What's good for Fido and for you too? Running. Just as there's an epidemic of human obesity, many dogs carry around a few too many pounds as well. Training for a 5K race together is a chance for both of you to get into tip-top shape - together.
There are benefits to training with your favorite canine companion. For one, you always have a willing partner. Unlike humans who want to stay in bed on a cold winter morning rather than train, dogs are a willing running partner anytime. If you plan on training with your dog, here are some tips to keep both of you safe.
Have Your Dog Checked Out By a Vet First
Make sure your dog is in shape for training before taking them out on their first run. Problems like arthritis or orthopedic issues may limit how fast or long your dog can run. Get your vet's okay before starting a training program with your dog.
It's important to know your dog's limitations. A dog with a heavy coat of fur or a pushed-in nose like a bulldog or pug overheats easily and may not be suited for running long distances in a warm climate.
A smaller dog may have a harder time keeping up than a medium-sized or large one and may not handle long distances well. Puppies shouldn't begin running until they're a year old, until their bones are fully developed.
Start Out Slowly and Gradually Increase the Distance
If you've been running for a while and want to bring Fido along, start slowly. Your dog needs conditioning before adding speed and distance, especially if your running pal is carrying around too much weight or is five years or older. Dogs can't tell you when they're overheated or fatigued and will keep going even if they're exhausted just to please you.
Know the signs that your dog has had enough. Limping, excessive panting, flattened ears, downward tail or lagging too far behind are signs that your dog is overdoing it. Stop, rest and re-hydrate if you notice these signs. Be alert - you shouldn't have to pull your dog along.
Walk Before Running
If your dog isn't accustomed to walking long distances, begin by walking first. A week or two of walking serves another useful purpose. It gives you a chance to teach Fido to walk or run on one side of you. When you're running a good clip, you don't want your dog weaving into your path. That's a good way to get injured.
Your dog should run on one side of you consistently and stay within three feet of your body. If you're right-handed, your right side will usually work best. Fido should run evenly with you without pulling forward. If he moves ahead, pull back on the leash. If that doesn't work, stop and have your dog sit. Then restart again, stopping each time he pulls in front until he catches on.
Once you feel comfortable with how your dog walks on a leash, add short segments of running interspersed with walking, increasing the amount of time you run each week. Gradually increase the distance as your dog becomes more accustomed to running. Once your dog can run 15 minutes straight, add an additional 5 minutes each week. Eventually you'll work up to a 5K distance or longer. Then you can start working on speed. Always walk the first five minutes as a warm-up.
After a Run
After running with your dog, check his paw pads to make sure there are no cracks or fissures. Remember your dog isn't wearing protective shoes like you are. Watch the surfaces you run on too. The smoother and softer, the better.
Don't run with your dog immediately after a meal. This increases the risk for a condition called intestinal bloat or volvulus that can be life-threatening. Wait at least two hours after mealtime before letting your dog run. Choose your time wisely too. In the summer, schedule your run for the coolest part of the day.
The Bottom Line?
Training for a 5K with your dog can be rewarding for both of you. It's another way to bond with your dog and keep Fido healthy and in shape. Plus, it's great motivation to see your dog so exciting about hitting the pavement. Sometimes you need that extra bit of motivation.
References:Kristie Leong M.D..
- Hobbies & Personal Activities