Running with your four-legged friend is a great way to kill two fitness birds with one stone.
Your dog gets to run about spending bonding time with you and burning energy, and at the same time, you’re getting that crucial cardio in.
Ian Scarrott, a running coach and personal trainer at PureGym, says: ‘Like anything in life, exercise can become monotonous, so it is important to try new routes, vary types of sessions, time your run, and of course, if you have a pet that is able to run with you, make it more fun for them and you.
To help you get started, we’ve got some handy top tips from Ian and Emma Lee, a nutrition expert at Burns Pet Nutrition.
Think about your dog’s breed…
While it’s possible that any healthy dog can be trained to go for a run with you, there are some breeds you have to be careful with.
‘Caution must be taken with brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds,’ says Emma. ‘These dogs often have problems with breathing and will struggle in the hotter weather as they are not able to cool down effectively.
‘Being able to lose heat is also going to be an issue for some of the double-coated or heavier-coated breeds such as Siberian Huskies.
‘Some breeds that are very prone to orthopaedic issues should also be treated with caution. Dachshunds for example are genetically prone to IVDD (disc disease) and a lot of larger breeds may be more predisposed to conditions such as hip dysplasia. ’
… And fitness levels
Just like people, Emma says dogs have varying fitness levels which might need to be built up over time.
‘You will also need to consider the terrain you are running your dog on,’ she adds.
‘Running is a high-impact sport so take care when running on firm ground. Also, be careful on uneven terrain. Dogs will be susceptible to similar types of skeletal and muscle injury that we are.
‘Make sure you are observing your dog and watching for signs of pain or discomfort. It is also essential that you allow your dog time to warm up and cool down. There are many stretches and exercises that you can get your dog to do that will help with reducing the likelihood of injury.’
Ian says: ‘If your dog is a little fitter than you, find ways to creatively channel the energy to give them the workout they need whilst giving yourself a bit of a breather. For example, you could run to a park together and get some rest for yourself while keeping them active by playing a game of fetch.
‘It really depends on the breed you have, as well as their individual preferences, as to whether you feel this is appropriate. Some dogs may be more suited to intervals of short sharp bursts of speed, others may love a long-distance run.’
Get the right kit
Rather than having your hands tied up with holding a lead, Ian says you might want to think about getting one that can be securely fixed to your waist.
He explains: ‘You may want to try hands-free running where you are connected by a secure waist belt which means you are free to concentrate on the route. It also means your hands are free if you should take a tumble.
‘It can help to avoid being pulled around uncomfortably, especially at speed. ’
He also says you should ensure the harness you use is comfortable for your dog, and does not restrict their breathing.
‘Above all,’ he explains, ‘you want this to be a fun experience for you and your pet.’
Feed and water them at the right time and pace
Emma says you should feed your canine pal at least an hour before exercise – ideally earlier, so they’ve got enough time to digest it all.
‘We would recommend feeding two hours before and not feeding for two hours after,’ she explains. ‘If you try to feed your dog too much, or too close to active exercise this can lead to the risk of issues such as bloating.
‘Hydration is also important, particularly in warmer weather. A loss of just 7% of your dog’s body water can lead to severe dehydration and a 15% loss can be fatal.
‘It is important to remember not to let them drink too much in one go however, make sure they rehydrate steadily rather than drinking too much, too fast.’