After what seems like endless months where exercise has been restricted, we’re very pleased that the government guidance has been relaxed to encourage us to get outside more often for fresh air and exercise. The (hopefully!) warmer weather and late Summer evenings make this season the perfect time to get out and about – and running with your dog is a great way to keep fit. While some owners might be building their distances back up to pre-lockdown levels, others prefer something a little more sedate like a 5km jog around the park.
Just as you wouldn’t attempt to start running without talking to an expert or doing some research first, it’s important to prepare your dog too.
A chat with the vet should rule out any health issues that could be exacerbated by vigorous exercise, including asthma, obesity or joint problems. Running could also be unsuitable for elderly dogs that have never done it before, as well as breeds with ‘squashed’ noses, such as Bulldogs and Pugs. It is also very important to remember when running with dogs in hot weather to take regular breaks, allow them time to splash in rivers or have a refreshing drink of water, and if it really is warm, to find a sheltered spot to cool down.
Some dogs are natural runners, who relish every chance they get to dash around, but their speed and endurance levels will vary according to their size and build. Greyhounds and Beagles, for example, tend to prefer shorter, faster runs, whereas Pointers and Jack Russells generally like long but steady runs. When running with your dog, remember to tailor your training plan around your pet’s needs, rather than your own, and never force them to do something that might damage their health.
Once you’ve been given the all clear from the vet, it’s time to start building up your speed and distance. Those who are new to running often find running with dogs to be the perfect motivator when improving their fitness, especially during those tough first weeks. Very soon, you should start to see the benefits of running with your dog for both of you – more energy and generally feeling less tired, improved cardiovascular fitness, changes in your body shape and a big smile!
As the running bug has taken hold over recent years, many people have taken part in their local park run. The great news is that the 5km park runs, held every Saturday morning pre-lockdown at locations around the UK, are free, fun and, above all, dog friendly! You will see people of all ages and abilities running with dogs. Many visually-impaired runners also take part in park runs with ‘guide dog sitter’ an official and much sought-after role amongst park run volunteers. There is hope on the horizon for the re-launch of an adapted park run format to meet new Covid-regulations in a recent weekly blog from the Chief Operating Officer, Tom Williams.
For the more intrepid runners of all ages, with healthy and enthusiastic dogs, they can take their love of running with dogs up a gear with Canicross launched in 2000. This is a type of cross-country running where your dog is harnessed to your waist with a hands-free lead. Fans of the sport love nothing more than pounding along woodland trails, splashing through water or scaling mountains. It gives dogs and their owners an opportunity to develop a special bond and make friends nationally. Across the country, you’ll find plenty of Canicross races taking place; there are competitive leagues and events hosted by The Kennel Club.
Finally, always be mindful about your dog’s health, ensuring they have enough to eat and drink , in addition to a place to rest afterwards – particularly when running with dogs in hot weather. Wear high-visibility clothing when it’s dark, and never venture anywhere that looks dangerous. As long as you are sensible and stay safe, there is really no limit to the benefits that running with your dog can bring.
Do you and your dog enjoy running together? We’d love to see your pictures! Get in touch with us via our social media channels, Facebook and Instagram.