It’s estimated that over 50% of dogs and cats are overweight in the U.S., according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. That’s a shocking statistic! Look at your own four-legged family—do any of your pets need to lose weight? If you’ve got a pup that needs to drop a few pounds, here’s a fun way to get him (and you!) moving: jogging. Most dogs love running, so they’ll be thrilled to exercise with you. Plus, you’ll get a running partner that doesn’t chat too much, is never late and is always excited and happy to run. Below are 13 dos and don’ts that can help you and your new workout buddy get a move on.
Do: Contact your vet before beginning. Your dog’s breed and age need to be considered, because some are not meant to be runners. Jogging with a dog that’s too young can damage his joints. Experts recommend that owners wait until their dog’s joints have reached skeletal maturity (anywhere from 12-18 months old). Older dogs and large breeds are prone to hip and joint problems, which may cause pain while running. Also, small breed dogs with short legs may not be able to keep up with the pace you want to maintain.
Don’t: Overlook obedience training. Work on enforcing basic training, with commands like sit, stay and leave it, before taking your dog for a run. Obedience will help keep your pup safe, especially if you will be jogging near roads.
Do: Bring water for both of you. Dogs have sweat glands on their feet and can pant to cool themselves down, but it’s important to remember if you’re hot, you dog probably is, too! Make sure to carry a portable water bowl for your dog, and to take water breaks while jogging.
Don’t: Forget flea and tick spray. You can easily cover your arms and legs with clothing, but your dog will need protection, too. Before running through trees or grass, spray your pooch a few times to prevent pests from jumping on to him.
Do: Carry poop bags, even if you don’t think you’ll need them. In many cities and communities, you’ll be fined if you’re caught leaving your dog’s droppings behind. Plan ahead and make sure there are spots along your route to dispose of any waste.
Hitting the Pavement
Don’t: Feed your dog for one to three hours before you run. And, wait an hour to feed them after running.
Do: Use a 4- to 6-foot leash. His nose should be even with your knee and your arm should be straight down while you’re running. Also, adding a reflector to the leash or collar will help your dog stand out.
Don’t: Run on asphalt. Running on dirt or grass will be easier on your pup’s joints and paws. Avoid paths that are rocky or gravelly. If it’s hot and you’re running on pavement, test the surface yourself. If you can stand on it barefoot, it’s okay for your dog.
Do: Warm up. Walking or lightly jogging for 5-15 minutes before the run can help prevent injury to both you and your pup. This might also be a good opportunity for your fur-baby to use the bathroom.
Don’t: Overwork him. And, do check for warning signs. If your dog is drooling excessively or if his tail and ears are down with his tongue out, panting heavily, it means he is starting to overheat. Your dog could suffer from heat stroke, so if he shows any signs, take him to shade and him let him rest. You can give him water, but don’t allow him to drink too much. You may want to pour water on his head or body.
Do: Check his paws afterwards. He may have developed cuts or abrasions. Some pups will run until their paw pads are raw to keep up with you. Pad wear is a common injury; apply a paw rub when necessary. If you’re running in the snow, use dog boots to protect their paws.
Don’t: Treat your dog immediately after a run with frozen treats or ice cubes. Let him settle down a bit to avoid upsetting his stomach. Allow your dog to have only small amounts of water immediately before and after jogging.