Having your dog as a running partner is an appealing idea for a lot of folks; you both get some healthy exercise and fresh air as well as spending time together and strengthening the bond between you. However, there are many things to consider and plan prior to taking your dog along with you for a run.
1. How Old is Your Dog?
Age needs to be a serious consideration when you think about taking your dog or puppy running with you. Until about 18 months of age, dogs have open growth plates – soft areas that sit at the end of the long bones in young dogs. Taking a dog on extended runs prior to the 1 ½ year mark can cause long-term, irreparable damage. Puppies are also more prone to spiral fractures, and they don’t have the cardiovascular system for endurance exercise.
The general rule of thumb is to hold off taking your dog on long, directed runs with you until they are at least 18 months of age, and for some large and giant breed dogs even longer.
Conversely, elderly dogs may also not be up to the task – consider your pooch’s overall condition before deciding to take an older dog running with you.
2. Is it Safe for Your Dog to Run?
Keep in mind that very small breed dogs (a Chihuahua, for instance) or short-legged dogs like a Dachshund may not be physically suitable for running over any sort of longer distance. Additionally, brachycephalic dogs – those with shorter heads and flat noses, such as Pugs, French Bulldog, etc.- are not suitable as running companions due to the structure of their faces and breathing apparatuses.
3. Conditioning is Important
It’s always a good idea to get a complete vet check-up on your dog before commencing your running adventures. Once you have the all-clear from the vet, start conditioning your dog very gradually. Start by taking him for a walk, then gradually integrating increasingly longer jogging sessions into the walks until his stamina is built up and he is able to keep up with you running on a continual basis. Watch closely – if your buddy is panting or lagging, it’s a sign that he has had enough and needs a break.
Train your dog to always run on the same side of you, close to your leg. He needs to move on a loose leash, without pulling you along. These simple measures will help to avoid tangles and tripping when you are running together.
Also make sure to leave enough time to warm your dog up and cool him down by walking for several minutes pre-and post-run.
4. Heat, Cold and Other Considerations
Always be aware of the outdoor temperature prior to commencing a run with your dog. On hot days, avoid running on asphalt, blacktop or sand – a run in a shady area, or early in the morning or later in the evening, will be a better choice.
Generally speaking, dogs can comfortably handle temperatures between -10 and +15 degrees Celsius, or between 15-60 degrees Fahrenheit.
5. Equipment Requirements
Depending on your dog and the time of year and location(s) where you run, you may need a variety of equipment.
If you run at night, ensure that your dog has a reflective vest, collar or leash.
Running on snow or ice can damage your dog’s paws, so you might want to purchase booties for him. If booties aren’t an option, you can try coating his paws with petroleum jelly or a paw wax. Avoid running on surfaces that have been treated with ice or snow-melting products. They may irritate your dog’s feet, and if he licks them clean after the run he may become ill.
Whether your dog wears a collar or harness, a leash is highly recommended. Retractable leashes can get tangles so it’s best to stick with a lead 4-6 feet long that fits easily into your hand, or clips to your waist.
Be sure to carry some dog waste bags with you and be prepared to carry any full ones to the nearest garbage container.
It’s imperative to carry some fresh water for your dog. Allowing them to drink out of puddles, streams or lakes could lead to illness. You might want to invest in a collapsible water bowl for when you’re on-the-go.
Dry dog food typically contains about 8-12% moisture, while wet food in Tetra Pak® cartons can contain up to 82% moisture. This is why Tetra Pak® recipes (or wet food) is important for your dog. While it does not replace water consumption it does play a crucial role in providing much needed moisture.
7. Special Considerations for Trail Running
Running in the natural world rather than a city environment is more appealing for many, including your dog. The different sights, smells and sounds found on a trail run can be energizing and exciting.
8. Consider Joint Health
Joint health is important to consider when running with your dog. Some large and giant breed dogs can be prone to joint issues, which can be painful. The food you feed your dog can have a big impact in helping keep their joints healthy. For example, choosing a recipe that is rich in omega-3-fatty acids can help support joint health. Omega-3’s are commonly found in ingredients such as fish and fish oil, and include ALA, DHA and EPA. Omega-3 fatty acids offer anti‐inflammatory properties, which not only help with joint support, but also contribute to keeping your pets’ skin and coat healthy and shiny. Our Go! Solutions Skin + Coat Care kibble and wet recipes which are formulated with a balance of omega fatty acids are a great option to consider.
9. What About Energy Requirements?
Generally speaking, dogs participating in running need more calories than dogs who are less active. Therefore, it is important to feed a nutrient-dense recipe that supplies adequate calories for the job. A diet that contains higher levels of protein and fat can be a good option. Dietary fat can be utilized for energy, and higher levels of protein can help ensure adequate amino acids are available for muscle building and repair following exercise.
If you’re looking for a recipe with those higher levels of protein, consider one of our Go! Carnivore recipes. These recipes, which come in both kibble and wet food options, are especially great for those active dogs that require more energy. Because protein requires a little extra time and energy for the body to digest, we’ve included digestive enzymes, probiotics, and prebiotic fiber to promote good digestion, protein utilization, and nutrient availability.
With proper preparations, running with your dog can be an enriching experience for both of you. Happy trails!