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There are quite a few things to consider from your dog’s health perspective before beginning to run with them. Age is very important- Dogs must be fully mature before starting to participate in running activities. For smaller breeds, this is generally around 1 year old and for larger and giant breeds this is 1.5-2 years of age. If your dog is at the senior end of the scale, making sure they are fit and healthy with no underlying joint problems is important.
And likewise, if your pet has been unwell or had any issues with their bones or limbs these all need to be considered. Overweight and obese pets may struggle running as there is a lot more strain put on their circulation system, as well as their joints. If you’re concerned that your dog might be too overweight, visit our blog post for advice and tips to help your pets to lose weight.
Much the same with us humans, it is best to start off with slow short distances and gradually build up to help avoid injuries. Even if your dog currently gets a lot of exercise, running is high cardio and generally nonstop. Our advice is to start off with half a kilometre (500m) and see how it goes.
From here, increase each run by 200-500m each time, allowing yourself a rest day or two in between each run. It is most important to monitor how your dog is coping, so these distances can be increased or reduced dependant on each individual dogs.
You can run almost anywhere with your dog, but it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons:
Footpath/road running is easy for humans; flat terrain, lit by streetlights for early morning or evening running, and you can generally step outside your house and start straight away. Care needs to be taken if you are planning to run extremely long distances as pavement can be harsh on both paws and joints, particularly if your dog is used to being exercised on softer ground. Depending on the time of day it can be difficult to run around other pedestrians (and pets) on the footpath. You may also meet lots of other dogs who want to stop and play.
Off road is generally nicer for dog’s joints, if it’s an appropriate area, dogs can run off lead. Off-road running can be muddy, lighting can be an issue in winter months and terrain can be uneven.
Wherever you choose to run, make sure appropriate time is spent getting used to each surface to enable both you and your dog’s joints and feet (or paws!) to adjust, as necessary.
The most important thing is to make sure your dog is eating enough calories to equate for the increase in exercise. This is more crucial in dogs that are doing over 30-60 minutes of exercise more than twice a week.
Dogs can generally tolerate running in colder weather, but care needs to be taken when running in the warmer months. If it is too hot outside to walk your dog, it is definitely not an appropriate time to go for a run.
Even as the day cools off, remember that running is much harder on our cardiovascular system than walking so always check temperatures before heading out. Runs during the summer should be limited to early morning or late evening, and even then, it may still be too hot. You can also find out more about keeping your pets cool in the summer months.
Don’t forget that if your dog has a thick or heavy coat, then a full body clip may be appropriate before starting a running regime.
It is strongly advised that when running with your dog, your dog is in an appropriate harness, attached to a human waist belt with a bungee line fitted to an acceptable length. This is to help avoid your dog hurting himself around his neck when he stops to sniff at something and is ergonomic for your dog to wear.
It is also a lot easier (and safer) for us to run with our hands-free, which is why the belt is advised. It should go through each of your legs and around your waist, with a clip at the front for the line. A line with elastic is best, as it allows your dog some give when they stop (to sniff/ toilet) instead of yanking them along with you.
Talk to local Canicross groups, and research different gear online. There is something to suit everyone, down to size and budget.