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Running with Your Dog

Photo Credit: dogtime.com

Photo Credit: dogtime.com

Just like humans, dogs thrive when properly exercised.  While not all breeds have the same exercise requirements, certain types of dogs such as those from the sporting, herding, or terrier groups require more activity than other breeds.  Running is one of the quickest and most efficient forms of exercise, and is one activity that requires little training.  Listed below are the benefits of running with your dog, and how to safely start a running program together.

running dog leash

Running has numerous benefits for pets beyond simply keeping them trim and fit.  Adequate exercise can eliminate most nuisance behaviors in pets such as excessive barking, digging, chewing, humping, and attention-seeking because it is an outlet for excess energy.  Dogs also crave mental stimulation that cannot be provided when simply let into the yard.  Running is a fantastic form of socialization and helps dogs experience new sights, sounds, and smells that bust boredom.  Finally, running together is also a great bonding experience for you and your pet, and you will likely find that the extra exercise promotes a stronger relationship.

Before you begin a running program with your pet you should have him or her checked by a veterinarian to make sure your dog is physically sound for vigorous exercise.  This is especially important if you have a breed that is prone to hip or elbow dysplasia.  Next, purchase a comfortable harness for your dog.  Never run with your pet with the leash attached to his or her collar, as this can cause serious injury to the neck or spine.  A bungee-type leash with comfortable handle is also recommended, which will save your shoulder if your dog sees a squirrel before you do.  Some runners prefer a leash that attaches around the waist and these can be found in most running specialty stores.

Photo by: runnersrevelations.com

Photo by: runnersrevelations.com

To start running with your pet, it is best to begin by taking it slow.  If planning to run on concrete or asphalt, you will have to gradually condition your pet to this terrain in order to keep him or her from developing sores on paw pads.  For instance, your first run should be 10 – 15 minutes long and you can increase the time spent running by 3 – 5 minutes thereafter.  For older or overweight dogs, a run – walk – run program may be best.  Alternate running for 3:00 and walking for 2:00, then decrease the amount of time spent walking as your dog becomes more fit.

While most dogs pick up the concept of running right away, some dogs may take more time.  If your dog continually stops to sniff be sure to give your dog plenty of praise every time he or she is running.  When your dog stops, you can use a treat to lure your dog away from sniffing in order to start running again.  These two actions will help your dog realize that continuous running is the desired outcome.  However, also remember that pets do not understand the concept of “exercise” or “workout,” and frequent stops and potty breaks are just part of being a dog.  Over time you both will find the routine that works best for you!

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