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5 Rules for Running with Your Dog

5 Rules for Running with Your Dog 2 1

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Dogs, what amazing animals!

When they’re young, it’s as if they have an unlimited energy code, especially since they’re always enthusiastic about everything!

If one of you isn’t motivated to go for a run, it’s definitely not the dog! Regardless of the weather or the time, they won’t complain about going for a run.

(We can’t say the same about cats…)

We know that leading an active lifestyle reduces stress and anxiety in both humans and dogs. Active dogs live longer and happier lives. On the other hand, a dog that is not active enough and lacks stimulation tends to be destructive or even aggressive.

Running with your dog exposes them to new curiosities, sounds, and smells, which will undoubtedly stimulate them!

Running with your dog is excellent for both of you, and the physical and health benefits are countless. If we were to list them:

  • Your dog is one of the best sources of motivation (studies show that people who exercise with their dogs are more likely to stick to their training program in the long run).
  • Your furry friend will always push you to give your best and improve your pace.
  • Beethoven provides you with company when you venture into remote places, perfect for running alone and safely.
  • They may be faster than you, but they never boast about it. We appreciate their humility!
  • They are powerful magnets for attracting attention from others (studies show that it’s much easier to start a conversation when you’re with your dog; you never know who you might meet!).
  • Running together strengthens your bond.

But to enjoy all these benefits, you need a dog that is suitable for running.

Some breeds are better suited for running than others.

Purebred dogs are more prone to genetic disorders that can be aggravated by running. I recommend consulting a breeder or veterinarian if you’re looking for a dog specifically to be your running partner.

Brachycephalic dogs like pugs, bulldogs, and other short-nosed breeds may have breathing difficulties.

Dogs with spine problems (such as dachshunds), hip dysplasia (common in German Shepherds), and other bone issues may not be able to handle high-impact exercise.

Breeds that were bred as hunting or herding dogs are generally the best dogs for running.

Contrary to what one might think, smaller breeds like terriers, shelties, or Chihuahuas can also be excellent companions for runners.

Some breeds are ideal for long and slow runs, while others are better suited for short and fast runs.

For example, greyhounds are renowned sprinters, while Huskies can literally run day and night. Choose the breed that best suits your running abilities.

The best dogs for running are usually:

  • Medium-sized
  • Not too heavy
  • Short-haired
  • Relatively lean and well-muscled
  • With a good temperament

Here are some examples of dogs for long runs:

  • Weimaraner
  • German Shorthaired Pointer
  • Hungarian Short-haired Pointer
  • Parson Russell Terriers
  • Dalmatian

And here are some examples for shorter, faster runs:

  • Greyhound
  • Pit Bull
  • Llewellin Setter
  • Labrador
  • Beagle

Now that you have an idea of choosing the right dog, let’s see how to get started with canicross and turn your big buddy into a sporty and handsome canine.

Note: If you don’t have a dog or the one you have isn’t quite a powerhouse, you can borrow other dogs!

Some brilliant minds in Rennes have thought of everything by developing a platform that connects dog owners with runners.

5 Rules for Running with Your Dog

How to Get Started with Canicross in 5 Steps?

Canicross originated in Europe with the initial purpose of training sled dogs or mushing dogs off-season when there is no snow.

Originally, the breeds used for canicross were those involved in sled dog racing, such as Malamutes and Huskies.

The concept is simple: one or two dogs are attached to the human runner using an elastic leash to run, have fun, get fit, train, or participate in competitions.

Canicross has evolved into a separate sport and is now practiced by dogs of various breeds, from large to small.

The first canicross event took place in 2000, so it’s a relatively young sport but has quickly spread throughout Europe.

Step 1: Is Your Dog Ready?

Just like humans, dogs may not be fit to start or resume a sport if they have had a long period of inactivity.

Furthermore, the skeletal development of most canine breeds is not complete until around 1 year (sometimes 18 months), and running with a dog that is too young can cause bone injuries.

So, be patient!

During their first year, focus on getting your dog used to walking and trotting alongside you. Incorporate short jogs of a few hundred meters during occasional walks.

