Dr. Justine Lee is a board-certified emergency critical care veterinary specialist, and is the CEO of VetGirl. For more from Dr. Lee, find her on Facebook!
As an avid sports fan, I love to attend sporting events. A few years ago, I attended my first marathon up in Duluth, MN (Grandma’s marathon). At that marathon, I learned two important lessons. One, I never want to run a marathon - try watching people cross the finish line crying, hobbling, carrying or supporting each other, limping, hobbling, and sobbing. Just wasn’t a good motivator, although I did cheer them on mightily for finishing! Second, I learned that all kinds of people can finish marathons. I assumed I would see all skinny, thin-legged, boney marathon runners, but was pleasantly surprised to see all heights, weights, and body types crossing the line.
Unfortunately, dogs are not the same way. Next week, I’ll talk about pet dangers of running with your four-legged friend. In the meantime, find out if your breed of dog is even meant to run!
I’m always happy to see all different types of dogs running along the Mississippi, but it’s true that some dogs were just not bred to run. These breeds include Boston Terriers, Pekingese dogs, Pugs, French Bulldogs, and English Bulldogs. Likewise, if you have a really lazy dog and can’t lift a 100 lb. dog into your car, it’s probably best not to go more than a mile; this is especially true if you have a big dog such as a Doggie de Bordeaux, Mastiff, or Newfoundland.
Next, look at the muscling of the dog. If your dog is excessively muscled, he probably prefers to sprint. These types of dogs (like Greyhounds, Pit bulls, and Boxers) have such dense muscle mass that they can overheat easily. In general, if your dog’s legs are shorter than his body height, he’s probably not a great runner. Finally, if your dog has a smooshed face, small nostrils, pants a lot even at rest, or snores louder than your husband, he’s also probably not a natural born runner – he’d be okay to run or jog short distances only. Otherwise, check with your vet, or take it very, very slow when acclimating your dog to your torturous hobbies.
My pit bull likes to run for the first 2 miles. He can stay with me for 6 miles, but then he starts lagging behind about 20 feet. While I’m running with him, I can only imagine people walking or driving by thinking, “Geez, that’s animal cruelty. That poor dog looks exhausted!” The truth is my dog could probably run miles without any problem, but it doesn’t mean he’d enjoy it. Use your discretion when running with a dog – I can’t go more than 3 miles with my dog without feeling like I’m torturing him. Some hyper Labradors will run 10 miles longer than they should, and risk orthopedic injury, soreness, or heat stroke in the process. In the same way, when your dog is 10, think about whether or not you would make your 70-year old grandfather run 10 miles with you.
Look for a dog that is excitable, likes to run and play, and is in good condition. Classically, Labrador Retrievers love to run and play, and they make good running partners, as do Golden Retrievers, German Shorthaired Pointers, Border collies, mutts, Schnauzers, to little Shih Tzus. Slowly acclimate your dog to running – don’t just expect him to cover 5 miles on day one and 12 miles by day 2. If your dog is panting excessively, dragging behind, or looking tired (even on a cool day), take it easy. It’s not worth hurting your pooch just to train for your marathon!
Material from It’s a Dog’s Life… but It’s Your Carpet. More information available at www.drjustinelee.com.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
Why Running is Good for Aussies
Australian Shepherds need plenty of physical activity and exercise. As herding dogs, Aussies have a ton of energy that needs to be expended on a daily basis. In addition to running, it’s why we recommend letting your Australian Shepherd swim.
Australian Shepherd Exercise Requirements
So how much exercise does an Australian Shepherd really need? The answer depends on the type of exercise. Being highly active dogs, Australian Shepherds need 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day.
With 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity, they’ll need high-energy activities such as running, frisbee or swimming. These intense activities require more energy, which makes sense why less time is needed for these energetic dogs.
But with less intense activities, such as walks or a stroll through the neighborhood, Australian Shepherds will need nearly two hours of activity. It’ll vary depending on your dog. Some Aussies are inherently more energetic than others.
