How to Safely Run With Your Dog

image: jmichl

The best exercise partner can be your four-legged best friend. image: jmichl

Running is better with a friend, especially if that friend has four paws and a tail that doesn’t stop wagging the moment you grab the leash. With temperatures rising, now’s the time to start running with dog or if you already frequently run five miles a day with your pup give your technique a check-up.

Related: Pets & Vets: 2016

“Running is a great way to bond with your dog and promote physical well-being for both of you, but not all dogs are well suited to be running companions,” said New York-based Dr. Rachel Barrack of Animal Acupuncture.

Barrack, who combines western medicine with the Eastern tradition of healing arts, shared her tips for making sure both you and your dog get the most out of your exercise routine.

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“Running is a great way to bond with your dog and promote physical well-being for both of you, but not all dogs are well suited to be running companions,” said Barrack.

Choose Your Running Companion Wisely
Think about it, you wouldn’t volunteer to run with your friend who is training for a marathon if you’ve never run more than a 5K so why would you drag your small breed running? Not all dogs are suited for running. Small breeds won’t be able to keep up and short nosed breeds such as pugs will have difficulty breathing.

Age Matters
Before you lace up your running shoes and grab the leash make sure your dog is the right age to be your running companion.

“It is important not to start running with your dog until he or she is no longer a puppy,” Barrack said. “Dogs should reach skeletal maturity before engaging in strenuous activity. Putting excessive stress on a developing musculoskeletal system can result in long-term physical damage.”

Dogs reach skeletal maturity at different ages so speak with your veterinarian before starting to run together. Even if your dog is no longer a puppy you should still consult with your vet. As dogs age they develop arthritis and some should not be pushed to run, while others may just require a little more time for rest and recovery.

image: larszahnerphotography

If your dog seems reluctant to run or wants to take a break, don’t force him or her to carry on. image: larszahnerphotography

You Have to Train Your Dog to Run
You taught him or her to sit, shake, even roll over but if you want to run safely with you dog you need to train together. Make sure your dog is sufficiently leash trained and used to verbal commands. You have to be in control.

“Start with walk/runs and work up to increasing distances, frequency and speeds,” Barrack said. “Also avoid feeding an hour prior or post running.”

Going the Distance
How far you can run with your dog will depend on the breed, but just as you need to work up to more difficult runs, so does your dog. Work up to increasing difficulty, mileage and speed. Make sure to check your dog’s paw pads after every run for damage.

When to Stop
If your dog seems reluctant to run or wants to take a break, don’t force him or her to carry on. Just as the weather effects your running so too will it effect your dog. Barrack recommends scheduling runs in the early morning or evening when it’s cooler out and make sure to give your pooch frequent water breaks and time to cool off.

“Dogs don’t cool off as effectively as people because they don’t sweat,” Barrack said. “Instead, they cool off by panting and through their paw pads.”

Tell us: do you have a favorite Long Island running trail to take your dog?