Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Runday: Four Legged Friends

My daily running partner is Thatdog.  And in general, dogs make great running partners.  It's good exercise for you and them, and also motivation.  One of the reasons I started running every day was because I had to take Thatdog for a walk anyway.  Our walks were 20 minutes long.  Adding on 10 minutes meant I could actually use that time for a little running without compromising the rest of my day.

But there are definitely some things you need to keep in mind if you want to run with your dog.

1) Size and age.  Running with you isn't the same as when they dash about on their own.  The same way most people can't just pick up and run a marathon even though they may run around a soccer field or basket ball court.  Distance running can be hard on a dog's joints and can actually stunt their growth, so wait until your pup is a year old before bringing them with you.  And if you have a very large breed dog (like a Great Dane) you may want to wait even later.

2) Teach the dog to run.  It sounds silly, but it's a different mentality than a simple walk.  Almost like a job.  When we run, there's no sniffing, no playing with other dogs, no horsing around.  We literally started out doing a quarter of a mile on best behavior.  If he wasn't running nicely, then we'd turn around and go home.  I continued this until he was able to do a whole quarter of a mile.

3) Increase distance.  Think of this as Couch to 5k, for dogs.  We went from quarter of a mile to a half mile, to a mile. Increase slowly - about a half a mile at a time, and not every run.  (Like we didn't move on from 2.5 to 3 miles until we had done 2.5 miles for a couple weeks).  When I first started training for a half marathon, Thatdog trained with me.  We both increased our mileage together.  He got up to 7 miles before topping out.  Anything longer than that I run without him.

4) Bring water with you - even if it's under 80, don't forget your dog is wearing a full coat, so it might still be hot for him.  Thatdog gets water every 2 miles on longer runs, but I bring it with me just in case.  He may not need it, but I have had occasion where I didn't bring it because we were only doing 3 or 4 miles and he flat out quit on me.  Sat down and wouldn't go any farther.  Poor guy was just hot and tired!

5) Pay really good attention to your pup's signals.   I can always tell when it's a little too warm for Thatdog because he starts slowing down in the shadier areas of our run.  If I see that, I'll start walking for a bit, or cut our runs short.   Make sure you're cognizant of the ground temperature since your pups don't have shoes like you do and paws can definitely burn and/or crack.  When Thatdog's feet get hot he does a little dance-y step.  (And I pour some water on his pads to cool them off and we head home).  You know your dog best, so just keep an eye on little things to keep everyone healthy.

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