You’ve probably seen people out for a morning jog with their trusted four-legged friend running alongside. While it seems like a great way to keep both you and your dog in shape, is running really safe for dogs? Are they meant to run longer distances or are they built for sprinting? Certainly not all dogs are built for running, but most dogs enjoy it, even if it’s just a couple of miles. But before you take your dog out for a run, consider the following factors to keep your pet healthy an injury free.
Begin with a visit to your Vet
According certified dog/cat behaviorist, trainer and CEO (Canine Executive Officer) of Fun Paw Care in Los Angeles, Russell Hartstein, while all dogs need exercise, running long distances is not ideal for every dog. The fact is that some dogs are simply not built for running. Running is a high-impact, cardio-intensive exercise. If your dog is not built for this activity or has not been cleared by your vet for long periods of running, he could be at risk for injury, even life-threatening injury.
Good cardiovascular health is absolutely necessary for running or even jogging longer distances. Think about it, your dog can probably sprint faster than you, but when it comes to longer distances, you probably have the advantage over your dog as your legs are longer and built for longer strides than that of your dogs. Longer distance running can lead to issues such as hip dysplasia, arthritis and luxating patella, a condition in which the patella, or kneecap, dislocates or moves out of its normal position. While these issues may already be present in your dog, running can exacerbate them.
It’s also important to consider your dogs age, clearly older dogs will not be able to keep pace like a younger dog. But that doesn’t mean if you have a younger dog, you automatically have a green light to take him running. The growth plates in younger dogs are typically not fully closed until he is between a year and a half to two years old. Both the condition of the trail, be it hard pavement or even hard ground and the distance, can be hard on their growing joints and muscles. Taking him on a high intensity activity such as running while his body is still developing can lead to injury and pain.
Some breeds are just not built for running
Dogs with pushed in noses, a term called brachycephalic, such as bulldogs or pugs have difficulty getting enough oxygen particularly in heat, making running extremely dangerous for them. There are plenty of other breeds that do make good running companions. Consider first though, the type of terrain you run, the temperatures, and the distance. A few ideal running companions are, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Australian Shepherds, German Shepherds, Huskies and Vizslas. There are other breeds as well, nut again, it’s best to check with your veterinarian prior to heading out for a run.
Finally ease into it
Once you have the go-ahead from your vet, slowly ease your dog into your running program. Just like any exercise routine, you have to work your way up. Begin with a shorter distances, adding a bit more each week until you reach your ideal distance. Doing so allows your dog to gradually grow into the routine, preventing injuries and making it enjoyable for both you and your dog.