I strive to be as physically healthy as I can be. By extension, I believe that I owe it to my pups to do the same for them! We are in the midst of their #getfit journey and part of our routine is running. But, with dogs, there are 4 rules that will keep your dog(s) safe and sound for as long as they are your jogging partner.
Walk before you run
One of the most important aspects of a healthy, productive run with your dogs is their ability to keep pace and be in the right place during exercise. Having to pull, push, redirect, or otherwise move your dog, on the fly is dangerous for you and for her. The easiest way to ensure your dog knows what to do and where to be is training good, loose leash, walking before the first jog ever gets started. There are many ways to accomplish this, but I prefer teaching “slow”, “with me”, “stop”, and “freeze” commands. If you are interested in learning how to accomplish teaching these commands using positive reinforcement training, check out our Book Recommendations for the best resources available on the subject! In my experience, once a dog grasps the concept of walking alongside me, it naturally extends to running. One tiny caveat to that last statement, if running is new to your dog, you may go through a bit of an “excitement phase” where she forgets everything she knows. Just be patient, re-practice correct walking, and try again until she gets through it!
Run in grass or on trails
Get a good pair of trail running shoes and go off-road with your dogs! Running on hard, even surfaces can cause a lot of bone and joint issues later in life. This applies to all breeds and sizes as well! Just because your dog is small doesn’t mean the repetitive impact stress of running won’t wreak havoc on their joints. Another reason to stay off the pavement is that it gets very hot and can burn or blister our dog’s pads. Taking your runs off the pavement also provides your dog with uneven surfaces that will strengthen
Another reason to stay off the pavement is that it gets very hot and can burn or blister our dog’s pads without us ever realizing there is a problem. Taking your runs off the pavement also provides your dog with uneven surfaces that will strengthen stabilizing muscles and be a more “natural” run for them. If you don’t have access to trails or grass, invest in a good pair of dog boots for your pup to wear on your runs(Ruffwear.com) to avoid these issues.
Use a short, hand-held leash
No hands-free leashes! No long leads! This is probably the rule I see other’s break the most. It is also the rule that can have the worst consequences when something goes wrong. A leash with just enough slack to let your dog comfortably run alongside you will help you to avoid the two biggest dangers while running.
First, your dog gets spooked. This happened to me last night, I was walking Cece and Boo and some nice and smart person(read: Jackass) was setting off fireworks(5 days after the 4th). Poor Cece got so scared that she bolted. Fortunately, the lead I use is no more than 4 ft. When she hit the end, she got airborne about 1 ft away from the street along the side of us. I don’t even want to think about the possibilities of what could have happened if she had been on a longer lead. You can’t control everything that could possibly scare your dog on a run, but you can control your ability to react and keep him safe, having a short lead is the only way to go in my opinion!
The second problem with long leads, since we aren’t on sidewalks/streets, is that the leash can get wrapped around something between you and your dog. I can hear you saying “I would never let that happen”, but let me tell you, I thought the same thing and almost lost Boo because of it.
When it was just Sully and Boo, I used to take them for shorter runs every other day(they were roughly 6 and 9 months old). I used long leads without knowing any better and one day, disaster struck. We were running by a telephone pole and I was to the right of it by about 6ft with Boo next to me on my left. Just before we were about to pass the pole, a squirrel hopped on top the brick wall on the other side of the pole, Boo saw it instantly and turned on a dime to go after it. Sully and I didn’t see it until it was running away, so we kept going on one side of the pole while Boo, realizing she scared the squirrel away already, corrected her course to join us, but she was already between us and the pole. All of this happened in in a couple of seconds! Of course, after feeling the pressure behind her, she was terrified and hysterically trying to get away from it . She was fighting so hard that her harness slipped over her head and, for just an instant, she was un-tethered. Thankfully, I recognized what was happening and caught her by the scruff of her neck just as she started to make a break for the busy street a few yards away. Lesson Learned! Had I been using a short lead, this scenario would have never happened!
I’ve been running with my dogs for a couple of years now and I can tell you, the most random, insignificant, trivial things cause our crew to veer away, bolt, or go after something. Having a short leash that is in your hand and, therefore, completely under your control, is absolutely crucial to maintaining the long-term safety of your pups!
Max of two dogs with one hand for each leash
This is an extension of using hand-held leashes and being able to control your dogs when they freak out. The name of the game with running when it comes to dogs(and humans for that matter) is the participant’s ability to maintain a healthy and safe routine over the long term. In order to achieve this goal, it is absolutely imperative to prepare for the inevitable eventuality that your dogs will encounter something or someone on your run that effectively makes them “go savage”(thank you to the little lady for the Zootopia reference :P).
When this event, thing or person crosses your path, the only way to ensure you keep your pups safe is to have “emergency control” over them. This is why I cringe whenever I see someone running more than two dogs or running two dogs with both leashes on the same arm.
A good example of why this rule could potentially avert disaster, I was returning home from a 2-mile jog with Coral and Sully. I have learned where all the dogs live in our neighborhood so that I am prepared for barking, and god forbid, a dog that gets loose. This particular day, a large SUV was parked in the driveway 2 houses up from ours which blocked my view of everything on the other side. This house also had a small recess that led to a backyard gate. As we passed the SUV, the gate opened and out came a yappy little Jack Russell terrier. Both of my dogs were just as surprised as me and reacted to the aggressiveness of the terrier. I had them both on short leads(learned the lesson from Boo’s near death fiasco) so I was able to react by getting both of their front ends off the ground before they could inflict any damage on the Napoleonic little guy. This ended up being the terrier’s saving grace as his, extremely intelligent, owner was using a retractable leash that wasn’t locked and he came within 2 ft of Coral’s mouth!
If I would have been running with both leashes, on one hand, that dog would have been disciplined by my guys for acting that way. At best, my dogs would need to be registered as aggressive/biters, at worst, I would have been forced to euthanize them due to Florida law. Either result would be unacceptable in my book!
So, as you can see, by following a few simple rules you can ensure your dog always stays safe and healthy! Even dog’s that have never shown any signs of reactivity in the past have something that will trigger a lapse in judgment. Follow these rules to be sure you are ready to keep him safe when that something crosses your path!