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Many of you know that I run with my dog George as much as I can. Not only does it make him happy and a better behaved dog, but he’s a great running partner and really knows how to push my pace. We do have 2 dogs, but Sophie doesn’t enjoy running like George does, she’s more into walking. Kurgo emailed me about talking to their vet and doing a short series on my blog for those who want to run with their dogs!
It’s a great way for your dog to release some energy and stay healthy. George is a rescue and many think he’s a mix of a whippet, boxer, pitbull and terrier. We really have no idea, but he’s a very fast runner, and as soon as the leash comes out he knows it’s time to go! George can run around 13 miles. If you’re planning on running with your dog, you want to make sure you’re increasing their mileage properly. I asked Kurgo’s veterinarian on staff, Dr. Susan O’Dell, a few common questions I get about running with George and how I got him to safely run consistently.
Dogs will have some of the same physiologic changes that are seen with human endurance athletes. The size of the heart increases in response to physical training. We also see a decreased heart rate when the dog is at rest. It’s also important to get the final ‘okay’ from a vet before training your dog to run with you, running consistently with puppies can hurt their growth and joints.
When you start distance training remember to start slowly. Begin each session with a warm up of 5 minutes. This can help prevent injuries and prime your dog’s muscles with increased blood flow and oxygen for the run. The main work out should be no more than 2-3 miles in length at first. Follow this up with a cool down to return blood pressure and flow back to normal gradually.
There is no specific protocol for increasing weekly mileage with your dog. Dr. O’Dell recommends listening to your dog and watching their signs. If you run the same distance repeatedly and your dog is finishing happily with energy to spare, you can increase your mileage the next week. Increase your mileage by 1 mile a week to see how they respond. Watch for these signs that you are pushing your too hard: running behind you, panting with tongue hanging far out of his mouth, sides of his mouth pulled far back, lying down if you stop. If you see these signs from your dog, it’s time to head back home!
Don’t forget to give your dog a recovery day. Just like a human, they need to rest. A good schedule might be running every other day, or two days of exercise followed by a day off.
2. If your dog has not ever ‘run’ next to you, what is the best way to introduce them to the leash and running in a straight line, instead of jumping/weaving?
Personally, for George it took well over a month to learn how to run out in front of me. He does still pull A LOT and he pulls from side to side at bikes, skateboards and other animals, so I’m always extra aware of my surroundings and I never run with music when I’m running with him.
Dr. O’Dell had some tips to help reach the final goal of a refined running dog. You must begin with a well-behaved walker. (This is probably where I’ve failed with George…) Traditionally, dogs are taught to heel on the left. You can choose which side you would like him to stay on, just be consistent! Start training with a short 4-6 foot leash or a hands free leash. Bring treats for a reward. Have him sit next to you and give several treats to get his focus. Start walking briskly and allow him to walk along. If he walks next to you, offer him treats as a reward.
If his paws pass in front of your feet, immediately stop walking and hold the leash with elbows at your sides. He may attempt to keep walking and pull on the leash, but hold steady. After he gives up, call him to come and sit in front of you. Again, give several treats in succession until you have his focus, then begin a brisk walk again. Repeat until your walk/training session is over. This may take some time for him to master, be patient!
If you have a relentless puller, you can try using a harness and attaching the leash to the front D-Ring (on all Kurgo Harnesses) which will prevent him from pulling. This is what I have started using on George and it helps a lot. Once they are a a reliable walker, it’s time to start trying to run! Start by adding short periods of running to your walks (about a block at a time). Find a short route to practice your walks and walk/jogs. Use the same familiar route each time so they can concentrate on training with you, instead of stopping for smelling. Continue using the same techniques as you did on the walks. If he can stay at your side during your short jogs, he can graduate to running with you.
3. What breeds are known for endurance running?
Some great breeds for endurance include the Herding Breeds like the Border Collie and German Shepherd. Mushers like the Husky and Alaskan Malamute were also bred to run long distances. Weimeraners and German Shorthair Pointers are also excellent choices for running.
Remember, you can find ALL BREEDS AND ALL AGES of dogs at local animal shelters and rescue groups. Please save a life and adopt a pet instead of buying from a breeder. Both our dogs were homeless and we couldn’t have asked for better additions to our family!
I’ve personally been running with the Kurgo Quantum Leash since I got it and I LOVE IT! It makes running with George so much easier and my arms are much less sore. He does pull a lot so it allows my arms to do a normal running motion, which I like. If he does pull in either direction, I can easily just grab the leash and straighten him right out. I also really appreciate the padded part of the leash, so it doesn’t dig into my back at all, and it has a weight resistance of 550 pounds. It’s made running with him so much easier and I’m so thankful I finally tried it out. I never thought I would be running with him as much as I am lately because my arms used to hurt so much and I would almost trip over the old leash we used to run with.
Dr. Susan O’Dell, DVM, grew up in Michigan, where she received her Bachelors Degree in biology at the University of Michigan and her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine at the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Since her graduation, she has been practicing at animal hospitals across New England with a particular focus on educating small animal clients.