Dogs not only benefit from being fit, they also benefit from being the right weight too. Like humans, obesity can slowly creep up on them if you’re not careful with their diet. One way to keep you both healthy and fit and control excess weight is to start jogging together.
Here is some insight on how regular exercise helps keep your dog fit and happy, plus some safety tips.
Base the exercise on the breed of your dog, its life stage, fitness and health status. You must also take into consideration the weather.
If you have a small dog such as a Chihuahua, a mile on your legs is like a marathon for his! Don’t expect canines with short legs or stocky frames to keep up with your mileage. Do your little jogging companion a favour and consider your pace and the distance of the run. Breeds like pugs, boxers and bulldogs are also at a disadvantage due to their narrow nostrils and short muzzles that make it harder for them to breathe during heavy exercise.
On the other hand, lithe, long-legged dogs like Pointers, Labradors, Dalmatians and most retrievers will have the stamina and energy to keep up with you on any run. So set both of you a challenging enough distance on your quest to stay fit.
Start slowly and keep the distances short
Don’t rush into this as your dog may be puzzled by you running together at first, they need to get into it gradually. Start by walking briskly for a few weeks and after that break into an occasional gentle jog for short distances; reward and encourage your dog at the end by giving them a very small treat. Ten to fifteen minutes is an adequate time for the start of your dog’s training but if you feel that your dogs struggling to keep up reduce the time and/or your pace. Avoid jogging altogether if your dog has any pre-existing health problems, such as a heart murmur or arthritis. Also, some dogs can overdo it, particularly dogs that are keen to please their owners to the detriment of themselves, so take notice if your pet appears to be getting tired.
Choose a safe location
Your dog may zigzag in front of you as you jog or it may become over excited until it understands what is happening, so choose to start your training sessions in an area away from traffic, such as a park, woodland or countryside with wide open spaces. If you have to run on a road, keep your dog on the lead by your left side and choose quiet times, avoiding heavy traffic.
Be aware of the surface you are jogging on
In the summer, tarmac and concrete can become very hot, while grass and dirt stay relatively cool so be sure to keep your dog safe from the heat and keep to as many shaded areas as possible. Also, abrasive surfaces such as concrete can cause damage to the pads of a dog’s feet if you do a lot of heavy running, so grass is better for jogging. In addition, if you enjoy running in the snow and cold, consider that your dog’s pads are directly exposed to the frozen terrain so keep the sessions short, watching out for balls of ice forming on their hair between their pad or underside of their chest and tummy.
Choose sensible times to go out
During hot summer days, take water along, or jog by places where drinkable water is available. Go out early in the morning or late evening when it is cooler, rather than in the afternoon heat of the sun. Dogs are as good at keeping themselves cool in warm weather as humans are. Dogs can only eliminate heat through panting, and they sweat only through the pads of their feet, so they can get overheated very easily. Take safety precautions if you plan to jog at night and wear clothing that can be noticed in the dark, perhaps use an illuminated dog collar.
Bear these things in mind and your dog can become not just your best friend but your best running partner too!