Running with your dog – Top tips and benefits
Like humans, dogs need to stay active to live a long and healthy life. If you enjoy running, or are looking to start, have you considered taking your pup with you? Running with your dog provides excellent benefits to both you and your pet’s physical and mental health, so we partnered on a research study with the University of Chichester to identify exactly what these positives are.
Finding the time to fit exercise into your daily schedule can sometimes prove difficult, especially when you work unsociable hours or commute for long distances. However, if you can blend both exercising your dog and fitting in a workout, it has now been revealed that you will feel more energised and motivated to continue the trend in company with your dog. Better yet, exercising with a dog isn’t just good for you, but will also boost your dog’s overall health, mood and fitness levels. This proves it is far more beneficial to team up with your dog for a number of health reasons compared to going it alone.
The benefits for your dog
Fitting in a 40-minute walk each day will certainly do your pup good, but our research with the findings show that high-intensity exercise improves a number of health attributes. Not only will running with your dog allow them to use different muscles which will improve their joints and muscle mass, but running works towards helping dogs, who can tend to be aggressive, destructive and hyper, to reduce bad behavior traits. Taking your dog out with you for a run exposes them to new sights, sounds and smells which acts as a stimulant.
Running is also a great way to socialise your pet, as they will have the opportunity to engage with and ‘befriend’ other dogs along the way. In turn, you may meet and get chatting to other dog owners and runners alike – and what better ice-breaker than the mutual interest of your excited canine companions?
Henry Dove, Veterinary Expert for the grain-free pet food brand, Canagan said:
“The companionship you share with your dog offers so many benefits and this can be applied to running with your dog. Building runs into your pet’s daily exercise regime will ensure they will be fit, will be less likely to be overweight, will keep their joints mobile, and will strengthen their muscle mass. They will also get mental stimulation from going to new places and be happy that they are doing something with you. It is important to remember that like humans, your dog will need to build their running endurance over time, and they will need water along the way too.”
The benefits for you
It’s no secret that exercise leaves us feeling more energised, but despite knowing we’ll feel better afterwards, it’s easy to feel ‘treadmill-dread’ and put off getting out. Our research with the university showed that dog owners considered the prospect of running with their dog motivation to get up and go – helping them turn ‘good intentions’ into ‘action’. Additionally, findings highlighted that dog owners feel more satisfied knowing that they’re doing an activity their pet loves too – enhancing the feeling of companionship on a run and overall, making it more enjoyable.
“Despite nearly a quarter of adults in the UK owning a dog, there has been very little research investigating the role dogs play in their owners’ motivation for exercise” said Dr. Sarah Edmunds from the University of Chichester. “Results show that dog owners experienced a psychological benefit from running with their dog and interview data found participants were autonomously motivated to run with their dogs”.
Running is undoubtedly good for your physical health, but it also benefits your mental wellbeing too. Studies reveal that this form of exercise decreases symptoms of depression, alleviates anxiety and helps you sleep better. Our study even revealed that extreme feelings like fatigue and anger decrease following a run.
What is more, if you’re a regular runner who enjoys a 5K or are training specifically to run further, this new research reveals exercising with a dog can actually enhance feelings of vigour, leaving us with significantly greater feelings of stamina compared to going it alone. This is good news if you’re looking to improve your timings and cardiovascular fitness, or simply just keen to start this form of exercise.
So, what are you waiting for? Running is a sure-fire remedy for a bad mood and will leave you with a more positive outlook.
The best way to get started
You may think your dog is too hyper, poorly behaved or distracting to run alongside you. However, our findings proved that running with your pup won’t hinder your regime; instead, you will naturally accommodate the running needs of your dog. Before you dash for the door though, consider your dog’s wellbeing as well as your own. Here are our tips:
What you should do
- Start slow
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Your dog may not be accustomed to long-distance running so tire quickly before either of you has built up stamina – especially if they’re feeling over-excited. Too much too soon increases your dog’s risk of injury as well as your own. Find a training plan that will accommodate you and your dog’s fitness level so that you can progress at a healthy and safe pace
- Soft terrain
Running on softer ground such as woodland trails or over the fields will be easier on your dog’s joints and paws. Plus, the natural sights, smell and sounds will be more stimulating than running on the road. Map your route out first to ensure they are dog friendly areas and that the paths are safe for you both to run on
- Basic commands
Before you set off, ensure your dog’s recall is strong so that if you’re going anywhere cross country or off the lead, they come back to you when called. Additionally, ensure first that they already walk nicely on the lead so that when you run together, they don’t race ahead or pull you along. More advanced training such as ‘leave it’ will ensure they ignore tempting items to sniff or grab such as sticks and rubbish
What you shouldn’t’ do
- Skip warming up
Before heading out, ensure that you and your dog have given yourselves a few minutes to walk or slowly jog before setting the pace. Warming up your muscles before a long-distance run will protect you both from obtaining an injury. This is a great opportunity for your dog as well to get their sniffing and toilet breaks out of the way before you set off
- Start them too young
You really should wait until a young dog’s growth plates [areas of cartilage near the ends of bones] have started to close, and this time frame varies by breed and size of dog. Dependent on breed, a much smaller dog like a Jack Russell could start running earlier than a larger dog, like a Great Dane, whose growth plates will take longer to seal up. If a puppy is made to do particularly arduous exercise in its early life, such as going for a lengthy run on a lead along a hard surface such as a pavement, this can result in the dog sustaining long-term injuries
- Ignore warning signs
During and after your run, watch your dog for signs of heatstroke or overexertion, such as lethargy, weakness, dark red gums, vomiting, bloody diarrhea and panting to the point that they can't catch their breath. If your dog stops and refuses to continue, don't force them. Any time your dog seems overheated, find shade and give him cool or air-temperature water. Don't let your dog drink too much water during or after exercise. When they're hot and thirsty, it is possible for dogs to drink too much and suffer from potentially fatal water toxicity or from bloat, a dangerous condition in which they swallow a lot of air
Whether you are looking to get fitter and build your stamina, or simply feel running with your dog is a time-effective solution to supplementing your busy lifestyle with exercise, you may be surprised at the positive difference running alongside your canine companion can make. It’ll boost your mood, give that much-needed burst of energy and strengthen your bond. It’s time to hit the ground running – and you can bet your pup will thank you for putting them through their paces.
*The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified pet health provider with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s health*