Avoiding Destructive Behavior
Australian Shepherds are energetic dogs, but can also become destructive when their energy isn’t dealt with. They have been known to exhibit destructive behavior. Everything from excessive chewing to barking for long periods and lacking obedience can happen.
Exercise, such as running, doesn’t just keep them physically healthy but also mentally healthy. Providing an outlet like daily runs can help them develop a better relationship with the owner and stimulate both mind and body.
There’s a misconception that all Australian Shepherds need an open field (or backyard) to get some run in. While this helps, it is not necessary. Australian Shepherds can be great apartment dogs if you provide daily running exercises for them.
10 Tips for Running with Your Dog
As a runner it's nice to have a partner to run with, regardless if that partner runs on two legs or four legs. A dog can make a great running partner, not only can they help keep us motivated to run, but they can also provide us with a sense of security and companionship especially for those of us who must run in remote areas.
But before you get too eager to put a leash on your four-legged friend, there are a few tips to consider prior to taking your first step out the door with your running buddy.
1. Get medical clearance from your dog's vet
Just like we need to get medical clearance for exercise, same is true for our pets. This is especially necessary if your pet has led a fairly sedentary lifestyle. While your dog may spend hours running around the backyard, it is not quite the same as running five, three or even one mile.
2. Know which breeds are best for running
Knowing which breeds are best suited for running can help determine if Fido is going to make a great running partner or best left hanging out in the backyard. There are certain breeds where running may actually be detrimental to your dog's well-being. Some breeds, such as the Border Collie are more prone to hip dysplasia issues which can be aggravated from running while other breeds, such as the Pug and Bulldog are more prone to respiratory and overheating issues. Runner's World has compiled a list of dog breeds and the distance each breed can safely run. But remember your dog's vet is the best source of advice as to whether your best friend can run or not.
3. Consider the age of your dog
Having a puppy full of energy may seem like the ideal time to train her to run with you, but remember your puppy is still growing. Her bones are still developing. This does not mean she can't ever run with you, but please check with your vet as to the distance and intensity of runs that would be most suitable for your growing puppy.
Older dogs can run, depending on the breed and disposition of your dog, just make sure that you have discussed your concerns with your vet before taking Fluffy out for her first run.
4. Make sure your dog is on a leash
In my six years as a runner one of the most intimidating experiences is to come across a dog that is not leashed. While you as his owner may be quite comfortable with voice command in controlling your dog, I, as a runner, have no clue how well controlled your dog is. A few years ago I had a Jack Russell Terrier come running at me nipping at my lower leg, thankfully the dog's owner could grab him before any damage was done. My most recent scare came just a few days ago when a German Shepherd who was trained to attack came barreling at me (the owner's description, not mine)--to hear the fear in the owner's voice literally had me stop dead in my tracks until the owner gained control over his dog.
5. Consider the running surface
We are fortunate to be able to put on a pair of running shoes and head out the door. We don't have to worry too much about the road temperature or debris, but for your dog this is a big factor. Concrete and debris on the road are big hazards for your dog, especially in the heat of summer when the running surface is very hot.
If your dog starts to limp, you will want to stop immediately to check his paws for any foreign body that may have embedded in your dog's paw. Also, if you are running in winter where snow and ice are commonplace, after your run be sure to wash your pet's paws as salt and other chemicals used on the roads can be very toxic to dogs, especially if they are prone to licking.
6. Be aware of the signs and symptoms of overheating
Dogs do not sweat like we do. They dissipate the heat via panting and through their paws so make sure you bring plenty of water for him or at least have access to water. My local running trail actually offers pet water stations which allows owner and pet to rehydrate at the same time. Also you may want to change your running surface from a hot road to a cooler trail when temps heat up.
If you find you dog is excessively panting, slowing down and not acting like he normally does, you need to cool him off as soon as possible. Just like heat stroke can be fatal to humans, hyperthermia can be fatal to your beloved pet. Many dog experts state that if the ambient air temperature is 80 degrees or warmer, or if there is excessive humidity, it is best to leave your dog at home. The risk at this point for heat stroke far exceeds the benefit for exercise.
Here is a link to helping keep your pet cool during the hot summer months.