After one year, you can gradually increase the running distance, provided that your dog is ready and in good health.

To be sure, consult your veterinarian (to avoid a €20,000 bill). Whether your dog is a puppy or not, you should always start by checking if it’s safe to run with them.

As your dog ages, you should adjust the running frequency and distance.

Step 2: The Importance of Progression

Just like humans, doing too much too soon can lead to muscle or joint pain and even injuries.

Once you have the green light from the vet to enter the world of canicross, don’t jump into a 5K race right away! Just like humans, dogs need physical preparation!

If your dog is new to running, start slowly and only run relatively short distances in the beginning. It’s best to combine running with walking until your dog’s endurance improves.

Just like you would for yourself, make sure to include warm-up and cool-down periods in your training sessions. Gradually increase your speed and mileage to avoid overloading your dog’s muscles and joints.

You are their coach, so set the pace!

Here’s an example of a progressive training program for running with your dog:

Weeks 1 & 2: Alternate 1 minute of walking and 1 minute of running for a total of 16 minutes, 2 to 3 times per week.
Weeks 3 & 4: Increase the running intervals to 1 minute and extend the total training time to 21 minutes. Continue alternating running and walking, such as 2 minutes of running, 1 minute of walking, 2 minutes of running, and so on.
Weeks 5 & 6: Keep gradually increasing the running intervals, aiming for 3 to 5 minutes of running with alternating 1-minute walks. Your total training time should be around 30 minutes.
Week 7: By this time, you should be able to do full canicross training sessions with just running, no walking intervals.

Note: Always take 5 minutes for warm-up and cool-down for both you and your dog. Pay attention to your dog’s response throughout the training program. As long as they’re doing well, sleeping, eating properly, and enjoying it, you can increase the distance by 10 to 20% each week.

Step 3: Always Listen to Your Dog

“But they can’t speak!”

You’re right, but just like humans, dogs tend to breathe more heavily when they exercise. They pant not only because they’re out of breath but also to regulate their body temperature. However, panting is not particularly efficient, and dogs have fewer sweat glands than we do, so you need to be cautious about overheating your furry companion.

Watch out for high temperatures:

Start by staying within reasonable temperature ranges when you go running with your dog, between -10 and +15°C (14 to 59°F). Below -10°C (14°F), consider breeds like Huskies.

For higher temperatures, make sure to run in shaded areas, such as forests. In the summer, go early in the morning or late in the evening. Always touch the pavement with your hand to ensure it’s not too hot for your dog’s delicate paws. Concrete can retain heat and rapidly increase your dog’s body temperature.

In short, never go for a run under scorching sun as your dog could suffer from heatstroke (unless they belong to a breed exceptionally resistant to heat)!

Additionally, some dog breeds are prone to sunburn, so consider applying sunscreen specifically made for pets on their nose and ears before the training session.

Give them well-deserved breaks:

Most of the time, your dog will have more energy than you, but still, be vigilant.

Pay attention to your dog’s behavior and adjust your run based on their level of fatigue or enthusiasm.

Even if it means sacrificing your personal record, if your furry friend is having an off day, let them rest. Sometimes they may lack rest or have pushed themselves too hard and need a day off. Don’t force them to run with you. Remember, the training should be mutually beneficial and enjoyable for both of you.

During the run, keep an eye on their attitude. If you notice that your four-legged buddy is trailing behind, seeking shade, or attempting to stop and lie down, it’s time to slow down and give them a break.

If your dog is panting strangely, showing signs of confusion, lethargy, and has red gums and tongue, stop immediately and consult a veterinarian as it could be the early signs of a heat stroke.

If your dog seems extremely tired the next day, it means you may have run for too long or too fast, and you should lower the intensity.

Just like humans, dogs can experience muscle soreness. How can you tell if your four-legged friend is feeling sore? They may have difficulty getting up (similar to you after a leg day or a long run) and may appear less active. Just like in humans, muscle soreness in dogs usually occurs within 24 to 48 hours.

Ensure proper hydration:

This may seem obvious, but it is crucial for both you and your dog—before, during, and after the run.

