Posted by Holly Jarrett 06/05/15
So, the question really is…is it okay to take Marley on my runs?
My son’s friend told me that his aunt always runs with her dog. She competes in marathons. The dog hides when she pulls out his leash. Ya think?
On the other end of the spectrum is the proverbial canine version of the couch potato. “Oh, my Fancy wouldn’t last for a quarter mile.” Fancy needs to get her butt off the sofa and go for a walk. Perhaps running will come later.
Are dogs designed to “run” long distances? Will jogging eventually break down joints prematurely or cause other health issues? What about their tender pads? And finally, are there dogs that actually enjoy jogging?
Let’s investigate what the “experts” have to say on the subject.
An obvious first go to is a veterinarian. Upon research, it would seem that a majority of vets approve of running with your dog, if it is handled in the right manner. Factors which should be considered include age, build, breed, weight and medical history. For instance, brachycephalic dogs (those whose skull bones are shortened such that the face is flattened and the nose appears pushed in) can experience respiratory distress with exertion. These dogs would likely not be a good candidate for running any distance. With any dog, it is widely recommended that before embarking on this exercise adventure, he should be checked out by a veterinarian and given a clean bill of health.
The ASCPCA has an opinion on the topic as well. Their experts point out that a dog’s natural tendency is to exert in small bursts, whether it be hunting, herding or playing. And, although it may not be their natural behavior, there are some dogs that can benefit from and enjoy running. They do offer caution concerning injury to developing bones and joints in young dogs, as well as overestimating and overdoing with those dogs that have not been active previously.
My favorite dog trainer offered some insight. Jill Beitel, of Courteous Canine in Charlotte, NC, believes that jogging can be a great way for dogs to get cardio exercise and spend time with their owners. She does point out that many folks forget that they need to be transitioned into it like we do; they may start out of shape and need to take baby steps to avoid injury and continue to enjoy the activity. Jill also maintains that warming up and cooling down, as well as stretching your dog before and after running is important. She cautions that front clip harnesses or prong collars should be avoided.
As someone who has spent some time around canines, my advice would be to listen to your dog. A couple of weeks ago while jogging at Freedom Park in Charlotte I came upon a woman running with her dog. Actually, there wasn’t a whole lot of running, more coaxing. It was obvious why her dog, a significantly overweight lab, did not share her motivation. Not only was this dog obviously not fit for what she was being asked to do, it was also 88 steamy degrees. The next time we passed on the loop, the woman was still coaxing. This time, however, she was trying to convince her running companion to come out of the creek.
So, preparation, consideration and cooperation are imperative when selecting this form of exercise and fellowship with your pup. Here’s to fewer couch potatoes, both human and canine.
I don’t believe Marley will be running any marathons in his lifetime, but we have worked up to just over half a mile and he loves it. Based on his physique, I don’t see him surpassing the mile mark, but our running is about the time spent exercising together versus the distance.
Holly is owner and operator of Lil’ Buddies Pet Sitters in Matthews, NC. Give her a call at (704) 779-7256 for a free consultation.