Spring is just around the corner and so is the perfect weather for running outdoors. If you are a dog owner, why not turn your pooch into your running buddy? Aerobic exercise is as beneficial for your furry friend as it is for you. And a well-exercised dog is a happy and calm dog. “There is a big impact on behaviour,” says Michael Parker, founder of The Dog Runners.
The company provides fast-paced dog walking and dog running services in Montreal. Michael runs with dogs of all breeds and sizes. “Even the smallest dogs can make the perfect running partners,” he says. Whether you own a dachshund or a Great Dane, you can train your pup to get stronger and faster. But before you grab a leash and lace-up your running shoes, there are a few things you need to know in order to have a safe and enjoyable run.
Your dog must be old enough
Puppies grow and develop at a fast rate, which means their bones are growing and changing too. This makes them extra vulnerable to injuries caused by high-impact exercise. For larger breeds, Michael suggests you wait until your pup is about eighteen months old to start training for sustained running. For smaller breads, the nine-month mark is a safe bet.
Smooth on-leash walks are a must
“If you have a dog that can walk well on a leash, then the dog will run well on a leash,” says Michael. If your dog pulls or suddenly lunges to the side to sniff things, you need to get that behaviour in control before attempting to run. Avoid chaotic and potentially dangerous situations by training your pooch to walk by your side. “You need to be the leader,” says Michael. Here are a few of his tips for assessing leadership and having smooth walks:
- Always get out of the door first and always walk in front of the dog.
- At home, every interaction you have with the dog should happen on your own terms. As hard as it is, you have to ignore the puppy eyes.
- Teach your dog basic commands such as sit, stay and lie down.
- Be a calm presence for your dog.
- Figure out what causes the dog to pull. Is it because it is nervous crossing the street? Is it because it is too excited to get outside? Is it to sniff something?
- Never reward pulling by letting the dog get what its wants when it pulls.
- Once the dog learns to stay by your side you can reward it by slowly walking toward what it wants to see.
Build endurance with walk/run intervals
Now that you are ready to pound the pavement, start slow. Just like humans, dogs need to build endurance before being able to run a 5k without stopping. Alternate five minutes of walking with five minutes of light jogging and assess your dog’s energy levels. If the dog is lagging behind it might be enough for the day. “Dogs can do way too much just to please you or because they are excited,” says Michael. So it is important to progressively work on increasing running duration and/or speed.
The right accessories can keep everyone safer
A portable water bowl and a bottle of water are a must. Dogs can overheat really quickly, especially larger breeds. Make sure both you and your fur-baby stay hydrated! If it is too hot outside, try to run early in the morning and run in shaded areas such as forest trails.
When your dog gets into the habit of running by your side, switch to a leash that you can tie around your waist. Not only is running hands-free easier, but it will help you avoid awkward twisting motions that can cause you to hurt yourself.
Never feed a dog right before going on a run
Bloat is a sudden and life-threatening condition that can be caused by exercising a dog on a full stomach. Larger breeds are especially prone to this. “I ask all clients not to feed their dogs for at least 45 minutes before a run,” says Michael.
For more information on The Dog Runners and its services visit thedogrunners.ca