By Christine Blanchette
Christine Blanchette is an avid runner and freelance writer who lives in Burnaby, B.C. Follow her blog at christineruns.com.
On a typical day, I’m out the door running by 5:30 a.m. While the neighbors sleep, the streets become my semiprivate domain.
Not long ago another runner coming toward me had a frisky, four-legged friend at his side. The pair looked happy, enjoying each other’s company on this crisp cool morning. They were like dance partners in perfect sync, running step for step, which made a delightful picture, prompting me to muse about running with Rover. A dog may be the most reliable companion to share your running journey because ‘man’s best friend’ is always ready when you are.
Indeed, there are many benefits to running with pooch, including keeping you both fit, enjoying bonding time with your favorite furry friend, who in turn provides comforting security, especially for women that run by themselves in secluded areas.
Before purchasing your new wiener dog (dachshund), beagle or pug, however, knowing the dos and don’ts of running with your pet could save you both a lot of grief.
In a recent interview, Dr. Kathy Kramer, a veterinarian at the Vancouver Wellness Animal Hospital, shared tips on Rover’s needs before embarking on long runs.
“Running requires training, since most dogs like to sniff along the way and get easily distracted,” she said. “Not every dog is cut out to be a marathoner. Common sense dictates that while you may try to run with your border collie, you would leave your bulldog or Chihuahua at home.”
She also cautions that dogs can be out of shape, too, and shouldn’t overdo it.
“Dogs also require conditioning like people do,” she said. “A person would be crazy to start out by running 10 kilometers so don’t expect your dog to do it! The same wear and tear that affects a person’s joints will affect a dog’s as well. Acute injuries, such as soft tissue sprains or ligament tears can happen quickly. As the dog ages, the percussive forces of running (especially on hard surfaces) can cause arthritis to start at an earlier age.”
Kramer was just getting warmed up: “The best runners are the athletic breeds, dogs over 20 kilograms (about 40 pounds). Greyhounds are noted for running but they are sprinters, not long distance runners. Breeds such as labs, golden retrievers, German shepherds, border collies/herding breeds, standard poodles, pit bulls and mixes of these breeds are good choices. The giant breeds (mastiffs, Rottweiler, Great Danes, and Great Pyrenees) are not great choices typically because of their size and pressure on their joints. Most giant breeds have underlying health issues that make them bad candidates. Small breeds usually can’t keep up with their human counterparts for speed or distance. Brachycephalic breeds (short noses) like pugs, English bulldogs, Pekingese have compromised upper respiratory tracks and have trouble breathing with just walking sometimes.”
She advises when you and your dog encounter someone on the trail, it’s best to pull off to the side to let them pass without interacting. A dog might be occasionally spooked and one should not assume others want your dog to greet them. It can be uncomfortable jogging toward a hungry-looking mastiff, especially if it’s on a 30-foot lead. People will feel safer when the lead is shortened.
Important to remember is each dog is an individual. Some smaller breeds will love running and some larger dogs would rather be couch potatoes. A good running companion depends on personality, stamina and overall health. Dogs with high stress levels may not be good to run in the city. Dogs that are prone to heart disease should be thoroughly screened for starting a serious exercise program (just like people!).
Most dogs will run as long as they can, not showing a problem until too late. Heat stroke is the biggest risk during the summer. Dogs only sweat through their footpads and can easily overheat even in normal temperatures. Always have water handy for your dog any time you run.
If your dog is limping, call your veterinarian. Sprains or ligament tears can be very painful, even though your dog is not crying out or will let you touch the injured limb.
There is some debate about the best age to start training your dog to run; most dogs have finished growing by 16 to 24 months. Kramer says if you start slow and on a soft surface, you can begin to train the dog at about 12 to 18 months.
Enjoy your new run buddy!
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