Trail Running Tips for You and your Dog
In our last post, we discussed the many benefits of trail running with your dog when compared to running on pavement and other flat, even surfaces. Yet, all of those benefits notwithstanding, trail running presents some challenges and other risks that you need to be prepared for. Use these tips to keep you and your dog safe on the trails so that you can fully enjoy the experience for many years to come.
Trail Running Tips for People
The first thing a pet parent needs to do to ensure that their dog will experience the many benefits of trail running is to make sure that they themselves, the pet parent, learn to navigate the trails safely. After all, if the pet parent gets hurt from a fall or ankle sprain, the dog will not get much trail time. Here are a few key things to keep in your mind when you hit the trails:
Slow down. The uneven and unstable surface of trails means you need to be less focused on speed and more focused on control. Slow down a bit from your normal street pace and don’t get stressed out about time and pace.
Keep your head up and scan. There are many potential hazards on the trails. These include holes, rocks, tree roots, and of course, wildlife. Focus on the trail 10 feet in front of you, scanning for obstacles. Every few strides, scan the overall landscape for wildlife hazards as well.
Shorten your stride. With loose footing and hills galore, trails can challenge your balance. By shortening your stride, you will ensure that your body is more centered and this will definitely help with your balance.
Trail Running Tips for your Dog
Now that you are well prepared to handle the trails, there are a few important things to keep in mind in order to keep your dog safe and maximize their enjoyment.
Use “off leash” wisely. One of the cool things about trail running with your dog is that you can usually let them off leash since there are no cars (and often few other people and dogs) to worry about. With that said, don’t be fooled into thinking that your off leash dog is safe from trail hazards. Besides the potential for wildlife encounters (e.g. coyotes, skunks, snakes, and bobcats/mountain lions), your dog can easily pick up a scent and bolt off trail, which can make it very difficult for you to corral them.
Choose trail segments with natural barriers and only let your dog off leash if they have decent recall skills. In any case, “stuff happens” so be prepared to chase after your pet through thickets and other obstacles in the event your dog decides to explore on their own.
Bring water for runs of greater than 30 minutes. Unless your trails runs through streams or other water spots, make sure to bring some water for your dog. They will spend a lot of energy between the running and exploring the various scents. Give your dog a chance to drink along the way to ensure that they stay properly hydrated.
Watch for gait changes or lameness. If you notice that your dog’s gait changes during the run, you should stop immediately and see if there is a problem. One common reason for a gait change is that something gets stuck in their paw. It could be a rock or a ‘sticker’ of some sort from a plant. Examine the limb that is bothering the dog and check in between their pads as well. In most cases, removing the impediment will fix the issue and you can continue on your way. Another reason for a gait change could be dehydration or fatigue. Use common sense on both of these. If your dog is not used to running on a trail, build up distance over time so that their bodies are well prepared.
With these tips in mind, you are now ready to tackle the trails with your dog. Give trail running a try as a way to mix up your routines or as a permanent part of your regular workout schedule. I guarantee that your dog will thank you for it.