In a welcome break from ice bucket videos, yesterday was deemed National Dog Day on social media. Pictures of dogs are infinitely more interesting than videos of people creating their own wet t-shirt challenge, so I’m not complaining, but it did make me miss my own dogs back home in Kentucky (a LOT, like to the point where I cut myself off from Instagram because I was getting too depressed).
But that’s another story. My point is, I’m completely jealous of those of you with dogs in Chicago, because while I know I definitely cannot support a pup at this point in my life, I can’t wait until the day where I take little Goldie or Davis out for a quick jog along the lakefront trail (yes, I already have dog names picked out – but not future kids’ names. Priorities). It’s a win-win- you get exercise, your dog gets exercise, and it’s one less chore of walking the dog that you have to do.
While the idea of taking your canine best friend out for a run is awesome, there are a few safety tips you need to know so that Spot isn’t pooped out, or worse, injured or sick. Here’s what you need to know so that you and your pup can have a great run together:
Talk to Your Vet First
Your vet will have all the necessary information about how much exercise your dog’s specific breed can handle, as well as what medical information you need to know to keep your dog safe. Some breeds are better built for certain types of running based on both personality and physical traits (check out this handy chart for an overview). You should also make sure your dog is old enough to start running; dogs need to reach skeletal maturity before they can start running with humans, or else you might inadvertently cause bone damage.
Even if your dog seems to have boundless energy, it’s best to start them off running for only short distances. Runner’s World suggests starting with 15-20 minutes, up to three times a week- much like a human runner would start a new exercise program. From there, if your dog seems to be okay with that, add five or so minutes per week. Also, make sure to warm up and cool down.
Know Your Pup
Be able to recognize your dog’s signs of fatigue, and pull back accordingly. Your dog can’t verbally tell you that he’s tired, so you need to watch for excessive panting, foaming at the mouth, glazed eyes, a tail droop, or tugging on the leash.
Be Smart with Your Leash
Ideally, your dog should be leash trained so that he’s not pulling and tugging every five minutes. Keep your dog on one side of you for the entire run, and use a normal leash instead of a retractable leash, which could cause injury if Fido suddenly makes a dash for it. For this same reason, don’t tie the leash to your wrist. If you need your hands available for carrying treats, poop bags (yes, you need them, be polite), look for a hands-free leash at your local pet store.
That stands for Bring Your Own Water. Especially in summer, your dog is going to need to stay hydrated, and (one second, let me mount my soapbox) it’s not cool to lift your dog to a water fountain on the lakefront trail that humans use as well- I’ve seen that way too often for my liking. I love your dog, but I wouldn’t drink from its water bowl- so please don’t let it drink from mine. Instead, bring a collapsible water bowl or a water bottle that you can use to give your dog a drink. Soapbox rant over.
Be Cautious with Weather
You might like running in the rain, but your dog might be more likely to slip. In summer, keep your workouts to early morning or late evening so your dog doesn’t overheat. And in winter, avoid especially icy mornings or sleet.
Keep His Paws Safe
Much like a runner may get plantar fasciiitis or a stress fracture from running great distances, your dog’s paws may also suffer from running too often. After each run, check your pup’s pads for cuts, scrapes, or signs of wear and tear. When choosing a running path, choose familiar terrain and avoid hot blacktop, ice, and places where there may be roadside debris, like broken glass. If your dog stops during the workout to lick his paws or starts to limp, stop the workout immediately.
Recovery is Still Important
Just like us, your dog needs time to recover from exercise, so allow a day or two between runs, along with plenty of water.
I envision a future where I participate in a weekly dog-owner running club, and afterwards we go to a dog-friendly pool called “The Lappy Pool,” maybe with a boy I met on the app Puppy Love (my million-dollar idea that matches dog owners based on their dogs’ compatibility) and a dog I found on Bark Buddy (a real-life Tinder for dogs). Until then, enjoy these tips for running with your dog, and know that I am so, so jealous of you.