Train your Best Friend to be your Running Companion
The only thing better than going for a mind-clearing, soul-searching run through your neighborhood or local trail is doing so with your best friend in tow. Are you wondering how to train your dog to keep up with you on your easy days? Listed below are a few tips for training your pup to be your new running companion.
Before you Begin Before you get started it is important to have your dog evaluated for vigorous activity by your veterinarian. The vet will ensure that your dog is in the proper shape for exercise, and if not, will help you develop a plan to get him or her there. Dogs should not begin running until they are fully grown (typically by 2 years of age, depending on breed), and overweight dogs should start very slowly so as not to stress their joints.
Proper Equipment Next, invest in the proper equipment for running with your pet. Always use a harness (avoid ones that tighten as your dog pulls), since placing undue pressure on your dog’s neck can lead to serious injury. Some runners enjoy using a leash that wraps around their waist, providing hands-free restraint. Leashes that have a bungee component are also popular because they place less stress on the runner’s elbow and shoulder. If planning to eventually build up to long runs with your dog, invest in a portable water dish, such as the Gulpy.
Teach Commands The beauty of running with your pet is that most dogs do not need to be taught how to run, and many will gladly follow as soon as you say, “Let’s Go!” However, there are a number of commands that can be useful when out on the trail. Begin to teach your dog directional cues (i.e. “go left,” “go right,” “straight,”) when you are out for a walk. Every time you make a turn, use the verbal command so that your dog can associate word and action. Other useful commands are “cross” (such as when crossing the street), “stop,” and “leave it. ***
Use the Buddy System If your dog is stubborn to start running with you on command, enlist the help of a second dog-and-owner running pair. As pack animals, your dog will want to follow whatever the other dog and person are doing, since your pet will feel outnumbered. This strategy is useful especially when teaching a younger animal.
Start Slowly Although your dog may run around your yard for hours on its own, structured exercise should be treated differently. Owners should beware that it takes time for a dog’s paws to develop calluses when running on cement, and doing too much mileage too soon on hard surfaces can lead to paw pad injuries. In addition, dogs can suffer from overuse injuries such as strains, muscle tears, and fractures, so it is important to gradually build up your dog’s endurance. Over the course of a few weeks, add an additional 5 – 10 minutes of running per session.
***All of these commands are taught in greater detail, separately on this site.