Written By: John Woods, senior editor at All Things Dogs
Love running? If so, you’ve probably thought about taking Fido out to pound the pavement. Not only is running great for you, but it can also be a beneficial addition to your dog’s exercise routine. Before you lace up your running shoes and grab his leash, though, there are a few things to consider. Read on for some top tips to help you and Fido through those miles.
While the thought of running through the woods, in a nearby park, or even on the beach with your canine companion may make you smile, you have to be realistic. Is Fido suitable for running? What breed is he and how old is he?
Let’s Talk Breed
Brachycephalic breeds — like Pugs, French Bulldogs, and Shih Tzus — aren’t particularly suited for running (especially long distances). That’s because they over-heat easily. They aren’t great at regulating their body temperature due to their short muzzles, and they often suffer from brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, which literally means they have air-hunger.
When you and Fido are running, oxygenated blood needs to be pumped around your bodies to make your muscles work.
On the flip side, dolichocephalic breeds — those with longer muzzles — are much better suited for running. They inhale much more efficiently. Plus, certain breeds in this category of canine were literally bred to run.
The Weimaraner, Dalmatian, German Shorthaired Pointer, Doberman, Vizsla, and Greyhound are all breeds that make the “best runners” lists. Some are known for their speed, others for their distance. That depends greatly on their muscles. Sled dogs, for example, have more slow twitch muscle fibers, which makes them great endurance runners. Greyhounds have more fast twitch muscle fibers which makes them great for short, quick runs!
Let’s Talk Age
In terms of his age, no dog should start running long distances with their human companion until they are fully matured. For small-medium breeds, this can be around 12 months of age. For large-giant breeds, this can take up to 18-24 months. It’s all to do with those growth plates — the areas of cartilage at the end of the bones. As your puppy grows and matures, these plates calcify and get stronger. When a puppy is over-exercised or experiences trauma before they have fully hardened, it can result in weakness and deformity. Not only that, but over-exercise has been linked to later development of hip dysplasia.
While your fur kid is maturing, stick to the 5-minute rule. This means 5 minutes of exercise per month of age. So, that would mean a 3-month old puppy can tolerate up to 15 minutes of continuous exercise, 20 minutes for a 4-month-old, and so on.
If you’re an experienced runner, we’ll just ask you to think back to your early days. We’re guessing you didn’t do a marathon on your first ever outing, right? All runners need to start off slowly and this includes your pooch!
If needed, start with running to walking intervals. For example, 1 minute of running, 2 minutes of walking, 1 minute of running, etc. Depending on your dog’s age, perhaps you only head out for 10-15 minutes. Over time, you’ll be able to increase the overall time and interval time. So, when your dog is ready for the next level, try 2 minutes running and 1 minute walking. Or even 30 seconds walking. Go at your own pace and watch out for Fido too!
Your dog may pant, but he shouldn’t be winded. Excessive panting is a sign that he’s doing too much, so rein it in.
Keep Him On Leash
While you may have visions of yourself being dragged off a trail or wrapped up in your dog’s leash, it really is best to keep Fido on a leash. Many dog parents who run with their canine kids invest in a harness with a running leash — they have elasticated sections which helps buffer any jolts or tugs.
If Fido isn’t leash trained then this needs to be your top priority before you head out for a run. By keeping Fido close to you, he can’t get into any trouble.
If you’re an avid runner then heading out on the trails with your dog can be a great way to strengthen your bond. If you’re a newbie then it can be a great skill for you to learn together.
About The Writer
John is a full-time dog trainer and part-time writer. He is a member of the Dog Writers Association of America and the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. He also has two degrees and is a graduate in Animal Behavior and Welfare.