7. Ease your dog into running
Just like many of us did not go from the couch to running 3 miles straight, same is true for your trusty companion. Running is very taxing on the human body and same is true for your dog. While it may seem natural for your dog to want to run with you, after all they love to please us, you must be aware that it takes time to build up the stamina to run the distances you are accustomed to running. So you may want to start with some walks to allow time for your dog to adapt to the routine of going out with you.
8. Know your dog's temperament
If your dog has been exposed to other people and other dogs, most dogs will do fine in a running environment. However if your dog has not been socialized, you may want to rethink where and when you will run with him. Remember not everyone is eager to come across a dog even on a leash especially if the breed has a history of being intimidating. While you may know that your German Shepherd or Pit Bull is a sweetheart, I as a runner have no clue.
Having a dog who is quite territorial with his environment and even you as an owner, may be more frustrating to you as a runner as you may find yourself keeping your dog in line versus running.
If your dog has never been socialized, you may want to consider taking her to obedient classes which many local pet stores and shelters offer for a nominal fee. If you are unable to locate a class, check with your vet, he/she may be able to help you locate a class.
9. Make sure your pet is up-to-date on his vaccination
A few weeks ago a friend of mine was running when a stray dog came out of nowhere and bit her on the leg. While this dog was not running with his owner, because the dog was not wearing a collar nor were his vaccinations current, she had to endure a long 10 day wait to see if the dog showed signs of rabies. Should you be running with your dog and he finds himself in an altercation with another dog or another runner, having verification of his vaccinations can bring peace of mind to all parties involved.
10. Be courteous and clean up after your pet
Having participated in races where dogs were permitted, nothing is more aggravating to me as a runner than to be running along and stepping in a mess that I have to clean off my running shoes before getting into my car to go home. While it may seem like an inconvenience to carry a bag or two with you to pick up your pet's mess, it really is the courteous thing to do. Also know that many municipalities are now fining dog owners for not picking up after their pet. Taking a few seconds to keep our environment clean makes running enjoyable for everyone.
These are just a few tips that may help determine if your pet is ready to hit the running trail with you. However, I want to stress that you need to get clearance from your dog's vet to see if he/she is healthy enough to run. Studies are showing that pet obesity is on the rise, so just like we need time to ease into exercise, we do not want to rush the process in taking Buddy from the couch to running without the proper guidance and time frame to do so.
Do you run/walk with your dog? What are some measures you take to keep him/her safe?
Jogging With Your Dog Improves Overall Fitness and Health
A perfect way to improve the fitness and health of you and your dog.
There are several words that will instantly rouse our three Rhodesian Ridgebacks from even the deepest of sleeps. “Breakfast,” “cookie,” “dinner,” and “out” all result in Aero, Opus, and Amber running enthusiastically toward the kitchen for food or toward the door to be let out in the yard.
But there is one magic word that far exceeds the impact of all others: RUN. Saying the “r” word in the Sarubin household results in sheer pandemonium with three big brown dogs frantically campaigning themselves to be “the chosen one” that day. Forget actually saying a word about going running! These dogs know the difference between running shorts and regular shorts, running tights and pantyhose, or running shoes and hiking boots. Simply putting on a headband sends them into a frenzy.
My running partners for 14 of my 18 years of running have been dogs. In my experience, dogs are, by far, the best running partners. They will run any distance, anywhere at any time, and are always happy about running. They never complain about the weather, let me choose the route, allow me to set the pace and distance, and motivate me to run on an almost-daily basis – more than any human running partner ever could.
If you own an athletic dog and are a runner already, or are considering beginning a running program, you have the best of all running partners already living with you.
Why run with your dog?
Dogs love to run. They were born to run. Running will help maintain your dog’s weight, improve muscle tone, maintain a strong cardiovascular system, and build endurance. Running uphill develops rear drive. If you compete in any sort of showing or sport with your dog, he will undoubtedly be better conditioned from running than his “weekend warrior” competitors.
