The following bi-weekly column is written and sponsored by Bark + Boarding, which provides a heart-centered and safe environment for your pets. Conveniently located at 5818-C Seminary Road in Bailey’s Crossroads, Bark & Boarding offers doggy daycare, boarding, grooming, walking and training services, plus in-home pet care.
By Chelsea Pennington, Bark + Boarding Writer and Animal Enthusiast
Going for a run is a great way for both dogs and their owners to stay in shape.
Bringing your pup on a run has a unique set of challenges to overcome, but with a few tips, you and your furry friend will be up and running in no time!
Do talk to your vet first
Before you start running with your dog, take them to have a check-up with your vet. Let them know you plan on starting to exercise your dog more, so they can pay extra attention to your pet’s heart, lungs and joints. This ensures you don’t do more harm than good by encouraging your pet to run if they aren’t physically fit enough.
Don’t start off too hard
Just like humans, dogs need time to build up their stamina and energy, so beginning your new routine with a ten mile run isn’t a good idea. Start slowly with short distances, and alternate between running and walking. Dogs’ paws are also sensitive, and need to grow tougher gradually as you increase the distance.
Do teach them good leash behavior
Give the leash gentle tugs to keep your dog focused on moving forward and not constantly stopping to pee or sniff something. You want them running at your side within a few feet of you, and a three-to six-foot leash is usually the right length for running with a dog. Reinforce good behavior with a small treat.
Don’t start too young
Puppies’ joints are more prone to injury, so they shouldn’t be taken on long runs until their bones have stopped growing, about 9 months in small dogs and up to 16 months for larger dogs. Until then, keep them fit by going on short walks and playing in the backyard or dog park.
Do pay attention to paws
While you may have sturdy shoes to run in, your dog doesn’t. Pay attention to the type of surface you’re leading your dog over. During hot months, blacktop and concrete heat up quickly, while jagged ice in the winter can also pose a threat. Keep an eye out for glass and other roadside debris.
Inspect your dog’s paws for any cuts before and after your workout, and wipe down their paws with a warm, soapy rag afterward to clean out salt, dirt and any other irritants.
Don’t underestimate staying hydrated
For both you and your dog, be sure you drink enough water! Hydrate before and after the run, and if it’s going to be a longer distance it’s important to bring water with you. When your pup gets thirsty, they’ll likely try to drink from puddles and other sources of standing water. Don’t let your dog do this, as they’re often contaminated and can make your dog sick.
Do listen to your dog
Your dog can’t speak up when they don’t feel good, but you can still listen to them. Signs that your dog needs a break include foaming at the mouth, heavy panting, glazed eyes and slowing down. If your dog starts to limp or lick the pads of its paw, you should stop the run immediately and return home.
If your dog doesn’t seem to be cooling down, place ice bags or cool cloths in their “arm pits” where their legs connect to the rest of their body, and take them to the vet or an emergency clinic, as they might be overheating.
Don’t forget the right equipment
The number one thing you need on a run is doggy bags! Just because you’re moving faster than your normal walk doesn’t mean you don’t need to pick up after your dog. If you’re running longer distances, a collapsible bowl to pour water into can be a good investment. There are a variety of hands-free leashes that clip around your waist, so you don’t have to worry about holding onto the leash.