Running with your dog

Running with your dog : good or bad idea?

Running has become very popular with many people in Quebec. The activity requires very little equipment and can easily be done in town, in the suburbs, or in the countryside. Some people run with their dog, but are there risks in doing so?

First, we have to keep in mind that, like humans, dogs need to build fitness gradually. Even if they are naturally athletic, we can’t just grab the leash and go for a 10-km run. If we want to start taking our dog on a run, we have to go according to the following:

1. Your animal must be mature (an average of 18 months for most canine breeds).

Growth plates, which are areas of cartilage in charge of bone growth, are slow to build and reach maturity. These plates are fragile when puppies are growing and are more prone to suffer damage from repetitive impacts, jumps, and falls.

2. Make sure that your animal is fit to run.

Unfortunately, not all dog breeds are fit to run. Flat nose breeds (with very short noses such as Bulldogs, Pugs, or Shih Tzus) already have a hard time breathing, so the exertion from running could be dangerous for their health. We should also be careful with deep-chested breeds such as Labs, Great Danes, Dobermans, etc. because these breeds are more prone to gastric torsion before and after meals.

3. Gradual training.

Training to run should be a gradual process starting with just a few runs a week. Ideally, plan an interval running/walking program that increases the time or length by +/- 10% per week. For example, week one is 200 m of running and 200 m of walking, and week two is 220 m of running and 200 m of walking, and so on.

4. Choose the right time.

Time of day is key when going for a run. Avoid hot temperatures as dogs can only regulate their body temperature through panting. This cooling process is less effective than sweating in humans. Also, make sure you offer a small amount of water now and then along the way.

5. Pick the right spot to go running.

Go on a path that has partial shade and choose a soft surface over solid asphalt. Such a surface is softer on the joints (for dogs and humans) and will prevent potential injuries. Also, grass will not burn the dog’s feet as asphalt would.

6. Adjust your pace.

If your dog shows signs of fatigue, respect their need to slow down or take a break. This is especially important if you run with your dog on a leash instead of running free. As a matter of fact, you are more likely to push your dog to the limit if they are on a leash than when they run freely. If you can have access to an area where you can let your dog run free, they will be able to run at their own pace, take breaks, and sniff around.

By applying these simple guidelines you can share your love of running with your dog. Keep in mind that, just like you, your dog needs a day off from time to time, and that it is crucial that the activity remains pleasant for everyone.

Enjoy your summer and have a great workout!

Have more questions?

Please do not hesitate to contact the Passionimo veterinary clinic near you.

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