Friday, December 7, 2012

Runs with Dogs

Like Dances with Wolves.  Get it? sigh.

So I'm a runner.  Not a fast-moving racing fiend, but a runner nonetheless.  And I see a lot of runners while I'm out there plodding along, some of which are running with their dogs.  Which is awesome for the dogs, who need their exercise in order to sleep rather than destroy the couch, and for the humans, who have bonding time as well as fitness time.  But there are things to consider when running with a dog...

Leashes.  In the city, dogs should always been on leash.  When you're running with a dog, you should have a good hold on the leash, and keep it short.  Dogs like to clothesline people, telephone poles, parking meters, etc when you're least expecting it.  And NEVER EVER EVER use a retractable leash when running.  There's a previous blog post about those wretched creations, but just don't.

Running path.  In an ideal world, you would only run with your dog on blissful tree-lined paths with clearly marked lanes for each direction...these do not exist in most of the world, so you'll need to think about the real life path-of-least-resistance instead.  If you're bringing your dog with you, avoid sidewalks with heavy foot traffic, tons of traffic lights and cars making right turns on red.  These obstacles are frustrating for a lone runner, but can be terrifying or deadly for a dog, even if they're only a foot away from you.  It sounds like common sense, and it is, but many of us don't think about it until we're tangled up in a tour group, have a cigarette flicked at us or a Starbucks spilled onto our dog. (Ask me about the woman who just dumped her full coffee, cup and all, 2 feet in front of me.  Didn't even look around first.  AND there was a trash can 100 feet ahead of her!)

Age of dog.  This may be unexpected, but it is actually very important to keep your young dogs off the streets and running paths.  They can chase a ball in the park until the cows come home, but the constant pounding from concrete running does a number on open growth plates.  Wait until your dog is about a year and a half before you do much more than a mile of straight running, and even then you need to work them up to longer distances gradually to avoid injury.  Older dogs are also a consideration - osteoarthritis is one of the most common diseases we see in dogs as they age.  If you notice lameness after a run that used to be 'no problem', you may need to reduce your mileage, or even slow down to walks only.

Breed of dog.  If you want a running partner, be aware of what you can expect from your dog.  An English Bulldog or a Pug are not likely to match you mile for mile.  Any brachycephalic (short-nosed) breed is high risk for exercise, as they don't exchange oxygen as easily and can overheat quickly.  If you are not a runner and you have a high energy breed like a Weimaraner or a Pit Bull, you might want to get yourself fitted for some running shoes!  Keeping a high energy breed on a low energy schedule can lead to destructive behaviors, and is one of the reasons our shelters and rescues are always so full.

Awareness.  You are running with another being who does not share your mind.  They may be the best and most attentive dog in the world, but they can make the untimely decision to go left when you need to go right.  Being aware of what your dog is doing, what fellow pedestrians are doing, and what cars/bikes are doing is a major undertaking, and it is important for everyone's safety.  Just remember, running with a dog ain't no walk in the park!


  1. Just a few more months and Dixie and I will be trying couch to 5k.

  2. So glad you posted this! I run with my shepherd mix quite a bit. I've read that some people recommend not running with your dog once they hit a certain age. My boy is seven but very healthy and active. Is there anything I should be aware of regarding his age and running? Also, I have given him a break from running the past couple weeks because he has a slight limp in his right hind leg (it's not very noticable though). Would you recommend an x-ray or just rest?