Allow your dog to drink a bowl or two of water before starting the run, and remember to bring water for them during the run. Some canicross harnesses even come with a special water pouch.

Don’t pretend not to notice their “business”:

Being outdoors is a cue for your dog to relieve themselves, and as a responsible dog owner, it’s your duty to clean up after them.

Make sure to carry dog waste bags or a dog waste scooper with you, so you can pick up and dispose of whatever your dog leaves behind.

Even if you’re running in the countryside where it might seem extreme or unnecessary, dog feces contain germs, and other people may also use the same areas, so it’s a matter of social responsibility and good manners.

Step 4: Some Equipment for Running with Your Dog

No matter how well-trained your dog is, you should always have them on a leash when running. You never know when their instincts might kick in due to the sight of a cat or another animal.

While running in the forest may provide more leeway, in urban areas with traffic, it’s essential to have your dog securely attached to you.

Canicross harness: (almost) a must-have!

You can choose almost any type of leash, but here are some good options to consider:

A leash with a water bottle holder, so you can stay hydrated at all times.
A harness attachment (rather than a collar) to make the run more comfortable for your dog.
The possibility of having your hands free (with a waist strap, for example), for a better experience and better movement for you.
Avoid using a leash longer than 180 cm (6 ft). Ideally, choose a length of around 90 cm (3 ft) to keep your dog close to you.

Consider the surface beneath your dog’s paws:

Temperature is not the only factor to consider when running with your dog; you should also pay attention to the running surface.

We mentioned concrete, which can be too hot, but some surfaces can also put excessive stress on your dog’s joints and irritate their paw pads.

Gravel, for example, can cause long-term damage to their paws.

Opt for surfaces like dirt trails, grass, or sand whenever possible. Periodically check your dog’s paws for burns or cuts if you’re running on rough terrain.

In general, the more cushioned the surface, the better.

And of course, there’s the pro tip of getting running boots for your dog. Yes, they do exist!

Step 5: Nutrition for Your Fit Dog

In general, you don’t need to adjust your dog’s diet if you’re taking them for a run two or three times a week.

However, the quality of their meals should be excellent.

There’s no need to increase the protein content either; keep it between 21% and 24%. As always, the best way to know is to observe your dog. If they’re noticeably hungrier or losing weight, you can slightly increase their food portions.

5 Rules for Running with Your Dog

To summarize:

  • Always consult your vet before starting any exercise routine, whether your dog is a puppy or not.
  • Wait until your dog is at least one year old for their skeletal and bone development to be fully complete.
  • Ensure your dog has a basic level of obedience, such as being comfortable with a running leash and not getting distracted easily (like chasing squirrels or greeting other dogs), in addition to responding to basic commands.
  • Start slowly to allow your dog to adapt. Just because they can run faster than you doesn’t mean they can run longer (it depends on the breed).
  • Before starting to run, warm up with a brisk walk for both you and your dog.
  • Always pay attention to your dog’s behavior during the run (Are they enjoying it? Are they thirsty?), as well as before and after (Are they excited about going for a run? Are they eating normally? Sleeping normally?).
  • Alternate running days with walking days to allow your dog to recover while staying active.
  • Choose a running harness rather than a collar for better control, and make sure to have your hands free.
  • Always carry water with you to keep both you and your dog hydrated. Remember, dogs don’t sweat like humans; they pant.
  • Give your dog regular breaks if they seem to be struggling or panting heavily (signs of a potential heat stroke are excessive panting, confusion, lethargy, and red gums and tongue).
  • Don’t forget to protect against ticks, especially if you’re running in wooded areas. You’ll be spending time outdoors!
  • Now you’re ready for your training sessions! If you and your dog enjoy it, you can even participate in competitions. There are plenty of races you can do with your dog.
  • Remember, running with your dog is a wonderful way to stay active, bond, and enjoy the benefits of exercise together. Follow these rules and guidelines, and you and your canine companion will have a great time hitting the trails or pounding the pavement. Get out there and happy running!
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- Mahatma Gandhi

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”