There’s nothing better than getting out in the fresh air with your dog and really no better form of exercise for both of you than running. Running is a high-impact, cardio-intensive exercise that has many physical and mental health benefits for people and pooches alike. Committing to a jogging routine with your furry friend can help both of you keep your weights in check and prevent ailments caused by obesity such as diabetes and joint problems. What’s more, running burns off energy and can help decrease stress and anxiety.
While your furry friend may have the makings of being the ultimate jogging buddy, it is important to visit your veterinarian before beginning a running routine. With the GlowDOGGlow 5K less than two months away, we encourage you to start running with your dog today, so you’re race ready come September 23rd!
Use our Q&A as a guide, then follow up with your veterinarian to get specific training advice for your dog’s age, breed, and physical health.
1. Is my dog physically mature enough to run?Your dog’s age is a major consideration before starting a running program. Running on hard surfaces can be harmful to puppy’s joints and bones before they are fully formed. Dogs’ growth plates (the areas of cartilage near the ends of bones) must be completely closed before running. This may take 1-2 years depending on the breed. Once their bones are set, though, a routine running workout is a great way to release all of that pent up puppy energy.
2. How old is too old?
Senior dogs may be able to do some running, but their fitness and energy levels will not be the same as their younger canine companions. What’s more, older dogs are more susceptible to joint problems like hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, and arthritis. Running may exasperate these ailments and lead to further injury.
3. Are all breeds cut out for running?
Unfortunately, some dog breeds are better suited for walking than running. Most dog breeds can run between 2-5 miles (perfect for the GlowDOGGlow 5K!). Breeds with short legs may have trouble maintaining a running pace, while brachycephalic breeds (those with short-noses and flat-faces) such as pugs, bulldogs, and Chihuahuas have narrow nostrils and partially obstructed airways, which may make breathing difficult during cardio-intensive exertions. Don’t fret if your canine cutie has shorter legs or a smooshed face – these breeds still need exercise and will do fine with routine walking.
4. Should I change my pet’s diet before or during an exercise program?
Great question! Just like humans, a dog’s food and water intake may need to be adjusted to go along with an increase in exercise and calorie burn. Your veterinarian can give you advice on your pet’s specific health and dietary needs. Offering fresh, clean water before, during, and after your workout is essential in keeping your pet hydrated, especially in the warmer late summer and early autumn months. Bring a collapsible water bowl with you and stop every 10-15 minutes or so for a drink on stifling summer days; as the weather cools down, water should be offered every 30 minutes or so.
5. Are there any other medical considerations I should think about before running with my dog?
Did you know that where you run with your dog is an important factor in determining the best vaccine protocol for your pet? All dogs should be vaccinated against life-threatening rabies, Distemper, and Parvo viruses. Dogs that frequent dog parks, grooming facilities, and pet stores should be vaccinated against the highly contagious Bordetella virus (Kennel Cough). If you’ll be running on hiking trails or through wooded areas, the Leptospirosis vaccine is highly recommended. Leptospirosis is a contagious bacterial disease carried by wild animals such as deer, raccoons, and mice and can be picked up by dogs by drinking from contaminated lakes or streams.
Lyme Disease, which is transmitted by the deer tick, is extremely prevalent in Northern Virginia but is preventable through a combination of regular tick checks by you, getting the Lyme vaccine, and by applying monthly preventatives. A monthly preventative chewable or spot-on treatment also helps prevent against heartworm disease which is transmitted by mosquitos.
An exercise-specific exam should include a thorough orthopedic exam to assess your dog’s musculoskeletal and neurologic systems. Please let your veterinarian know of any specific issues or questions you have.
Once your vet gives your dog the green light for running, remember to start slow. Just as you wouldn’t be able to run a 5k on your first time out, our four-legged friends wouldn’t either. Running at a consistent pace for a prolonged period can take its toll. Instead, it’s important to gradually build up your mileage and take breaks, especially when you’re just starting out.
Ready to register for the GlowDOGGlow 5k but don’t think you’ll be race ready? We’ve got the perfect pooch-to-pavement plan for you. Stay tuned as we’ll be introducing our 8-week training plan later this week!