Running is also beneficial to your dog’s mental health. Running makes dogs happy. It allows them to explore the world through sights, sounds, and smells. They get to spend more time with you doing something fun. It allows them to release energy, making it less likely that they will vent their energy in destructive ways. This will make you happy.
Before you get started
Our dogs usually visit the vet far more often than we visit our doctor. Your dog should be examined by your veterinarian and cleared to start a running program before you subject him to many miles. If you are just beginning running yourself, it is advisable to also have a physical examination by your doctor.
How old should your dog be before it is physically safe to begin running together? One rule of thumb is that the dog’s bone growth plates should be closed before the dog takes part in any sort of rigorous activity. Some breeds and types mature more slowly than others. Owners of large dogs such as Great Danes and Scottish Deerhounds, for example, may be well advised to wait until their dogs reach the age of 1 ½ to 2 years. Lighter-boned dogs such as Miniature Pinschers and Whippets may be ready at 8 months to a year. Most dogs should be in the 1- to 1½-year range check with your veterinarian for information on when your dog’s bone growth plates should be expected to close.
For puppies younger than these recommended ages, free play with other dogs or people is the safest form of exercise. Puppy bones and muscles need sufficient time to develop fully and may be injured by beginning a structured running program too early.
Before you begin running with your dog, it is necessary he understands and responds to basic training cues. Your dog should already be trained to walk on-leash without forging ahead and pulling you off balance, and should sit by your side when you stop at busy intersections. Teaching simple behaviors such as “slow” or “back” when your dog pulls, or “no” when he spots a squirrel or rabbit, are imperative for your safety when running. Remember, unlike walking, only one of your feet is in contact with the ground when you are running, making your dog’s sudden pulls especially dangerous.
While you will need to invest in some properly fitting, quality running shoes, and perhaps some specific running attire for yourself, running gear for your dog is simple and inexpensive. All you need is a four-foot to six-foot leather or cotton web lead and a snugly fitting flat collar to keep your dog safely by your side. A flat collar, martingale collar, or head halter are all choices to consider. A harness is also an option, but may cause chafing on longer runs. Retractable leads are not recommended.
Ready, set, go!
Many of the same principles that apply to beginning a running program for humans apply to our dogs as well. Owners and dogs should ease gradually into a running program, beginning with alternating walking and running for brief periods (no more than 20 minutes), three times a week, gradually increasing the running. Humans and dogs new to running might begin with two minutes of running at a comfortable pace followed by two minutes of walking, for a week or two. Progress to four minutes of running, two minutes walking, then to six minutes running, two walking, until you and your dog are able to run continuously for 20 minutes comfortably, three times a week.
Begin all workouts with a warm-up period of brisk walking or easy jogging before running as well as a similar cool-down after your workout.
Rest and recovery are essential to improve the fitness of both you and your dog. When just starting out, run with your dog every other day, rather than on successive days, allowing time for muscle recovery and to avoid injury while building endurance.
After four to six weeks of training three times a week for 20 minutes, both you and your dog will have built up your strength and endurance to begin to increase your mileage. The generally accepted guideline on increasing running mileage is not to exceed a 10 percent increase (in either time or mileage) a week. As you increase your mileage, your dog’s pads will gradually toughen to handle the longer distances.
How far, long, and often?
As your dog’s strength and stamina increase, he will undoubtedly delight in accompanying you on longer training runs. The number of miles, minutes, or hours you eventually run with him is largely determined by the dog. Many breeds are capable of running 25 to 35 miles a week, but perhaps individual dogs within the breed are not. It is important for you to determine your dog’s limits when running. The dog’s age, size, body density, coat thickness, and temperament may affect how far your dog can safely run. Dogs, like humans, have physical and mental differences that influence performance. By observing your dog’s behavior it is simple to figure out your dog’s comfortable running distance.
Most dogs are eager and excited at the beginning of a run with their owner, bouncing and running slightly ahead. A mile or two into the run, the dog settles into a pace with his human partner, running easily and comfortably by her side. A couple of more miles and the dog may begin to run a few paces behind the owner, and lacks his initial enthusiasm. Certainly if the dog is panting excessively, breathing fast and hard, lagging behind the length of the lead, or showing signs of lameness, it is time to abandon your training run. The signs that your dog is tiring are often subtle, and his devotion to you may cause him to run longer or farther than he would on his own. It is up to you to recognize these subtle signs and to stop your run as soon as you become aware of them.
