I have a 13 year old Bassett Hound with very short legs and a very long back. Somehow, she manages to obtain great speed and darts out the door if the kids leave it open, but her endurance is definitely lacking. She makes it half way down the block, and stops to smell the roses, and the fire hydrants, and anything thing else that might cross her path. Needless to say, she is not a dog built for endurance running.
However, there are many dogs that can be great running partners with the right genetic temperament, socialization and training. Want a new running partner? Here are some tips on getting your dog in the action.
- Know your breed. Dogs bred for working and hunting tend to make better distance runners. They typically have a medium build of about 50-70 lbs. According to Suzie Thibeault, ultrarunner and dog trainer, “Make sure that they have sound weight bearing joints and a leg structure that is not opposed to forward movement.” In addition, your dog should be at least one year old before adding distance to their routine. Ask your vet if your dog is ready to train.
- Suzi suggests that a basic obedience class should be a pre-requisite for training. You want your dog to be able to follow simple commands such as heeling, sitting and staying. Once your dog is able to walk beside you comfortably, you can add bouts of running into the training. Start with a run/walk of 20 min and like any beginner, increase distance by no more than 10% each week. Be sure to give your dog one day off for every running day.
- Try to start off on a soft surface like grass or dirt trails. This will also help to toughen up the pads on the bottom of the dog’s feet gradually. Be sure to check the paws to make sure that they are not red, raw or bleeding. If this is the case, you have done too much and need to back off.
- Finally, be very careful in the heat. Dogs do not sweat to cool off like we do. They dissipate heat through their paws and mouths. Be sure to bring water and allow drinking stops. Let your pet run through puddles and sprinklers. If your pet experiences heat exhaustion, allow them to stop, and cover their abdomen with water as soon as possible.
Good luck, and remember your dog has an advantage over you….he has four legs!