How to stay safe when running with your dog.
Running is a great way to get some exercise and stay fit.
And who better to share this exercise with than your favourite 4-legged friend.
As a runner and dog owner, I really enjoy the time I get to spend running with my four-legged friends.
As a Podiatrist, I see many clients who also love to run with there dogs and want to know what is the best way to make sure they, and their dogs, can stay healthy and safe on their runs.
Dogs can be a great motivation to start running
We have two dogs at home; a seven-year olf Border Collie, Tessa, and a 2-year old Kelpie named Bunji (this whole blog was just an excuse to show pictures of my dogs you know!!!).
Both of these breeds are born to run and can seemingly run for miles and miles (unlike me!).
However, like me, I’ve noticed they still fatigue over time and need the right sort of training to ensure they continue to enjoy their running without injuring themselves (or me!).
How to be a better runner
Running, as with any sport, takes time to develop the strength and stamina to allow you to run long and stay injury-free.
It is no different for dogs.
When I started running I really couldn’t get very far without needing to take a bit of a walk break to recover.
However, as I continued, over time I could run for longer and longer periods without needing to walk.
This is because I was slowly building my cardio-vascular fitness and gradually training my body to cope with the forces associated with running.
This progressive training is an important way we can condition our bodies to withstand the rigours of running and minimise our risk of injury.
Slowly build up the distances you make your dogs run
It is the same for our dogs.
You can’t expect a dog who has never run for an extended period of time to just hit the roads and be able to knock out 10km without having done it before.
Slowly build your dog’s milage to ensure they have the strength and conditioning to keep up with you and help limit their risk of injury.
My advice to new runners is slowly increasing your weekly mileage by no more than 10% per week to help limit your risk of injury.
The right shoes reduce injury risk
When we run, the vast majority of us use shoes to protect us from the ground beneath us.
Many of us run on bitumen on concrete footpaths which are hard and rough.
I would not dream of running 10km in bare feet on such a surface.
So imagine then how much stress will be placed on a dog's feet when running for this distance on a surface like concrete or bitumen.
I always recommend my clients mix up the running surfaces then run on to vary the load they place on their feet and legs to help reduce injury risk.
Research suggests when we run with 2 or more different pairs of shoes, we significantly reduce our risk of developing running-related injuries.
Dogs paws are their shoes - condition them and remember to give them rest days.
Also consider mixing up your running environment to include dirt trails, tracks, grass ovals, roads and footpaths where you can to help vary the stress when running.
The best running equipment
Many dogs love to run so pulling can be quite natural when they run on a lead.
Having a proper harness and running lead that has an elastic section to help reduce the sudden pull on the lead will help reduce your risk of injury.
Invest in a great running harness for your dog that wraps about their shoulders, clipping in front.
These harnesses help reduce their tendency to pull which could cause you to over-balance and risk you falling.
A lead that straps low about your waist nor hips are preferable to one you hold in your hand as it allows you to run with the natural arm swill that facilitates your best running form.
Any imbalance in your running technique will load one side of your body more than another which may increase your risk of injury.
Not to mention, it will also place undue stress on your dog.
Be seen at night
With the days getting shorter now, it's important to think about being able to be seen if you run in the dark.
When my wife or I run at night with our dogs we always make sure we can all be seen properly.
We wear hi-vis vests and a head torch for ourselves so we can see and be seen.
Make yourself and your dog visable during night time runs
We also use rechargeable clip-on lights that go onto our dog’s harness so they can be easily seen in the dark,
Learn to run with your dog
Get some training for you and your dog.
Being trained is really important so that your dog knows what to expect when you are out running.
Keep your dog on the left as you run to help keep your dog away from other people and dogs.
Teach your dog to run to the side and a little in front of you so you don’t tangle your legs and theirs which could result in a fall and injury to you or your dog.
What is the right age to start running?
Many vets have different opinions on what age is best to start running with your dog.
If you are planning to buy a do to run with choosing the breed of dog to match what you want to do is important.
Some breeds of dogs are born to run.
Working dogs like Kelpies and Collies make for great runners as do many breeds of “gun-dogs” like Weimaraners and Vizslas.
The best thing to do is to have a conversation with your local vet to talk about the best way to introduce running to your dog to make sure your 4-legged friend avoids injury.
Keep hydrated when you run
Staying hydrated on a long run is just as important for you as it is for your dog.
If you are planning to run for a long time, make sure you schedule in some water stops for you and your dog along the way.
There are many easy to carry collapsable water bowls that your dog can use to drink from and many hydration vests you can use.
Dogs need to stay hydrated
Need help with your running?
Running with your dog is a great way yo stay healthy and keep yourself motivated during this difficult time.
Every day at Complete Podiatry, we work with many clients who need a little help to keep doing the things they love without worrying about their (or their dog's) feet.
If you are struggling with foot or leg problems when you run, call the team at Complete Podiatry, we are here to help.
Yours in helping to build amazing lives from the feet up,
Director of Complete Podiatry