If you want to take up running but are struggling to motivate yourself to swap your slippers for your running shoes, then finding a training partner for encouragement and companionship could be the answer! The trouble with humans is that we can be unreliable, easily dissuaded from running plans by the allure of the television, a call to the pub or the demands of a child.
This is why your four-legged friend makes the ideal running partner. When going for a run might seem like a bit of a drag, your dog’s boundless energy, natural running ability and happy wagging tail will spur you on and make the whole experience more enjoyable.
Choose the right breed
Some dog breeds are born to run, while others are not. Your pug, for example, might not get quite so excited at the promise of a long run as your weimaraner. If you’re not sure whether your canine is an appropriate running partner, it is a good idea to check with your vet first. The vet will also be able to tell you if your pooch is physically fit enough to take on his role as running partner. He can check their heart, lungs and joints to make sure that this level of strenuous activity will do them no harm.
Wait until he is an adult
Wait until your hound is fully grown before taking him out for a run, to ensure that their bones have fully matured and are strong enough. The repetitive nature of running can cause a great deal of damage to a young dog’s joints, leading to complications in later life. Consult a vet if you are unsure if your dog is ready for your running regime and make sure that you protect both their joints and your own.
Paws for thought
While a good pair of running shoes will protect your feet from hard and uneven surfaces, your pup’s paw pads are sensitive and will need toughening up before they can run long distances. Inspect the terrain before you train and keep an eye out for broken glass or uneven ground that could hurt their paws. Always be sure to inspect his pads after a run, and give them time to recover in between runs.
Running in hot weather is tough for anyone, but especially so for your pooch. Dogs can’t sweat to cool themselves down the way that humans can. Your loyal hound is likely to keep running to keep up with you even when they really ought to stop, so you should only exercise with your dog if it is cool enough outside for him. Watch your pet closely for signs of fatigue, pain or overheating. If your dog starts to limp, pant or slow down, you need to cool them down as soon as possible – as heat stroke can be fatal to your beloved pet. Cool them by wetting their coat, letting them rest in the shade, or, better still, find a puddle or stream for them to lay down in!
Equally in wet weather make sure that you wear the appropriate waterproofs to keep yourself dry.
Build up stamina
Running requires stamina whether you have two legs or four, so make sure that you ease your dog into running – they needs to build up their fitness just as much as you do. Start by taking them out for long walks to build up his endurance and don’t rush the process. Once they are ready to start training, begin with short runs and increase the length slowly, upping the time by 5 minutes each week.
Train your dog
You will need to train your dog to run alongside you and keep pace. Start off by keeping them on a lead – but be aware that an excited, untrained dog may well outrun you and end up taking you for the run! Only ever let your pet off the lead if you are fully in control and are certain that he will obey your commands. Dogs naturally like to explore but a gentle tug on their lead will keep them with you should they start to get distracted. A lead will also help them to keep pace with you. Make sure that you use an appropriate length dog lead that will keep a good distance between you both without getting tangled – or tripping up any fellow runners!
Choose a harness
Getting a comfortable, flexible harness specifically designed for running with your dog is a good idea as it limits the chance of them being distracted by another dog and running off. It also allows you to keep pace with your pet. Make sure you choose a comfy harness that helps distribute the weight and doesn’t put a strain on their neck.
Warm up & cool down
Both you and your dog need to warm up before starting a run, so start off with a walk to warm up both of your muscles. Finish your run with a 5-10 minute walk to cool down.
Make sure you provide plenty of water for both yourself and your pet before, during and after your run. Carry two running bottles of water with you if you can, one for each of you, especially if you plan on running a long distance.
If you are going to be running with your dog in the dark then you need to ensure that you can both be seen by passing cars. Always wear a high visibility jacket when running at night and use a reflective dog collar and lead so that your pet can be seen too.
Finally, remember that running should be fun for both of you, so praise and reward your furry friend for good behaviour and always be a responsible dog owner and clean up after your pet.