Running Safely With Your Dog: The Do’s and Don’ts

Running safely with your dog can lead to great pet exercise!Dogs can be great exercise partners. They have energy to burn and love spending time with you. However, running safely with your dog takes preparation and training. Let the team at Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates provide a rundown of do’s and don’ts before hitting the road with your pet.

Starting Out

Do try it out. Just like humans, dogs benefit greatly from daily exercise. Studies show that over 50% of dogs are overweight or obese, which affects their health and longevity. Walking or running with your dog on leash is a great way to get both of you moving more.

Don’t assume your dog is a runner. Not all dogs are cut out for running. There are some breeds that are naturally inclined to the sport (like hunting and sporting breeds), but short-nosed, flat-faced dogs (known as brachycephalic breeds) and pets with short legs and long bodies may not have the proportions that lend themselves to running. Large and toy breeds may be better suited for a nice long walk.

Do start out slow. A dog who doesn’t run regularly shouldn’t jump up and run 5 miles right away. Too much too early can put your dog at risk of injury. Instead, start out slowly. Begin with alternating intervals of walking and running. Many veterinarians recommend increasing your dog’s distance by no more than 5% each week. Contact us if you have any questions.

Don’t skip the training. Aside from training in the running sense, your dog also needs to learn some basic obedience for running safely. Train your dog to walk on a loose leash and to obey commands such as “heel,” “stop,” and “turn.” If running with a club or planning a race, your dog should display good manners around other animals and people.

Running Safely With Your Dog

Do check in with your vet. If you aren’t sure whether your dog is ready for a run, check with us. We can talk about nutritional needs and perform a preventive care exam, which is essential before starting any new exercise program.

Don’t skimp on your warm up. Warming up is important for both you and your dog. Cold muscles are prone to injury, and warming up helps ensure muscles and joints are ready to work.

Do be aware of the paws. One of the most important parts of running safely with your dog is making sure their paws are in good condition. Paws need time to develop calluses to protect the pads and to cushion the impact of running. Also be aware of surface temperatures. If the pavement or cement is hot to the touch, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws. When returning home from a run, always check the paws for any cuts or abrasions.

Don’t skip parasite control. Year-round parasite prevention is important! Make sure your dog is protected from fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes by maintaining flea and tick prevention plans. This also minimizes the risk of bringing home any unwanted pests.

Do hit the trails. Trail running can be a great way to make sure you’re running safely with your dog. The softer dirt can cushion the impact on your dog’s joints and be cooler on their paws. Watch out for uneven ground and holes, and make sure you bring along plenty of water for both of you. Drinking from streams, lakes, or puddles can put your dog at risk for parasites and disease.

Don’t run when it’s too hot. Running in hot weather can put your dog at risk for heat stroke. Restrict running to cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or evening hours. Take lots of water breaks in the shade to let your dog cool off.

Signs of a Problem

Heat stroke while running can be extremely scary and dangerous. It’s important not to over exert your dog, especially in warm weather. Signs of distress include:

  • Panting
  • Lying down or stopping
  • Rapid or irregular heart rate
  • Drooling
  • Confusion/weakness

If you observe any of these symptoms while running with your dog, stop immediately and find shade and water. If your dog does not recover quickly, contact us or visit the nearest emergency clinic right away.

We hope you found these tips for running safely with your dog helpful. If you have any questions or concerns, please give us a call. Keep up the great work!