are susceptible to “bloat” (gastric torsion), which is a life-threatening condition (e.g. Great Danes, Dobermans Pinschers, Weimaraners, German Shepherds).
- Always remember your dog’s limitations – and remember that dogs will always try to please you, even at the detriment of their own health so don’t inadvertently force him to do anything he struggles with. Some breeds are simply not designed for sustained exercise, such as the brachycephalic breeds (e.g. bulldogs and pugs) with their shortened muzzles.
- NEVER run with a puppy or a young dog whose limbs might still be growing – you can cause serious damage to his joints and bones which may not be reversible. Most dogs should not engage in forced exercise until over 1 year of age and for giant breeds, which mature more slowly, this may be even later. Consult your vet and your breeder for the best time to start exercising with your pet. Likewise, be aware that older dogs that may be suffering from arthritis and other issues so take care and keep an eye out for any signs of discomfort or injury.
- Build up the distance that you run gradually and give your dog time to adjust. Don’t try to do too much and go too far on your first run – it is always better to underestimate than overestimate your dog’s abilities.
- Always start slowly – even dogs in peak physical condition will need to build up their stamina. If your had is overweight or has just recovered from an illness or injury, then you will have to take even more care and take things slowly to begin with. Be patient – just walk first, then speed-walk, then finally run, so that you can see how your dog copes with the increasing pace.
- If the weather is warm and you are planning a long run, carry a water bottle for your dog or make sure your dog has access to water along the route.
- To make an ideal jogging partner, your dog must be well-behaved and obedient dog. If your dog pulls on the lead, lunges at other dogs or people, jumps up, barks at things or generally misbehaves on lead, make sure that you resolve these problems – with the help of a good trainer or obedience class – before attempting to jog together. Running with an unruly dog is dangerous – both to yourself and others.
- It is safer and easier if you teach your dog to run on one side only – if he constantly weaves from side to side in front of you, you might trip over him or be jerked to one side if he suddenly decides to veer towards something. Again, enlist the aid of a good trainer or obedience class to reach your dog a reliable “Heel” command in the walk and then increase your pace until your dog is used to running alongside you at a steady pace.
- Always give your dog a chance to relieve himself before you start the run and make sure that you carry extra bags in case he needs to go again during the run. Always clean up after your dog!
- Always keep your dog on leash unless you are in a designated off-leash area and this is especially important if you are jogging past children playing or through busy streets with crowds and traffic.
- If you are running through an area where your dog can be off-leash, still try to encourage your dog to stay by your side or at least make sure that you have a solid recall and can call your dog back from any distractions. This is crucial if you’re jogging past any livestock or other animals.
- Beware of heatstroke! Unlike humans, dogs cannot sweat and so they can over-heat very rapidly in hot weather, with fatal consequences. Black dogs, dogs with thick coats and dogs with short muzzles are the most at risk Especially in warm weather, keep an eye on your dog and watch for any signs of heatstroke, such as: panting hard and excessively, becoming sluggish and unresponsive, being disorientated (staggering around) and bright red gums and tongue – followed by vomiting, seizures and eventually collapse and coma. If heatstroke is suspected, you must immediately lower your dog’s temperature by placing a cool, wet towel over him, hosing him with cold water or placing him in a cool bath (don’t use ice as it may ‘burn’ the skin). Then call your vet for advice.
As long as you use some common sense and spend a bit of time and effort on planning, jogging with your dog can be one of the most rewarding things you can do together.