Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Running With Your Dog

By Ruthie Bently

Now that the weather is turning nicer in many parts of the country, we can get back to those activities we usually only do during warmer weather. Skye and I love to walk, but Minnesota winters are too bitter for us to go walking very far, even with both of us dressed up like Eskimos. So we save most of our walking time for the nicer weather months.

Many new dog owners are finding that they can do more things than just play ball or throw a Frisbee for their dogs. Dogs have become integral members of our families, and as such can and do participate in more activities than they used to years ago. For example, do you like running? Have you ever considered running with your dog? Some dog breeds are naturally suited to running – Greyhounds, Whippets, Salukis and many of the other sight hounds are built for a good run.

You can even consider running with some of the breeds that have higher daily exercise needs: Retrievers, Terriers, Dobermans or German Shepherds can even be running partners. The first thing to consider is whether or not your dog would be a good running partner. It might even be a good idea to check with your dog’s veterinarian to see if they feel that your dog is up to the challenge. Your vet may suggest a checkup to make sure your dog is healthy enough to begin running with you regularly. If you have a dog that tires after 10 or 15 minutes of exercise, running might not be the ideal activity for them.

Just as a human runner does, you will need to build up your dog’s stamina. Begin with short walks between 20 and 30 minutes about three times a week. Watch your dog during these walks to see how they do. Do they look tired or overheated, or do they just want to find a spot of shade under the nearest tree? If this is the case, you may want to consider an alternative form of exercise for your dog. If your dog is still raring to go, and looking at you wondering why you stopped moving, you may have a running partner in the making.

If your dog handles this regimen well, you can work up to a daily walking schedule. From there, work up to a jogging stride with your dog on these excursions. Make sure to take plenty of fresh water for your dog, as they need to keep hydrated just like you do. You also need to have your dog under control, so remember to use a standard 6 foot leash. Don’t use a retractable leash, as you won’t have the same control you will with a standard 6 foot leash. Gradually work with your dog until you are jogging several miles during each outing.

When your dog is doing well at this and able to keep up with your stride, stretch your stride until you are running on your outings. As each dog is different, your training time may take more or less time during this phase. You can even practice for a 5k run, which is about the equivalent of 3 miles.

There are many towns and cities around the United States that have yearly “fun” runs that you can enter with your dog. Make sure your dog’s stamina is up to the distance of the run you are considering entering, and if possible be sure to practice daily with your running partner, weather permitting.

Remember that your dog may need to adjust to the season’s heat as well, so you need to train for that as well. You may also want to consider getting some kind of pad protectors for your dog’s feet if you will be running on asphalt or concrete, so boots may be a good idea. Just like that old adage “Slow and steady wins the race,” slow and steady is the way to train your new running partner. In this way you can make it an enjoyable outing for you both.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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