How to go for a run with my dog
YesYou know that feeling of satisfied exhaustion that comes after a good run? Well, it turns out your dog is blessed with the feeling, too.
Taking dogs for a run is an effective and fun way to get exercise for you and your pooch. The well-known benefits of jogging are both physical and mental: it’s a great form of aerobic exercise that will help you build endurance, improve your mood and sleep better. The same is true for dogs.
“They can release all that pent up energy and whatever the cause,” says Bryan Barrera, who has his own dog service in Washington, D.C., and wrote The ultimate guide to running with your dog. “You just feel like they’re more at peace.”
Barrera and Whitney Wells, a Philadelphia-based professional dog runner, both say running can help your dog channel his energy into something productive, and giving him something to focus on can even help reduce his anxiety.
“They’re training for their brains as well as their bodies,” Wells says.
Who wouldn’t want a happier, more stimulated and more contented pup? In particular, dogs with excess energy, anxious dogs, or those who chew things around the house could all benefit from the extra exercise. But whether you’re a runner yourself or not, going out for your first dog run can feel daunting. Luckily Barrera and Wells walked us through what was needed.
How do I start running with my dog?
If this is your dog’s first time out for a jog, Barrera says you want to start them on a training plan the same way you would humans, “like a dog couch at 5K.”
“You’ll want to kind of introduce the running activity,” Barrera says. “Building them is always key.” He recommends starting with running intervals of about 20 to 30 minutes at a time, a few times a week, until you’re both used to running together.
How do I know if my dog is a good candidate for a race?
Barrera notes that dogs are natural runners and most should be able to run if they are healthy. “All dogs can run,” he says. “It’s our job to figure out how far and how fast.”
That said, if yours is a young puppy or an older dog, Wells notes that it might be a good idea to check with your veterinarian first.
What equipment do I need to get started?
Despite the fact that expensive equipment abounds for dog racing, none of the dog racers say there is a must-have item you need to get before hitting the road. Instead, they say to play with whatever feels safest and most comfortable to you. For example, Wells likes an elastic waistband, like this one on Amazon, because she feels tying her dog to her center of gravity gives her more control than holding a leash in her hand. However, Barrera likes to go with just a leash and harness, like the PetSafe Gentle Leader.
“The tools that give you the confidence to master a situation are the best tools for you,” Barrera says. (He advises against stretch leashes.)
But it might be a good idea to have a dedicated leash or harness just for running, Barrera says. This signals to your dog that you are about to go for a run and prepares him for what he is about to do. Wearing saddle bags or another type of water vest, like this one from Ruffwear, can also help give your dog purpose and focus on the task at hand in a more focused way.
How can I make sure my dog and I are having a safe time of fun?
It is important to ensure that the conditions are met to run with your dog. If it snowed, the salt on the ground might not bother your feet in sneakers, but it might hurt your dog’s paws. The same goes for hot sidewalks: even though the air has cooled, concrete can retain heat in an uncomfortable way. Smell the pavement first before you take your dog out.
You will also want to pay attention to your dog’s signals. Barrera says to watch out for a tongue sticking out to the side: it’s a sign that your dog is overheated and tired, and needs a break.
“Dogs get dehydrated faster than we do,” says Wells. Always bring water for running and be prepared to take breaks (even if it impacts your run time).
“They’ll do whatever you asked them to do,” Barrera said. “So it’s really up to us to verify these non-verbal communications [signs] they give us to make sure they are always well placed.
What should I keep in mind?
Starting to run with dogs can be a bit hectic. Maybe they haven’t realized they’re in a different mode, so they still want to chase that squirrel or go say hello to another dog. Both dog racers advise patience, and Wells says things will likely improve as you progress through the race.
“Once we start moving, they get into a better rhythm,” says Wells.
And as you both learn to race together, Barrera says to adjust your expectations for races. You may have to give up on achieving a personal best time so that you and your dog can have a good time. “The focus of this run, especially when learning how your dog responds to running, should be the dog,” Barrera says.
But ultimately, there will be a benefit for both of you.
“It’s fun to have a running buddy,” Wells says. “You might not be going as fast and getting those miles at the pace that you usually do, but you get to run with this cute little furry guy next to you. So it’s a compromise, but you then benefit from a happy and tired dog at home.
Sounds good to us.
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