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Hanford, CA 93230

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Hanford Veterinary Hospital Blog

Safety and Fun on a Run: The Do’s and Don’ts of Running with Your Dog

Running with dogs is great pet exercise, but be smart about pet safety.If you lead an active lifestyle, you may be wondering what activities you can do with your dog. Running together might be an ideal activity, as dogs generally love to be outside, have excess energy to burn, and want to be with you. But running with your dog does come with some do’s and don’ts, especially in warm weather. It takes training, awareness, and some preparation.

Your team at Hanford Veterinary Hospital is happy to share our best tips about how to hit the pavement safely.

Get Going

Before you start your running program with your dog, a little preparation is in order.

Do: Consider your dog’s breed. Most dogs enjoy running, but a few breeds are probably better suited to a long walk. Brachycephalic breeds (those with flat faces) have a shortened airway that makes it difficult for them to breathe, even at rest, so running is probably not their cup of tea. Breeds that have extreme body proportions (such as a long body and short legs) may also not be cut out to be your running partner.

Don’t: Start them too young. Young dogs are still growing and may be at risk for injury if you start them running too young. Running on hard surfaces can damage a puppy’s joints and bones that haven’t fully formed yet. Large breed dogs develop more slowly than smaller breeds. If your puppy is still growing, ask us when it’s safe to start running with them.

Do: Cover the basics. Your dog needs some basic manners and obedience training, if you’re to run safely. they should know how to walk on a loose leash next to you without darting away or crossing in front of you. Commands, like “stop”, “leave it”, and “stay”, are important while running with your dog. If you’ll be running in a group, they should also be comfortable and polite with other dogs and people.

Don’t: Start out too fast. A sedentary person couldn’t jump up off the couch and run a 5K, and your dog shouldn’t be expected to, either. Start with interval training, such as walking, then jogging, then walking again, so that they can recover. Many veterinarians recommend increasing distance by no more than 5% per week. Starting slowly will ensure that your dog’s fitness grows while minimizing the risk of injury.

Running with Your Dog

Do: Check in with your vet. Just like any other activity, it’s important to make sure your dog is physically ready for a new exercise plan. Exercise is great for dogs! Studies show that 56% of dogs are either overweight or obese, and running can add years to their life, as well as improving quality. However, a preventive care exam beforehand can set your mind at ease that running with your dog is a “go”.

Don’t: Skip your warm up. Warming up is important to make sure muscles and joints are ready to work. It can protect you and your dog from injury. Spend a few minutes before each run walking. Bonus: This also lets your dog sniff around and “potty”, which means fewer stops once you get going.

Do: Head for the trails. Trail running has several added benefits for you and your dog. Running on dirt trails means a softer surface for your dog’s joints and paws. He’ll enjoy the natural sights and smells, too. Make sure the trail you choose is dog-friendly, and watch for uneven ground and obstacles in the trail. Tote plenty of fresh drinking water for you both, as drinking from wild sources can pose the risk of contracting internal parasites.

Don’t: Skip the flea and tick protection. Especially after trail running, check your dog for ticks and remove any that you see. Make sure their flea and tick prevention is on board to ensure you don’t bring parasites home.  

Do: Take water breaks. Your dog can’t tell you when they’re thirsty, so take plenty of breaks at regular intervals, like every 10 minutes or so. Carry a container your dog can drink from, such as a collapsible bowl or a water bottle.

Don’t: Run in hot weather. The hot summer weather in our area means some extra precautions when running with your dog. Dogs overheat more easily than humans, and they don’t sweat the way we do to dissipate excess heat. It’s best to avoid midday heat, keeping your runs to early morning and evening when it’s cooler. Pick a shaded route, stop and take breaks, and stop for the day if your dog seems tired.

Do: Protect their paws. Check your dog’s paws when you get home for any cuts or abrasions. Watch the surfaces you run on, and make sure to stay off asphalt, concrete, or sand during hot weather that could burn your dog’s paws. If the pavement is too hot for your hand to touch for 10 seconds, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws.

Don’t: Ignore warning signs. Heat stroke is both a real and a life-threatening risk for dogs. Watch your dog carefully for signs of overheating, and stop right away if you notice any problems. Signs include lethargy, weakness, panting, drooling, rapid heart rate, and dark red gums and tongue. If your dog is experiencing these signs, a quick cool down with air temperature water on their belly can help before you bring them to us right away.

We hope these do’s and don’ts have encouraged you to try running with your dog. If you have any questions or concerns, or if you and your dog are already running partners, call us and let us know!

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