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RUNNING WITH YOUR DOG: Keeping You Both Fit and Trim

Opening Disclaimer: I’m not a dog owner, so I don’t run with a dog. Anyway, I’m sure the dog would appreciate me not slowing him down. Matching my cadence would induce yawns in good-tempered dogs and snapping incredulity in the less tolerant.

My morning runs, while solitary, are not without canine interaction. Many of the walkers I pass are enjoying the morning air with their dogs. The walkers typically wave as I jog past, but the dogs that don’t lunge at my feet stare at me with a kind of languid bemusement. “Where is he going in such a rush?”

Occasionally, however, I do see people running with their dogs, and both seem to be really enjoying themselves. And being honest, seeing these teams sprinting past me all smiles and in apparent wonderful health does make me envious. Who knows, maybe there’s a dog in my future. I just hope they’re forgiving!

For those of you considering running with your dog, here are a few tips from the experts:

1. Preparation. Don’t run with your new puppy. A dog’s skeleton is not fully grown for its first year, so in that first year restrict your puppy’s exercise to short walks so that it gets used to walking by your side. When your dog does reach full-size, upgrade your shared workouts to short jogs of a few hundred yards interspersed with walked intervals. The breed/mix may also have an impact on the best age for your dog to begin running. Consult your veterinarian for specifics.

2. Socialization. When running with your pet, your responsibility extends beyond yourself and your dog to the others sharing your route. You are responsible for keeping your dog calm and obedient. This too requires preparation. Keeping your dog on a leash, training them to accept commands, and keeping them calm in response to other runners and their dogs will allow a relaxed run for yourself and others.

3. Best Running Breeds. Almost any dog that displays high energy and stamina makes a good runner. Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Dalmatians, German Shepherds, Siberian Huskies, and Vizslas are known for their endurance, and they will give even the most serious runners a good workout. However, there are some breeds that are not built to withstand distance running. These tend to be Brachycephalic breeds with short noses that prevent them from taking in enough oxygen to accommodate strenuous exercise. These include Pugs, English Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Pekingese, and Shih Tzus. As always, consult your veterinarian if you’re uncertain.

4. Takin’ It To the Street. Once you and your furry partner are prepped and trained to hit the road or trail, it’s important to use the correct equipment to facilitate a fast run, prevent injury and increase your shared enjoyment. If you’re fast walking or slowly jogging, a regular walking harness should be fine, but if you’re running regularly a running harness is preferred to prevent chafing or choking. It’s also important that you pay careful attention to your dog’s behavior. If they begin lagging behind or their tongue is wagging, they probably need a break. Finally, if you’re running before sunrise or after sunset, both you and your dog should wear reflective gear. Always play it safe!

5. Look Mom…No Hands!! For those paired teams ready for the next big step forward, the optimal arrangement is the one recommended by Canicross participants. Canicross is a kind of hybrid running sport that looks to harness your dog’s pulling power in something akin to sled dog racing. You and your dog are tethered to each other via a bungee cord attached to your respective harnesses. Your dog wears a specially designed harness that allows for maximum pulling force from their chest. The other end of the bungee is attached to your waist belt. This arrangement keeps the runner’s hands free, thereby improving balance while simultaneously controlling the dog. If your dog is strong and fast, your distance running times may actually improve due to your dog’s strong forward momentum.

Keeping an active lifestyle is important for you and your dog, and it’s so much more fun to keep fit together. And remember, consult with your vet before beginning any serious exercise routine. Stay safe and stay fit!

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