7 Tips for Starting a Running Program with Your Dog
Running is a great exercise for both you and your dog. Yet, many people don’t include running as a regular part of their fitness routine. This is unfortunate because of all the benefits that running provides to humans and dogs.
Benefits of Running
There are numerous benefits associated with running. Here are a few important ones.
- Burns a lot of calories: depending on speed, running can burn three times as many calories or more as walking burns.
- Increases stamina: running builds stamina and improves overall endurance.
- Increases strength: running builds strength, especially if you incorporate hill and speed work.
- Lowers resting heart rate: running improves cardiovascular efficiency and can lower resting heart rate
- Increases euphoric feeling: running is an intense exercise which activates the human and canine endocannabinoid systems, which in turn, leads to “runners high”, a feeling of well being and euphoria during and after exercise.
- Improves cholesterol in humans: running can help reduce LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol levels.
7 Tips for Starting a Running Program for you and your Dog
Want to get started on a running program with your dog so you can experience all of these benefits? Here are 7 tips to get you going:
- See the doctor. Both you and your dog should get checked out by your doctor/vet to make sure there is no medical reason that would preclude you from vigorous exercise.
- Find a good pair of sneakers. Forget all of the marketing speak about pronation, stability, etc. Just go to a running store and try on some shoes and find ones that feel comfortable. You don’t need to get caught up in all of the technical specifications of your sneakers, at least not until you become a regular runner. Focus on comfort.
- Engage your core. There are many people who complain of back aches when they run. This is unfortunate because humans were meant to run and often the back pain is due to improper form. Focus on your core, keeping your abs gently braced and pulled in (like a Pilates stance) , to ensure that your body is stacked properly with a very slight forward lean. Practicing this technique, even when walking, will not only build core strength, but will teach your body proper positioning.
- Forget about speed and distance. Beginning or returning runners should forget about how far or how fast they go. Focus instead on time on your feet. In fact, until your fitness is improved, try walk/run intervals where you alternate between walking and running so that you can finish your workout. A common approach is to walk for 2 minutes and then run for 2 minutes and repeat. Gradually reduce the walk time until you can run your entire workout.
- Gradually increase time on feet. As you and your dog become more fit, you can gradually increase the time of your workouts. Start with 15 minute runs. Add 2 minutes to each workout every week and build up to 30 minutes or more. Remember to consider your dog’s condition, body type, and injury history before asking them to run for longer durations.
- Use the proper leash. Harnesses are a good choice because they provide more control and less risk of hurting your dog’s neck from sudden starts and stops. We do not recommend using retractable leashes as they can get tangled and cause other control problems that can lead to injury.
- Practice consistent body positioning. Train your dog to stay on the same side of you whenever they are on leash. This provides predictability to both you and your dog and can reduce the chances of getting crossed and tangled.
Just do it. Go ahead and get started. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t think about how cold it is. Just follow these tips and get going. I promise you that you will feel a lot better after just a few weeks of consistent effort. Your dog will too.
Here is our PetsMove.Org Expo video on how to begin a running program:
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