Running dogs comes as natural to us at The Fittest Dog as dog walking is to most owners. We know through action, the physical and mental benefits of dog running. This is not the case for many dog parents, and that is ok! We are here to help when you can’t, however, thanks to our feature in The Farmer’s Dog Digest, our tips are tailored for first time dog running parents! Read below to learn our methods, including preparing for your first dog run, through established dog-to-human consistent running!
The Power of Dog Running
Running with your dog is not a new concept, and in fact, canicross (canine + cross country) is popular worldwide. The endorphin rush of running in humans is just as prevalent in dogs. The connection between human and dog, mid run, is beyond special. One of our favorite aspects of dog running, is the bond we establish with your dog. When a dog has their first “breakthrough” run, as in their first time not barking at another dog, first five minute consecutive jog for an overweight pup, first acknowledgment of “this is so fun” while looking up at you with a smile mid stride. Whatever the reason, dog running is powerful and transformative.
Where To Start
Before you embark on this new journey, we highly recommend consulting with your vet, such as the talented animal lover, La Jolla, CA based multi-practice owner, Dr. Sarah Vineyard. “Dr. V” as she is known, is a supporter of dog running and its benefits, but your dog’s age and breed play a crucial role in when and if the time is right to run. If your dog is brachycepllic (short-nosed), you are aware they tend to have breathing problems. While we do run these breeds, the workout is safely tailored to their individual needs and tend to do much more walking than slow running. Speak with your vet if you have any concerns at all regarding your dog’s new fitness journey. Having a collaborative conversation about whole dog health, is key to success.
Once you have received the all clear to run with your dog, we recommend having the appropriate gear. Stunt Puppy is a brand of dog fitness gear with everything from running leashes and harnesses, lifejackets, coats for cold weather, and even our favorite collapsible water bowl. Having quality dog running gear is crucial not just to success, but comfort for both of you. Knowing your dog is wearing an appropriate harness, as opposed to a single strap training one, helps minimize rash and general discomfort.
Time To Run!
As you head out the door for your first dog and human run, we like to set the tone by making each dog sit at the door before leaving. While it appears to be cute to barrel out together trying to be first outside, humans need to lead. This sets the tone from the very beginning, with your dog seeing you are in charge. Also, be mindful of not allowing your dog to pull and lead. This is not healthy for either of you, and if you need to always have your dog by your side walking, that’s ok!
Once your pup understands he needs to be near you at all times, gradually and slowly start your jog. Some dogs with behavioral issues tend to leash bite or zig zag if you run too fast. Slow and steady is the best method for these high needs dogs. Having said this, dogs with behavioral issues tend to benefit most from dog running. Time and time again, we have seen dogs who have had walkers quit on the family because the dog was just “too difficult”. In many cases, these dogs needed a positive exercise outlet that walking couldn’t provide. It’s hard work and dedication with some dogs, however once they have their “ah-ha” moment, and you as their runner notice the change, you will have a heart so full of pride and love. We guarantee it!
Keeping It Consistent, Even With Older Dogs
Not only will your dog be healthier with consistent running, you will be as well! As your dog ages, it is especially important to keep up this routine. We have run dogs as old as 21. Yes, 21!!! Your senior dog still needs movement and it’s crucial to not allow your dog to lay around all day because he is old. In fact, gentle dog led walk/jog combo is of utmost importance to avoid age related disease. Modified exercise is necessary as dogs age, and your dog may have a different fitness level depending on day/weather/soreness. Being open to change means a positive senior exercise routine!
Last and Most Importantly
Our biggest piece of advice will always remain the same. We have told this to numerous human clients who are avid athletes themselves. This is about your dog and only about your dog’s needs and abilities. If you have a dog less fit than you, you will always remain frustrated if you attempt to run your pace, with your dog struggling to keep up behind you. Once you adjust your frame of mind realizing this run is 100% about the dog, you will enjoy your outing so much more. Dogs pick up on our emotions, so let’s keep this one all about him or her, and you can tackle your speed work after!