Besides being amazing cardio exercise, running with your dog is also one of the most natural things that you can do with her. Humans and dogs ran together for many years as dogs evolved alongside us, and there is still a deep instinctual satisfaction for both humans and dogs in running together. Most dogs fall into the activity very naturally. Regular runs with your dog can rapidly eliminate behavior problems like pulling on walks and hyperactivity at home. If you are unable to go on long runs with your dog or are looking for variety in your exercise routine, consider more great exercises and activities that you can do with your dog. If you’ve decided to begin a running routine with your dog, here are some of the important Do’s and Don’ts when running with your dog.
Do: Make Sure Your Dog is Ready to Run
Wait until your dog is old enough for high impact exercise like running, and have your vet clear your dog for any health concerns that might be aggravated by running. Some things your vet might check for are:
- Hip dysplasia: This common condition affects many large breed dogs, especially those with slanted backs or unusual gaits, like German Shepherds and Labradors. It causes dogs to experience pain and lameness when running. Your veterinarian can check for hip dysplasia by watching your dog’s gait and manipulating the hip. X-rays or other imaging may also be required to verify a diagnosis. This condition may require surgery.
- Luxating patella: Small dogs are most often affected by this condition, which causes pain, lameness, or holding up the limb or skipping a step when the patella luxates out and pops back in. Your dog can palpate the patella and check the gait to diagnose this condition, which can be controlled with pain medication or may require surgery.
- Heart problems: Dogs with heart conditions can have a sudden worsening in symptoms due to cardio exercise like running.
- Respiratory problems: Dogs with asthma, allergies, or short snouts may have trouble getting enough oxygen during a run
Don’t: Push Your Dog Too Hard
Dogs are willing to please by nature, and if your dog is unwilling to run, it is likely that she has a good reason. To see if your dog has problems with running or just doesn’t like running on leash, let your dog off the leash and see if she willingly runs without coaching. If she does, teaching her to enjoy running on a leash may be a matter of bribing with toys or treats, extending the length of the leash, or using a different kind of harness or collar.
Do: Withhold Food
Bloat is an extremely serious condition that can affect dogs when they exercise too soon after eating. Large dogs are most often affected, but smaller breeds can suffer from bloat too. Dogs can rapidly die from bloat, so this is a condition to prevent at all costs. To prevent bloat, follow these steps:
- Exercise your dog on an empty stomach. To be as safe as possible, wait until your dog has fully digested her food to exercise. Several hours is a minimum.
- Feed only after exercise. If you feed your dog in the morning and then leave her for the day, she may choose to vigorously exercise herself while you are gone, which may cause bloat. If you must leave your dog before exercising and feeding, provide chew toys and food dispensing toys with small amounts of food.
- Slow feed. Use a slow feeder bowl, food dispensing toy, or give food as rewards over an extended period to avoid your dog eating too quickly, which can induce bloat.
Don’t: Forget to Hydrate
Drinking plenty of water is extremely important for both you and your pup. Plenty of water keeps muscles from getting stiff and prevents dizziness or sickness during the run. Water also keeps the body cool, which is especially important for dogs, who don’t sweat. Let your dog drink as much as she likes before, during, and after the run, but don’t let your dog guzzle too much water in a session.
Too much water at a time can make a dog vomit, or even lead to water intoxication, which is very rare but can be fatal. A good idea is to let your dog drink for about twenty seconds after every twenty minutes of running. If your dog refuses water sometimes, you can gradually stretch out the time between offering water.
Do: Use the Right Equipment
Your dog and you will both have a safe, comfortable run if you use the right equipment for your needs. You and your dog should both be able to run naturally, with free movement of arms and legs and without tension on the lead between you. Here is a quick summary of tools that can help you and your dog achieve the best possible run.
- Easy Walk Harness. Your dog won’t mind wearing this comfortable harness, but the tightening chest lead will prevent her from pulling and tend to make her run beside you. When your dog pulls ahead of you, the lead pulls her towards you and back, reducing pulling and other unwanted behavior constantly with minimum effort on your part. Since this harness doesn’t control your dog’s head, it isn’t as good for reactive dogs.
- Gentle Leader. This simple but incredibly effective tool lets you control even very powerful dogs with minimal effort. The Gentle Leader fits over your dog’s head and allows you to control her similarly to how a halter can control a horse. A very small amount of pressure from your dog will pull her face back toward you, eliminating distraction and pulling. Most dogs don’t like the feel of the gentle leader, so it is best used when a chest harness doesn’t offer enough control.
- Bungee Leash. A leash with elasticity prevents sudden pulls from your dog and tends to self-correct when your dog pulls. It also allows you to gently guide your dog on the run without sharply pulling her. Bungee leashes work great with waist leashes.
- Waist Leash. Waist leashes fit around your waist and attach your dog to you, leaving your hands free. This provides the optimal freedom of movement for you so that you can have a natural run, and also prevents you from accidentally jerking your dog. Only use a waist leash if your dog is small or well-behaved enough for you to control. Even with a bungee leash, a dog can pull you over from a waist leash if the pull is hard and unexpected.
Don’t: Use Punitive Training Tools or Techniques
Choke collars, prong collars, and techniques that reduce pulling by pulling sharply on your dog or correcting her harshly only work to hurt the trust between you and your dog, and are completely unnecessary to achieve a pleasant run with your dog. Use equipment that works for you and be firm with your dog during training by changing direction whenever she pulls or behaves reactively to another dog, and she will soon learn what kind of behavior is desirable on the run.
Enjoy running with your dog. Remember that this is a very basic and essential activity for you and your dog to do together. With a little bit of patience and practice in following the Dos and Don’ts of running with your dog, along with the right tools and techniques, you and your dog will be well-matched running partners in no time.