Thursday, September 24, 2009

Runs (Not Dances) With Wolves

Okay, so maybe not wolves. But your friend Fido, depending on his/her breed, might enjoy going for a run with you every now and then. Especially if you have a larger pooch, running with them may be a good option for both you and the dog. You'd have a protective running companion (who needs to arm themselves with pepper spray when you have a dog would could take off an arm?) and man's best friend would have an opportunity for some exercise and fresh air. It's a win-win situation, no?

Before fitting your chihuahua with booties and hauling him out to the nearest wilderness trail, know that not all breeds make good running companions. As my toy poodle sits in the adjacent room atop a couch, I'll have you know she is far from a fit running dog. I'm sure she's as much aware of that fact as I am. A couple loops around the living room at bullet-like speed and she's had quite enough.

So what breeds, then, do make good running companions?

Here is a list available from Run the Planet that includes dogs typically fit for running. However, this does not necessarily mean a dog of a listed breed should come along for the ride, nor does it mean a dog not appearing here shouldn't join you.

Other tips to take into account when deciding whether or not you and your pup would be suitable running partners:

Be aware of the temperament of a dog in addition to their breed. If you have a hyperactive or highly untrained dog, he/she might be distracting and/or unruly on a run. It may be difficult to restrain them if they see something of interest.

Remember that dogs do not sweat via their skin. That's right. Instead, their cooling process consists of panting and sweating through their paws. So if it's 90 degrees outside, let Fido continue to gnaw his bone inside. You don't want to make your dog a "hot-dog..."
If you live in a warmer climate, aim to run in the early or late hours before or after the sun rises, and bring enough water for both you and the pooch. Signs of overheating include excessive panting, increased salivation, red gums, increased heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, and weakness. If your dog begins to show these symptoms, stop immediately and slowly cool them down with cool or tepid water.

Age matters. It is not recommended dogs under two years of age, essentially puppies, run long distances. Wait until they are at least this old, and start them out very slowly. First, develop their fitness with a moderate walking program, about 10-15 minutes one to two times daily. Once they are ready to begin running, start conservatively with a half a mile and, like a human would, use the 10% weekly increase rule-of-thumb. Give them ample recovery time - ideally one day off for every day they run.

Notice the surface. Unless you're a barefoot runner, your shoes protect you from the wear and tear of whatever surface you run on. A dog has nothing but their paws, so try to run with them on grass, dirt, or other softer surfaces that won't inflict damage. Over time, pad wear can occur, so take them to the veterinarian if you see them exhibiting signs of soreness or difficulty standing up.

Don't run with a dog who has pre-existing health problems. These could include a heart murmur, heartworms, arthritis, gait abnormalities, etc.

Be aware of traffic. Don't run on roads with dogs. Stick to trails or other places without the danger of passing cars.

Keep a firm grip! Some dogs are especially excited by runners, bikers, or walkers that pass by. Make sure you have a tight grip on the leash and stay aware of holding on. Maintain some amount of slack on the leash for space purposes as well. If you can't control your dog should someone pass by, the dog's temperament probably isn't well-suited to being a running partner until he/she is better trained.

Watch diligently for signs of your dog's discomfort. Unlike a human, a dog cannot vocalize if something's wrong. If you see them visibly struggling or tiring, allow them to stop.

Overall, if you use common sense and keep the above points in mind, transitioning your domestic defender to a dependable running partner can be painless and rewarding for both man (or woman) and animal. Run, Fido, ruuuuun!

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