Training for the Marathon- One Paw at a Time: Running with your Dog!

Running with your dog is a great way for you to spend time together, burn off excess energy, and stay in shapTeam Pawse.  However, there are some important health and safety considerations to keep in mind before you embark on a new exercise plan that will ensure running is safe and fun for your four-legged buddy.

Before You Start

Certain breeds are better suited to take on this type of moderate to high impact exercise.  Short-coated, medium to large-breed dogs with long snouts and legs generally make the best running partners   Retrievers, larger terriers, and hunting dogs are good picks.  Run cautiously with brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds like pugs and bulldogs, and keep your trips very short and slow.  Extra care must be taken with dogs having thick, long coats to avoid overheating. Your dog’s age can also be an area of concern.  Running with puppies can cause damage to their developing joints, so it is recommended to wait until dogs have reached skeletal maturity before taking on a running program.  In large breed dogs, this may be as late as 2 years old.  Other factors like weight, arthritis, and heart conditions affect your dog’s running ability, so make sure you talk to your Blum veterinarian for more specific recommendations.

Keep it Safe

Just like we must first walk before we can run, your dog should have excellent leash manners at a walk before you try running.   A poorly controlled dog is a danger to himself and those around him.  A short (2 to 3 foot) non-retractable leash and a head halter or front-attaching harness helps build a foundation of success.

You may be a seasoned runner, but if your dog is going from couch potato to athlete, you need to gradually increase the length and intensity of your runs to reduce the risk of injury.  Run in the cooler times of day, bring ample water for your dog to drink, and watch closely for signs of exhaustion or overheating (excessive panting,disorientation or vomiting).   You can protect his paws by applying Musher’s Secret 2 to 3 times a week.

If your dog seems stiff after a run, let him rest until he’s back to normal for several days before starting up again.  If he is reluctant to bear weight on any leg, or does not improve in 24 hours, have him checked out by your Blum veterinarian.  Do not give any over-the-counter pain medications as many have serious side effects on dogs.

Where to Run

Now that you and your dog are ready to conquer your running goals, where should you head?  We are fortunate to have many great options here in Chicago.  The lakefront path and the North Branch Trail along the river both offer paved trails, trash receptacles for waste, and water fountains to refuel.  Be aware that they can get pretty crowded and are best for dogs that are very well behaved on the leash and are not easily distracted.  Smaller paths through neighborhood parks or dog-friendly areas like Wiggly Field are good places to get started.

Do you love the excitement and camaraderie of races and want your dog to take part, too?  Join Blum at PAWS Run for Their Lives on Saturday June 21 at Montrose Harbor for an 8K run (people only) and 4K pet-friendly walk/run.  It is Chicago’s biggest outdoor dog-friendly event and proceeds benefit PAWS.  They’re going for the world record for “The Most Dogs in Costumed Attire” so be sure your pup comes out in his or her stylish best!

Dogs make some of the best running partners.  They’re enthusiastic and can keep you motivated to stick to your exercise plan.  Follow these simple guidelines, lace (and leash!) up, and have fun!  And be sure to keep updated on our fundraising progress for Team PAWS throughout the summer!

Written by Dr. Kathryn Ardis for Blum Animal Hospital, Chicago, IL

Dr. Kathryn Ardis is training for her FIRST marathon with TEAM PAWS.  Not only is she going to run 26.2 miles but she’s also raising money to support PAWS Chicago, the biggest no-kill shelter in the city.  Please help Dr. Ardis in her fundraising efforts and donate to PAWS Chicago by clicking HERE!  Any amount, little or big, helps save lives!