Running with your dog has numerous physical and mental health benefits for both of you. You both get to exercise and in between all your work, family and social commitments, it’s a perfect way of spending quality time together. I asked Jessie from The Right Fits blog what she loves about running with her gorgeous dogs Matilda and Ruth and she said, “I love that even when I’m not feeling all that excited to go for a run, Ruth will see her running leash and start bouncing up and down with excitement about the idea of a run! She helps to remind me that running is a privilege and a joy – and it’s supposed to be fun! It’s a reminder of the pure joy of the fresh air! It doesn’t matter what pace or distance, we are running!”. Although her dogs are happy about the extra treats they get, Jessie says they mostly enjoy the time they spend with her on the run.
But running with your dog also comes with some responsibility. So I’m pleased to have my veterinarian (and husband) Dr Ditiro Coyne blogging today on a subject that is close to his heart. Trained at Murdoch University in Western Australia, Ditiro has been practising vet medicine for over 14 years. Although he sees a variety of cases, he particularly enjoys orthopaedic surgery and managing cardiac patients. He works at the Gaborone Veterinary Clinic which is a mixed-practice established in 1982 and is the oldest private veterinary clinic in Gaborone. As a keen runner himself, he is a big advocate for people running with their dogs but he has also seen a worryingly high number of cases involving dogs who have overexerted themselves on the run, leading to serious complications and sometimes, even death. So today he is taking over the blog and sharing some important tips for running with your dog!
1/ Consider Your Dog’s Health, Build, Breed And Age. It goes without saying that a dog needs to be fit and healthy in order to run with you. However, a number of other factors also play a role in determining whether your dog is a suitable running partner. I have a Basset Hound and although he loves his walks, I won’t be taking him running any time soon. His short legs make it difficult for him to maintain a good running pace. Some large breeds like Labradors and Boerboels are prone to health issues like hip and elbow dysplasia and can develop arthritis which may make running uncomfortable. Dobermans are predisposed to heart disease and should be cleared by your Vet before starting a vigorous exercise regime. For brachycephalic dogs (e.g. chihuahuas, bulldogs, pugs) running may not be easy as their narrowed nostrils and partially obstructed airways make breathing difficult. Age is another consideration. Older dogs may have numerous sub-clinical problems and puppies need to wait for their joints and bones to be fully formed before they start running. This is a general guide so I would say let your Vet give your dog a physical exam and together you can determine what’s best given all these factors.
3/ Ease Into It. Just as a person who hasn’t exercised in a while shouldn’t go from couch to 5K in one day, the same applies to a dog. It is really important to ease your dog into running using a step-by-step approach that increases slowly in terms of mileage or time. A Couch-To-5K plan works well as it combines walking with light jogging until your dog is safely able to sustain a jog. Starting out this way prevents unnecessary injury and gives you the opportunity to teach your dog “road manners” thereby increasing your enjoyment when you run longer together.
4/ Pre-Run Ritual. Just like it’s not recommended for you to run without warming up, the same goes for dogs. But their warm-up routine may look slightly different! Allow your dog to do what dogs love doing – sniff around and mark his territory before setting off. Be patient! This is a good reminder that all this is supposed to be a fun and relaxing experience, and shouldn’t be seen as a chore. Also, letting your dog do his business before you start means that you are likely to have a mostly uninterrupted run.
5/ Ensure Your Dog Is Up To Date With Parasite Control And Vaccinations. I can’t emphasise this enough. Roaming dogs are very common in Gaborone which is actually against the law. But it is also illegal to have a dog that is not up to date with rabies vaccinations. Rabies has a 100% mortality rate in dogs and humans. So if you’re out with your dog, please ensure it has been vaccinated. Also, ensure that your pet is up-to-date with their tick medication. Ticks are very easy to pick up especially if you’re running in bushy areas. Your Vet can recommend various options for parasite control depending on your environment.
6/ Keep Your Dog Hydrated. Your dog won’t tell you if they’re thirsty so you have to be very proactive and make sure your dog is adequately hydrated before, during and after your run. Carry a container that you can use for water especially on those extra hot days. Special dog bottles or portable bowls make this much easier. Stick to water and don’t get creative with any thing else like juice, energy drinks or gels! I’ve seen this in my consult room… Don’t do it!
7/ Don’t Let Your Dog Overheat! I see too many cases of overheating or heat stroke especially during summer. As dog bodies are covered in fur and don’t sweat, they are prone to overheating. So as a rule of thumb avoid running when it’s hot or humid and keep to the shade as much as possible when you do. Also remember that while our shoes protect us from hot surfaces, dogs don’t have that privilege and their paws are susceptible to burning. During and after your run, watch for signs of heatstroke or overexertion. This often takes the form of excessive panting, agitation and glazed eyes. As a first step, find shade, wet their arm pits and inner thighs and offer water (small amounts as rapid intake can cause fatal water toxicity). If you see no improvement within 10 minutes or if signs progress to weakness, vomiting, bloody diarrhoea, inability to stand, muscle tremors and dark red gums rush your dog to the Vet! Don’t wait!
8/ Inspect Your Dog. When you’re back home from your run, check for ticks, suspicious bites, cuts or other injuries, especially under their paws. Keep an eye on their temperament. If you notice anything strange, call your Vet. Also, in the days following your run, watch for any stiffness (slow to get up) or discomfort before going for another run. Keeping a log book with days and distances run is also useful information to share with your Vet should the need arise.
Thank you Ditiro for sharing these important tips with us and thank you to Jessie for sharing what you love about running with Matilda and Ruth! Running with your dog can be such a rewarding experience for both of you. But before putting on that leash, be sure to consider these tips so you have a safe, happy, healthy and long running relationship with your dog!
Do you run with your dog? What do you love most about running with your dog? What does your dog love about running? What other tips do you have for running with your dog?
I’m joining Kooky Runner and Zenaida on their link up, Tuesday Topics. I’m also joining the Runner’s Roundup with Mile By Mile, Coach Debbie Runs, Confessions of a Mother Runner, Runs with Pugs, Running on Happy and Organic Runner Mum! Be sure to read their blogs and catch up with other runners from around the world.