Yeah, you guessed it. My favorite running companions are my dogs! I ran with my Yorkshire terriers regularly. They are active dogs, fit and healthy. Think about it…Living an active lifestyle is great but, imagine with a brilliant running partner as your dog. Not only it keeps them fit, but they also get to spend more time with you. What better temptation than them at the front door excited to rock a few miles with you. Although, before hitting the road, be sure to train your furry friend, so here are some tips!
Health first! Is your dog ready to run? Depending on the health, the build and the breed of dog, it is good or not to run with them. It is not about the size but more about the length of their legs or their breathing conditions. Think of a pug, which is a brachycephalic dog, he won’t be able to keep the pace as they have breathing troubles. It is better to stick to fast walks. Or, larger breeds are prone to hip dysplasia that can lead to arthritis (like the German Shepperd).
Also, is your dog old enough to go for a run? Indeed, it is not the best idea to take your puppy for a run. They need around a year for bone development. And the same for an old dog, joints can hurt. So, start with a health check first. Go to your vet for a clear bill of health before your training.
Baby steps. It is good to make sure your dog safe walks on a leash before trying some running. As gear, I would suggest avoiding retractable leashes as we have little control and it can be dangerous. I use a fixed-length leash that I clip around my waist but, my dogs have been trained to it, and they know words when to slow down or stop. Make sure to teach them such as “let’s go”, “stop”, “no”, “walk”, etc. Also, it's good to check your dog's harness regularly…yep, I suddenly felt lighter at some point in my run and saw one of my dogs running free next to me, as we were in the city (car, pedestrian and bicycle dangers).
Once ready for action, go still slowly. You wouldn’t expect an unfit friend easily go for a 10K with you. Same with your dog. Healthy pace, healthy progress. Alternating walking and running is good for a beginning, as your dog gets more comfortable, he will get better to go for a full run. You can follow a 5K training program.
Yes, running is great because we can do it anywhere we want! But, think about your dog. I live in a city, and sometimes I just feel like running in the neighborhood instead of going to the beach or a park. Although, I try my best for my dogs to run in dirt, sand or grass as it is softer and more comfortable on my dog's joints than the pavement of sidewalks. Plus, during warm weather pavements heats up in the sun and can burn the paws of your dog. It is better to run during the evening or early morning to avoid overheating. Water breaks are essential to keep hydrated (not in large amounts).
Watch your dog’s body language to understand how he/she is feeling and reacting over the course of the run. I know my dogs will keep going even if they are feeling hot or tired, but I can see when that happens. It's different for each dog, there isn't just one way. But, many times, if with hard breathing or the tongue out, he/she needs to stop, walk calmly to some shade and give some water if necessary.
Don’t forget to clean up. A poop plan is good to remember. You can take 5 to 10 minutes before the run for the necessaries (pees and poops). And, be sure to carry poop bags because not everyone loves your dog as much as you do 😉
Other than that, I simply love running with my dogs. Some people might think it seems complicated, it's not! Just some dedication and what's best than a running partner who goes wherever you go all happy? Whenever I wear my trainers, they know right away, and it’s party time by the front door. Good motivators as well. Always ready to go, with rain or sun. One more little thing… Let's say I get inspired to keep going when one of my dogs is in better shape than me and looks at me thinking "what are you doing?" whenever I need to stop for some air.