Handy tips on running with your dog

Making a running partner out of four-legged friends is a great way to get both pets and owners in shape and improve health, happiness and that special bond!

Tim Charlesworth, head of surgery at Eastcott, is an avid sports enthusiast and runner, and says that exercising with dogs can bring enormous physical and mental benefits to both pet owners and their animals.

“As well as helping to maintain a healthy weight, running can also do wonders for your dog’s wellbeing. The sights, sounds and smells that they discover on a run, as well as the change of scenery, all help to provide mental stimulation, reducing anxiety and alleviate boredom.”

As part of our sponsorship of the Swindon Half-Marathon in September, Tim has put together a few hints and tips that can help dog owners get ready to go out running:

Consider your dog’s breed

The first thing to consider is the breed. Some breeds such as Huskies, gundogs, Dalmatians, Golden Retrievers and Collies can make great long-distance runners but others aren’t so well suited. Breeds like Greyhounds and Salukis are more natural sprinters, so are better suited to much shorter distances.

Any dogs with breathing problems should not be used for running and this includes breeds such as Pugs, Frenchies and Shih-Tzus. The lack of airflow through over-crowded nasal chambers in these breeds means they find it very difficult to lose excess heat by panting effectively. Over-exercising these breeds, therefore, has a very high risk of causing heat-stroke and should be avoided.

Also, consider your dog’s age and the condition of their health. Younger dogs shouldn’t be given excessive exercise. Their bones are still growing and if put under too much stress, they may experience complications later in life.

Start off slowly

Just like you, dogs need to train and build up their tolerance. Try walking for five minutes, then jogging for two, then go back to walking for five minutes and so on. As your dog gets used to jogging, increase your jogging time. Keep doing this until you can both comfortably jog the whole route. Make sure your dog doesn’t get too tired and take a break if they need it. 

Keeping your dog cool and hydrated

Dogs can’t handle heat and humidity as well as humans can. During periods of hot weather, it’s best to exercise early in the morning or late in the evening. You might have to avoid running completely if it gets too hot.

Take water and offer it to your dog regularly. It’s important for both you and your dog to both stay hydrated while exercising, so always carry water on long runs. Dogs will suffer more quickly from dehydration than exhaustion when exercising.

Watch your dog for signs that they’ve had enough, such as excessive panting or lagging behind you. Dogs may run to please their owner, even when they want to stop. Get used to your dog’s normal behaviour when they’re running. If they show signs of struggling, such as excessive foaming at the mouth, shaking their head or pulling to the side, stop straight away and find a shaded place. Soak their coat in water and give them some water to drink. 

Choosing a route

If you’re running on tarmac, dogs could be prone to impact injuries, plus it can be very abrasive. Grass and dirt trails are good, as are sand, woodchip and crushed gravel. Running over grass will be better for both you and your dog’s joints but beware of unseen hazards like rabbit holes.

Only allow your dog to run off its lead where it’s safe and legal, and only if they have a reliable recall amid distractions.

Suitable equipment

It’s important to ensure that whatever you use doesn’t restrict any part of your dog’s natural movement when running. A standard lead and collar mean the dog may be pulling on its neck. Some harnesses may restrict shoulder movement, so be sure to do your research on the best options for your companion. Special running harnesses are available and can attach to a waist band via a slightly elasticated lead which can be useful when your dog stops to sniff at a tree and you don’t!

Perhaps also consider a small folding dog bowl.  These are lightweight and can be attached to a running belt and are perfect for those much-needed water breaks.

After your run

Just like you, make sure your running companion has lots of opportunities for taking on water after a run.  Clean their paws and check for any cuts or scrapes. Unattended injuries can lead to infections.  If you feed your dog after exercising, make sure they don’t gulp it down too quickly.  Running shouldn’t be their only exercise – remember playtime and walkies, too.