Paws to Pavement: How to start running with your dog
Running is an excellent way to stay active, boost your fitness, and bond with your four-legged friend. We get some professional advice from Dr Vicki Lim, Veterinarian and Founder of Huntaway Run & Co.
- When to start running with a puppy? >
- How do you build up the kms? >
- How do I keep my dog safe? >
- Shop the Recovery Runner Routine >
It's not about speed or distance, but about the joy of the journey together
When to start running with a puppy?
The more important question is, what type of exercise is appropriate for your puppy? A metaphor I like to use is that you wouldn’t run a marathon with your toddler, but you’d let them potter around for as long as they’d like – with supervision.A trap that many pup parents get into is getting a high-energy or working breed dog, and overdoing exercise too young with jumping, running, or playing fetch with one of those ball throwers because they feel the need to stimulate them. We see way too many puppies with bone chips or fractures from inappropriate exercise! And after an injury like that, you can guarantee your dog will have arthritis to contend with, and you’ll kick yourself for not doing the right thing for your best mate when he was a pup. Focus on low impact exercise like walking and swimming with your puppy to build muscle mass, and also work on the key aspects like leash walking, recall, and a “leave it” command. Building the foundations of training and bone growth will set your canine companion up for success in the future.
The “5 minutes per month of life rule” you might encounter has no scientific basis.
How do you build up the kms?
Easy, just like you would if you were starting out. Make sure your dog can handle long walks before you go running, and always make sure your dog is enjoying it. If you’re having to drag a panting deadweight on a leash, then your mate might not be so keen to go out with you next time around. Dogs are easy – if the activity is fun and reinforcing, they will happily do it again. If every time you go out it’s borderline heatstroke and horrible, they’ll head in the opposite direction when you put on your running shoes.Some dogs are sprinters who have to build up stamina (like this writer), whereas others don’t have much velocity but are happy to plod on and on. Understand what works for your dog and adapt to their styles; they’re a lot more resilient than we are!
How do I keep my dog safe?
Good recall, a distance down (meaning your dog will drop into a down command wherever it is), and a “leave it” command so it’s not eating potentially poisoned carcasses or drinking out of giardia-laden bogs.
Also have your dog well-conditioned. Dogs that are overweight are also more likely to get injured, and develop arthritis. Weekend warrior canines get the same injuries as the humans. Sprained toes, strained ligaments, and torn muscles are common in unfit dogs. If you’re building up to run a certain distance, don’t leave your dog behind!
Should they wear shoes?
Most dogs, if they run regularly, should build up good calluses on their paw pads and not need shoes. If you find that despite that your dog is still getting cracked paws, use the Fur Love moisturising balm. Oyster shells are also common culprits causing cuts between the toes, so shoes might be a goer if you find yourselves running frequently on sharp terroir. Be warned though: shoes can take some time for dogs to get used to! They quite frequently do the spider-dog dance, or freeze with a look of “why dog-mum/dad” on their sad little faces; so factor that in if you’re thinking of just popping shoes on paws and blasting off.
Check the weather
In New Zealand we don’t quite have the same weather extremes as runners elsewhere, but still be sensible. Especially if your pooch has thick fur or has a flat face, a long run on a hot day is just silly. Always try and make sure there’s water for your dog to cool down in on your trail, or share some of yours with them. If your dog is used to wearing a pack, she can carry her own. Every summer I’ll see heat-stressed, or worse, heat-stricken dogs, and heat stroke past a certain point is nearly always fatal. Watch out for: heavy panting, excessive drooling, dry and bright red gums. If you’re worried that your dog is getting too hot, stop immediately, find some shade, and wet them down with some water. Get them to the nearest vet if you’re very concerned.
Be kind to paws
Lastly, hot sand and concrete are your enemies. In summer, many dogs burn their feet on hot sand, which owners only realise once their dogs are no longer hooning on the beach and are instead hiding in the shade licking their sore burned paws. Remember: If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for them!
Keep them on a lead
For safety reasons, it's generally best to keep your dog on a leash during runs. Even the most well-trained dogs can get distracted or encounter unexpected situations. A leash ensures that you have control in all circumstances.
Shop the Recovery Runner Routine
Prioritizing your dog's paw health is crucial for a smooth running experience together.
1. Our Moisture Balm provides essential protection and soothing benefits, ideal for pre and post-run care.
2. Using a Soak is a great way to reduce redness, cleanse away any debris from the journey and improves recovery time.
The Salt Soak is incredible for muscle and joint discomfort post runs (for you both!) - soak away those aches and pains.