You’ve decided it’s time to get your couch potato body back into shape. Jogging is an excellent way to lose weight and tone up. Instead of running alone, which can get boring, or putting up with a human running partner who complains consider making your dog your jogging companion! Your dog is eager to please and ready to go wherever you go. Jogging together can be an enjoyable way to enjoy your dog’s devoted companionship and get you both into shape.
Before beginning a fitness program it is important for both you and your dog to have medical evaluations that will rule out any health issues that might make jogging a risky endeavor.
Before jogging or running with your dog be aware of your dog’s athletic ability. Some breeds are not built for endurance. Greyhounds are sprinters, not long distance runners. Toy breeds won’t be able to keep the pace. Labs are one of the best breeds for physical endurance.
Start slowly and just walk the first few times out. Jog for short distances at first building up the distance covered gradually. Watch your dog for any signs that he is becoming tired or overheated. He may begin lagging behind. Instead of encouraging him to keep up with you slow down to a walk when necessary.
Dogs do not tolerate the heat as well as humans and are at higher risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke. They perspire by panting and through sweat glands on the bottom of their feet. Your dog won’t be able to cool down if the ground is hot. Take your dog jogging during the cool part of the day so he can cool down more efficiently. Always take plenty of drinking water for yourself and your dog.
Signs of overheating include heavy panting or difficulty breathing, excessive salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, bright red gums, an increased heart rate and weakness or unsteadiness. If your dog shows signs of overheating wet him down with cold water and put him in front of a fan in a shady spot. If he does not begin to recover in ten minutes take him to a vet immediately. Untreated heat stroke can result in coma, brain damage, or even death. You don’t want to lose a beloved pet.
Choose a soft, shady trail for jogging with your dog. Running on sand, dirt, or grass will be easier on your dog’s foot pads. Humans have the advantage of being able to buy comfortably cushioned running shoes, but imagine how you would feel running barefoot on hot pavement! That’s basically what your dog is experiencing. If you don’t have access to a trail help your dog build up endurance in his feet by walking at first. Sore foot pads are the most common injury for dogs who run with their owners. Watch for signs of soreness and if your dog has trouble getting to his feet consult a veterinarian.
Keep your dog on a leash for his own protection when walking or jogging. Even the most obedient dog may take off after a bunny or other creature he may encounter on a trail, and snakes and skunks are something he needs to avoid! A dog who is startled while jogging in the city may bolt into traffic. There are leashes designed for jogging or running with your dog that allow your hands to be free that consist of a waist belt the owner wears and an adjustable leash that clips onto the belt and the dog’s collar. Never jog with your dog while he is wearing a choke collar; alway use a regular collar that buckles or clips. Don’t put a muzzle on him that won’t allow him to pant. Your dog should be able to obey the basic “heel” command so that there is no question about who is determining the route you take.
Observing a few simple rules will allow you and your dog to have a safe and healthy run. Remember that if you are tired and overheated your dog is probably more so! Slow down and cool off as often as necessary.