“Are we going running?”
It’s 3:52 AM, and my alarm won’t go off for another 8 minutes. But I am wide awake, because I have another alarm clock. It is brown and furry, it weighs about 55 pounds, and it’s lying on my chest, which makes it hard to breathe. It is my dog, Silva, and she’s ready to eat breakfast.
Five and a half years ago, when I adopted her, I thought Silva would be my new running partner. I had visions of her galloping by my side with no leash, joyful and well-behaved. And she does like to run, but the reality is different from the fantasy. For starters, she is a timid, skittish dog. There are many things you might find on a normal running route that will startle her - recycling bins, school buses, kids on bikes, kids playing basketball, kids in general, balloons on a mailbox, motorcycles, trash cans, and sprinklers, to name a few. And forget about going near a port-a-potty. This is why I mostly run with her on the greenway.
That being said, I still enjoy running with her. There are mornings when the greenway is mostly empty, and I can let her off the leash. She stops to sniff all of the sniffs, or she sprints ahead, but she never lets me out of her sight. When we get home, she is tired and happy.
There are a lot of good reasons to run with your dog. Dogs are good accountability partners. They are not so deterred by cold or rainy weather. Running benefits their health just like it benefits ours. There are also a lot of things to consider when running with your dog - types of leashes and harnesses, hydration, weather, age of the dog, training level, etc. Here are some general guidelines (from my sister, who happens to be a veterinarian and a runner):
- Before starting an exercise program with your dog, he should have a physical exam by your veterinarian to make sure he’s healthy enough for running. Make sure he’s current on vaccinations and parasite prevention.
- Puppies shouldn’t participate in a structured exercise like distance running until they are skeletally mature, usually around 12 months of age (18-24 months for large breeds).
- Certain breeds make better running partners, like medium to large dogs with long muzzles. Flat-faced breeds like bulldogs do not tolerate heat well, and small dogs may not be able to run as far.
- Start with walking, and gradually build up to running, especially if your dog has never exercised regularly.
- Your dog should be trained to run politely on a leash next to you. Harnesses are good to use.
- Exercise during the early morning or late evening hours to avoid the heat. Signs of a heat stroke in dogs include reddened gums, excessive panting, and collapsing.
Running is definitely a passion of mine, and I’m glad I can share it with my favorite little buddy!
Dog Jog 5k