Many people run with their dogs, and it’s becoming so popular that some athletic events are now happy to have well-behaved dogs involved. Dogs are great running buddies. They’re always keen to head out for a run with you, they’re not deterred by less than perfect weather, and depending on breed, will happily train with you up to marathon distance. Studies have shown that dogs get the same “runner’s high” that we do, so this sort of exercise is good for their mental well-being. I’ve personally seen it make the world of difference to my foster dog that had severe separation anxiety.
Before you start pounding the sidewalk with your dog, there are a couple of things you need to do. First, have your canine running buddy checked by your vet to make sure that they’re fit for the task. If you’re not regularly active, a visit to your doctor may be a good idea, too. Some breeds aren’t really suitable for running. The short-nosed breeds -- for example, the British Bulldog and Pug -- can overheat quickly with exercise. Similarly, giant breeds may not be enthusiastic long distance runners. Consider the age of your dog as well. It’s not good to overwork young dogs, so wait until Fido is over twelve months old before you start a running program with them.
How do you get started? If you have a smartphone, then look for the free app called Couch to 5K. It’s a guided running program that starts with run/walk intervals and over the weeks, you and your dog will run more and walk less. It works really well for both people and their canine partners.
Here are some other tips to keep you and your dog on track with your running:
Following a program is a good idea, but remember that it’s flexible. If either you or your dog is struggling with a session, then it’s absolutely fine to repeat it before moving on. Similarly, take time off to recuperate if you’re injured.
Don’t forget to consider others who are using your running route. Obey the local leash laws and pick up any droppings. If you enter a race with your dog, keep them on a reasonably short leash so that they don’t interfere with other runners.
When you’ve finished the Couch to 5K program, there’s no need for you and your dog to stick to that distance if you don’t want to. I know a number of dogs that have run half marathons, full marathons, and even 50k ultramarathons. Keep running several times a week, gradually increasing the distance of your runs. You may find that your dog has a limit to how far they’re happy to run. Five kilometers is perhaps all they want to do. If that’s the case, take them on your shorter runs, and let them rest at home when you’re running a longer distance.
Lastly, have fun. Find new routes that allow you to explore your neighborhood. Go running with friends and their dogs. Meet for coffee at a dog-friendly café after a training session. If you’re enjoying yourself then you’re more likely to stick with your new healthy pastime, and that’s good for you and Fido.