Written by Emily Boardman, Burns Nutritionist
Running can be very beneficial for your pooch, especially with 80% of vets reporting an increase in overweight pets in the last 3 years (PDSA), and a prediction for more overweight pets than healthy, in 5 years time.
Even if your dog isn’t carrying some extra lockdown weight, running can massively benefit doggy mental health too. The sights, sounds and smells as well as the change of scenery are all great ways to provide enrichment and stimulate pooch mental well-being. Running can also be a positive outlet for dogs exhibiting destructive behaviours. Let them tear about the paths and not your favourite pillow!
But don’t just clip their lead on tomorrow morning and take them on a 5km run! (Can you imagine if someone did that to you if you’d never run before?) Here are some things you need to think about before your pooch takes the title of top running partner.
Some breeds like Huskies, gun dogs, Dalmatians, Golden Retrievers and Collies can make great long-distance companions.
A lot of people would assume that Greyhounds and Salukis would be the perfect breeds to run with, but they are the sprinters of the dog world and better kept to shorter distances.
Unfortunately for brachycephalic (short nosed) breeds like Pugs, Frenchies and Shih Tzus, it might be best to avoid running altogether – especially in warmer weather.
As much as you might want to encourage your bouncy new family member to get rid of some excess energy, it isn’t advisable to run with puppies. The growth plate at the end of their bones is still under development (growing).
Similarly, running may not be suitable for dogs with joint issues. So if you’re looking to doing it to help your dog shift some pounds, it might be worth double checking with your vet, or starting something more gentle on their joints.
If you are running with your dog where they need to be kept on a lead you need to make sure they can walk to heel before you run with them, or it could result in some grazed knees, or worse!
Even if you can let them off the lead, you need to be confident that you can still control them with recall and trust them to stay close, so you can keep an eye on them.
In terms of equipment, there are many types of belts and attachments you and they can wear (this will just depend on what you feel most comfortable using). The most important thing is to ensure whatever you use doesn’t restrict any part of your pooch’s natural movement when running.
Collars may be harsh on their neck but some harnesses actually restrict shoulder movement. So be sure to do your research on best options for your four-legged buddy.
You need to be willing to stop if needed! Enjoy your new hobby. If you’re aiming to get your quickest time it might not be the best idea to take them with you. You still need to pick up after them, and dogs that stop and sniff a lot can be problematic, especially if they’re on the lead.
Dogs don’t sweat through their skin, they pant as a means to bring their body temperature down. Pushing them too hard can lead to hyperventilation and breathing difficulties. Let your pooch stop when they want and don’t try to push them further. You and your dog are a team now and you will need to stay aware of their body language as they can’t just tell you when they’ve had enough!
As I mentioned before, they also need to train just like we do. Start by doing an easy mile and work them up to longer distances if everything goes well.
Find somewhere you both enjoy going and a distance that suits you both. There are lots of ways to adapt and make it work. For example, if you do laps of a route from your house you could just take them on your first loop and then drop them home. Or you could pick pooch up on your last leg to give you some encouragement!
Remember as well as improving physical health, this should be a fun and enjoyable experience for both you and your pooch and a great way to bond!