Fancy training alongside your dog? Put your best paw forward with a four-legged canine running buddy
Running with a dog isn’t as straightforward as you might imagine, especially if you have a training goal and need to clock up a certain amount of miles or hit a certain pace.
Some dogs make great running buddies, but remember that others prefer a quick 30-minute sprint followed by a snooze in front of the telly.
Sarah Jane Ashdown, a personal trainer who also volunteers at Bath Cats & Dogs Home , is running with dogs as part of her training for the 2013 Bath Half Marathon on March 3, 2013.
She says, ’My sister has two cockapoos called Patsie and Eddie who run with me regularly - my four-legged training buddies.’
Here’s Sarah Jane's advice if you fancy running with your pet pal:
Visit the vet: Any increase in physical activity can create stress on canine bodies as well as our own, so before you start any training programme take your dog to the vet for a check-up too. Don’t try running with a puppy, and remember, not all dogs make suitable running buddies.
Know your dog: Dogs who are keen to please their owner, and those with high energy levels and a healthy attitude to exercise make the best running companions, but there is no hard and fast rule. Above all, dogs are sociable pack animals and on the whole love spending time with their owners, however this does not mean that they will automatically crave a 10-mile hike in the cold.
Obedience and control are probably the two most important personality traits in a dog. If your dog can't run to heel then it will make it quite tricky. Terrier breeds are often nose to the ground and off dashing into bushes after scents making running with them frustrating. Confident dogs, who are well socialised with other dogs and people, will make it easier to jog past other people and dogs without confrontation.
Best breeds for running with: Take your dog’s breed, age and size into account before you decide to make him your running partner.
Most dogs are great sprinters but aren't superstars when it comes to long distance running. Greyhounds, for example, will run flat out for half an hour then refuse to go any further.
Knowing the specifics of your dog's breed and recognizing his limitations will ensure a safer and more productive run for both of you.
Dog breeds such as the Siberian Husky or Alaskan Malamut make the best running companions, but your dog's ability and willingness to go out for a run really depends on its personality, stamina and health as well as the 'special relationship' it has with you.
Other good dog breeds include most of the 'working dogs' of medium size such as Collies, Labradors, Springer Spaniels etc.
Toy breeds are probably not ideal unless you run slowly and for short distances, although you could put them in a backpack if you want to combine some weight training with hill running.
Giant breeds are more prone to arthritic conditions and stomach bloat making them less favourable for running.
Some dogs may also lack the social skills and need a slow, planned introduction to the rules of the road plus a little tutoring in 'good neighbour practices' when dealing with strangers.
Essential equipment: It's tempting to let your dog run free when you think the risks are minimal, but situations can change in an instant. The presence of other animals, unexpected vehicles, or hazards like glass or metal shards in your path can create conditions that may lead to injury or worse. When its tethered, you have control of your animal and can guide and protect it. You'll also be protecting others.
Normal running leads/harnesses are not always suitable and can cause discomfort and chafing for your dog. Be aware of this and look into a professional running lead if you are serious about running with your pet.
There are various canicross belts, rope lines and leads available for serious dog runners – check the reviews before making your choice. Cani Fit, CaniX, KiSi and Trixie are among the most popular brands.
Always carry a supply of plastic bags to clear up and dispose of your dog’s mess.
Stay hydrated: Your dog needs water as much as you do, maybe more, so carry plenty and offer it to him in a collapsible dog bowl. Pay attention to the weather too: on hot days he'll need even more water. If you don’t carry water, ensure your route will take you past water - natural springs, streams, rivers or lakes.
Not all dogs are fit, so go at your dog’s pace rather than your own. Schedule in lots of breaks and gradually increase your distance and speed.
Because dogs don't have sweat glands in their skin, they have to pant, but they do have sweat glands on their pads to help regulate body heat. Talking of paws…
Think paws: Be mindful of hazards like hot asphalt, broken glass, pebbles and other dangerous objects in the road that could hurt your dog’s paws.
Dogs do not have the benefit of hi-tech trainers and could develop impact injuries if running on hard ground such as tarmac, which is very abrasive and could wear away your dog’s pads.
Grass and dirt trails are the best surfaces to run on, followed by sand, wood chip and crushed gravel.
Watch out for even a slight limp and if you detect one, slow down or quit for the day. Any suspect limping should be checked out by your vet immediately. Inspect or wash your dog’s paws after each run.
Create a Routine: Weekend marathons may work for your schedule, but they're not really the best approach for your dog. Shorter and more frequent runs might benefit your dog as well as your cardiovascular system. Just try to be consistent. Your dog can help here: when he's waiting by the door with his tail wagging, it will provide added motivation especially on those cold, wet, dark evenings.
Once you've both built up stamina by increasing the length of your runs, make them more varied. Visit http://www.walkjogrun.net for local running routes in your area.
Check out our pick of the best fitness apps
Run safely: As on any run, be prepared and play it safe – stick to familiar areas and carry a mobile phone. Wear high visibility reflective clothing and get high vis leads and lights for your pooch too.
Nutrition: Err on the side of caution and don’t feed your dog before a run, mainly to avoid the risk of gastric torsion.
Bath Cats & Dogs Home is Bath Half Marathon's local charity of the year, to raise funds for the city’s homeless and neglected rescue animals.
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