Be particularly aware of the behavior of the older dog when running. These veterans have not lost their enthusiasm, but just as older human athletes, they need to slow down a bit and need more time for rest and recovery.
You also may look to your dog for clues to how often to schedule your training runs. Once you and your dog have been training together three times a week for several months, you may want to add another day or two (or three) to your schedule.
Running on consecutive days is not a problem for younger, healthy, athletic dogs, as long as the workouts are not successively intense. If you run a hard, fast, five-mile run on Tuesday, an easy four-mile recovery run would be perfect on Wednesday. A longer run, say 10+ miles, on Saturday, should be followed by a slow, comfortable three-mile run on Sunday. If your dog shows any signs of muscle soreness after longer or faster training runs, or lacks his usual enthusiasm for going out running, it is time to take a day off or to go for an easy walk.
What if you have a well-conditioned coursing hound, who competes on the coursing field every weekend? The goal here is to maintain his fitness, without working him to the point of injury or fatigue. Consider the following schedule: Monday: 3 mile recovery run (easy pace) Tuesday: off (or walk) Wednesday: 5 to 10 mile tempo run (a bit faster) Thursday: off (or walk) Friday: 3 to 5 mile easy run. If you like to run more than three days a week, you may just want to leave that canine athlete at home. Although he will undoubtedly be distraught when you lace up your running shoes and head out the door without him, rest and recovery are as important in a conditioning program as is the activity itself.
“Real” runners are not deterred by a little heat and humidity, blistering sun, cold, rain, sleet, or snow. But even if you can physically tolerate any of these conditions, your dog may not fare as well.
Heat and humidity: Some breeds tolerate high temperatures better than others, but caution should be taken with all breeds when the mercury rises. Dogs do not tolerate heat and humidity as well as humans and can easily suffer from heatstroke when running during the summer months.
Schedule your runs early in the morning or later in the evening, avoiding the highest temperature and strongest sun of the day. Choose shaded routes on warm days, avoiding direct sunlight and hot pavement that can burn your dog’s pads. Both you and your dog need to stay hydrated on your runs, especially in warmer, more humid conditions carry a water bottle (thirsty dogs are easily trained to drink from bottles), or plan a route that includes several water stops.
Most importantly, be aware of the signs that your dog may be overheating to avoid heatstroke. Some days are simply too hot and humid for your dog to run taking a few days off during a heat wave will not result in a loss of conditioning, and may very well save your dog’s life.
Cold and wintry precipitation: Longer coats offer some protection against the cold, but short-coated breeds need some added protection when running in colder temperatures, especially when the wind-chill temperature is low. A fleece-lined coat with a waterproof outer layer will shield your dog from the cold and wind, as well as freezing rain, sleet, and snow.
Prolonged exposure to frigid temperatures may lead to frostbite of unprotected areas (ears, paws, scrotum, and tail are particularly vulnerable), so make your runs short during the extreme cold. Be careful of ice on the road “black ice,” an invisible thin layer of ice on pavement, is especially dangerous. Ice balls may form between your dog’s toes in icy, slushy areas, so check his paws often. And the chemicals, salt, and sand used to melt snow and ice on streets and sidewalks may irritate your dog’s feet. Always inspect your dog’s paws at the end of a run and wash off his feet, legs, and underside to remove any chemicals or salt that could be harmful to your dog if swallowed.
Running surfaces may vary depending on where you run. Running in the city guarantees lots of miles on paved roads that will toughen your dog’s pads. Living in the country, you may have access to dirt roads that are kinder on the feet and joints of both you and your dog. State forests (ones that allow dogs), parks, and watershed properties around reservoirs often have more rugged hiking or mountain biking trails that offer more of a physical challenge. “Rails to Trails” linear parks may offer paved, hard-packed, or wood chip trails.
