It doesn’t take too much poking around my blog before you notice that I love my dogs, especially the newest edition to our family, an eight-month old Australian Shepherd named “Donkey.” While frequently too smart for his own good, he’s an excellent watchdog. His drive for running is never-ending. And being this woman’s best friend, I want to do my part in making sure he’s safe, healthy and well prepared for running.
Here are few tips to keep your furry friend happy and running healthy for years to come:
- Make sure you have a breed of dog that suits running. Many mutts, retrievers and larger breeds are great at keeping up, while huskies and herding dogs are great for distances. And contrary to popular belief, greyhounds do no make the best running dogs. They are great sprinters, but have very little endurance.
- Take a trip to the vet to make sure your dog is healthy enough to start running. Most veterinarians recommend waiting at least year for the bone joints and hips to fully develop before a dog can begin a running program.
- Don’t shave heavy coated dogs like huskies. Dogs do not sweat like humans. Their cooling process is done by panting, sweating at the paws and cooling the blood in their ears. Shaving the dog does nothing to keep the dog cool.
- Make sure your dog is on a balanced diet. As with humans, nutrition is key to a keeping up energy. A human-grade, high protein dog food is best. With this in mind, try to time the feeding of your dog so that he can run on an empty stomach to avoid vomiting.
- Start our slowly and with short distances. Just as humans need one, create a training plan for your dog. Start out gradually and recognize your dog’s limits; a poorly conditioned dog could lead to serious health concerns.
- When possible, run on trails or soft surfaces and always check paws frequently for wear. Hot pavement can cause blistering and trail running can lead to cuts and scrapes. Also be sure to keep the toenails trimmed to avoid snagging on grass or roots.
- Most public running areas require that your dog run on leash. I use a Gentle Leaderfor Donkey, but many people use a harness. A dog jogger leashis also an option if you want to run hands free. Attaching a leash to a collar is okay as long as your dog doesn’t pull. This can rub the fur off, causing abrasions and also restricting breathing.
- Carry enough water for two and offer water to your dog frequently. Bring a portable bowl, or teach your dog to drink from a bottle. Never force your dog to drink; he will drink when he’s ready.
- Most importantly, run when temperatures are coolest. I run with Donkey early in the morning before daylight hours or in the evening just after sunset. Overheating is a big concern and can cause brain damage or death. Many dogs aren’t smart enough to know when enough is enough, so learn to recognize signs of fatigue such as panting, weaving, falling behind, and foaming at the mouth. If you notice any of these symptoms, immediately pour cool water your dog’s back. If the symptoms don’t subside, get to your vet as soon as possible.
Use common sense when hiking or running with your dog. It will make it an activity that can be enjoyed safely for a long time. If you want to read more about people who run with their dogs, check out these running blogs:
Julie Berg and Topaz’s Run On
Karrie and Niko’s Marathena