Dog owners like to get outside with their pup, but just like your own running, you need to think about the health of your dog before heading out for a 20K run on Sunday. Especially during the winter, with sidewalks covered in ice and salt, running with your dog isn’t as straightforward as it might at first seem.
Firstly, puppies’ growth plates, depending on their size, aren’t suitable for a lot of running until their 12-18 months old, so wait until then before you think about taking them on any sort of longer run.
“It’s important, first of all, the realize what the limitations of your pet are,” says Tiffany Durzi, a veterinarian with the Ontario Veterinary College Fitness and Rehabilitation Service. “You should know that, as pets, they’ll keep going and won’t always tell you when they need to stop running. It’s really important that you know the limitations.”
Durzi, who herself regularly runs with her dog, notes a few things to consider before anything else are, much like humans, the age of your dog, their health and general level of fitness, and if they have any cardiovascular illness.
Beyond that, Durzi suggests thinking about how fit your dog is already.
“There’s a lot of people who are weekend warriors, so they go out and maybe they haven’t run in awhile and think ‘Hey, I’m going to run 10K today.’ Certainly for dogs we need to keep that in mind. You need to build up safely your running program. We don’t want people on day one running 10K with their dog, we want them working up to that goal.”
As for running during the winter, the biggest worry in running with your dog is protecting their feet. Some dogs will run with boots, but some don’t like to. Though they may look silly, Durzi suggests investing in a pair if you dog is willing to wear them. She says when it’s really cold, getting your dog used to wearing the boots can mean putting them on 10 or 15 minutes before running and allowing them to get used to them around the house.
Beyond that, when you and your dog return from a run, besure to check and clean and dry their paws. Salt from the roads and dirt can cause them to dry out and crack. Clean, healthy paws are very important to any healthy dog.
“You can actually crack open vitamin E capsules,” suggests Durzi. “They have like a vitamin E serum and you can put that on their feet.”
Overall, Durzi suggests to be sensible about what your dog is capable of and remember to, like anything else, work up to a goal. Your dog, like yourself, needs to build fitness and stay healthy.