Want to walk your dog but not sure where to start? While it sounds like a great way to keep you and your four-legged friend fit, there are a few things to consider before you lace up your shoes running shoes and break up. Sure, your dog might be running around the park, but if he’s not used to walking alongside you on a leash, it’s important to first consider how you’re going to walk together.
To find out more, we spoke to Ian Scarrott, running coach and personal trainer PureGymand Emma Lee, nutrition expert at Burns Pet Nutrition. Below we have compiled some important safety tips that you should read before you go walking your dog.
1. Consider your dog’s breed
Despite what you can see at the dog park, not every dog is made for the sport. Lee advises that “care must be taken with brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds. These dogs often have trouble breathing and will struggle in hot weather due to their inability to cool down effectively. The ability to lose heat will also be an issue for some of the double or thicker coat breeds like Siberian Huskies.
Also, some dogs, like greyhounds, are sprinters but cannot cover long distances, other breeds that are very prone to orthopedic problems should also be treated with caution. Dachshunds, for example, are genetically prone to IVDD (Disc Disease) and many larger breeds may be more prone to conditions like hip dysplasia.
It goes without saying that it’s a good idea to consult your veterinarian before walking your dog. It is not recommended to run with puppies or dogs under a year old as they are still growing.
If you’re thinking about adding a pet to your family, loud American Kennel Clubthe best dog breeds for running are the Weimaraner, Dalmatian, Visla, German Shorthaired Pointer, Rhodesian Ridgeback, and English Springer Spaniel.
2. Think about your two fitness levels
Not many people would jump from 0 to 10km straight away, so don’t expect your pet to do the same. If you’re planning to recruit your pet as a new running partner, you’ll need to gradually increase their distance. You also have to think about the terrain, says Lee, “Running is a high-impact sport, so be careful when running on firm ground. Also, be careful on uneven terrain. Dogs will be susceptible to similar types of skeletal and muscular injuries as we are!”
Watch for signs of pain or discomfort in your dog and make sure he or she has time to warm up and cool down before and after the run.
If you’re just starting your running journey and discover that your dog is actually the fitter one when it comes to running, running coach Ian Scarrott suggests adding games to the run to keep your pet occupied, but give yourself a breather. “For example, you could run to a park together and get some rest while keeping her active with a round of fetch,” advises Scarrott.
3. Grab the right gear
Just as you might grab one of the best running phone holdera pair of best running glassesor one of the best running watches Before you head out the door, you need to invest in the right gear so your pet can walk comfortably too.
If you plan to walk your dog on a leash, many experts recommend walking your dog with a harness rather than a collar because the harness distributes pressure more evenly across the body rather than the dog’s neck. However, you should do what is best for you and your dog, but make sure the harness or collar fits properly and does not restrict his breathing or make him uncomfortable. Running together should be fun for your dog.
Scarrott advises hands-free running when walking your dog on a leash: “You might want to try hands-free running, where you’re connected by a secure waist belt, which means you’re free to focus on the course, it means.” Your hands are also free in the event of a fall. It can help avoid awkward dragging, especially at high speeds.”
4. Fill up like a pro
Just as you plan your meals around your run, you should do the same for your dog. Lee recommends feeding your dog “at least an hour before training, and ideally earlier, to give him enough time to digest the food.” We recommend feeding two hours before and not feeding two hours after. Trying to overfeed your dog or getting too close to active exercise can lead to issues like bloating.”
It’s also a good idea to pack a collapsible water bowl or dog-friendly water bottle for your dog to use when running together. “Hydration is important, especially in warmer weather. Losing as little as 7% of your dog’s body water can lead to severe dehydration and a loss of 15% can be fatal. It’s important to remember not to let them drink too much at one time, but make sure they’re steadily rehydrating rather than drinking too much too quickly,” says Lee.
5. Use it as a training opportunity
Running together is not only a way to keep fit, it’s also a great way to bond with your pet and work on their exercise. “It can help if they learn new voice commands, so you’re not just in sync when running, but in everyday life,” says Scarrott.
6. Have fun!
“Participating in a sport with your dog can be beneficial for both you and your furry family member and should be encouraged more often. It helps increase and maintain fitness, physical and mental health, and can also strengthen bonding,” Lee adds.
Running with your pet can increase your motivation to get out the door, improve your bond, and keep you both fit, but more than anything, you should both enjoy it, so make sure to take things slow and have fun.
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