Try to vary the surfaces you run on. Even if you live in an urban or suburban area, you can get your dog off the asphalt for portions of every run. Empty school, office building, or shopping mall parking lots usually have grass around the perimeters run around the edge of the lot as your dog runs on the grass. Incorporate city parks and cemeteries (if they don’t prohibit dogs) into your running route, so your dog can run on grass while you’re on the road. Teach your dog to hop up on the curb and run along the grass that borders some streets. Or run on the sidewalk while your dog runs along the bordering yards. Be careful, however, not to do too much running on concrete sidewalks it is an even harder surface to run on than asphalt and will take its toll on your legs.
Considering running with your dog off-lead? Don’t, with perhaps one exception. Running a dog off-lead in anywhere but the most remote locations, far from any motor vehicles, is an invitation to disaster. No matter how well-trained your dog is, or how reliable you believe his recall to be, it only takes one squirrel, rabbit, or deer, and one car, on even the remotest of country roads, to tragically prove to you that your dog will sometimes behave on instinct. If you have access to trails in wooded areas that allow unleashed dogs, far from any roads, running with your dog off-lead is a fun and liberating experience for you both. It is not without risks, however. A dog who does not remain in eyesight of his human runner or cannot be called off prey is not a good candidate for even a remote off-lead run.
Warning: It’s fun
Running with a dog may be highly addictive. Most dogs love to run with their humans, and their joy of running is often infectious. Even when you may not feel motivated to exercise, the guilt of depriving your dog of a favorite activity is usually enough to spur you on.
All three of my Ridgebacks adore running, but they show it in different running styles. Opus, nearly 12 years of age, has slowed down considerably in recent years, but still loves a short run. He’s the hunter, always alert, looking for the slightest movement in his surroundings. Amber, 4, has days when she is the perfect pacing partner, completely focused in training, and others when she simply refuses to run at all!
But it is Aero, 9, who overtly displays his happiness on every run. While running with a joyous bounce, he occasionally looks up at me with a smile and jumps up on my side as if to say, “This is so much fun! I love running with you, Mom!” I love running with you, too, Aero.
Running with your pitbull
I am a runner and would like to train my 4 year old pitbull to run with me. She is healthy and needs a high energy activity since she is in a kennel during the day.
What is the best way to train her to run with me? What are things I need to know about running with a pitbull? How many miles can they run?
Let's just put it this way, if she's in shape, you'll get tired first. :) It's a great activity. I'm lazy and have to find other ways to get our dog excersize. As far as training goes, I find it easier to train a dog to run than to walk. If they're running then they aren't as focused on their surroundings. However, it's best to start slow. If you have a naughty walker, then start training there and gradually move up to running. If your girl is a pretty easy walker, then just give it a shot and see how she does. Go from there with training. The one thing I will caution on, DO NOT LET HER PLAY TUG-O-WAR WITH THE LEASH. It's a favorite pit game and, once they get a hold of that leash, they can make you look very foolish while trying to get them to let go. The things you need to watch out for are pretty much just normal dog things, rather than pit-specific things. However, I always try and be mindful of the fact that other people may not be very comfortable with my dog. While I trust him, I understand that many people don't. It would be unfair of me to ignore the fear that they have. I am always careful to keep Kaos close by me when we're passing other people unless they express an interest. That's just common courtesy though.
Harnesses are the best things to use, my pits love it, it doesnt choke them like a collar and they help u control the dog way better, i take my 7yr for a 45min walk and either to an open area where they can run, my 9month old pit loves to pull not pull me down but i lean back and let him pull my body weight, pits love this and def love to run bring water, swimming is also great for them
Yes, harnesses do work pretty well, although we had a no pull harness for our dog and he would try to pull anyway and it ended up digging into his armpits (or whatever they're called on a dog) and making him bleed, so we had to quit using it.
I guess it depends on your dog, what works for some may not work for others, you'd be best off just trying what you feel best about using and going from there. I have been told by the shelter where we got our dog not to use head halti's on pit bulls though, they can slip out of them easily due to their large head and thick neck.