I’d like to take up running with my dog and maybe even race with her in the future. What’s the best way to start and what advice do you have for making it a success?
Denise Price advises…
First of all, be sure running is suitable for your dog. A canine running companion will need to be fully grown, as too much exercise can be harmful to the developing bones of younger dogs and puppies. Your dog must be generally fit and well, so if you think they are a little overweight or senior, or has any known health issues, a vet check would be sensible.
Consider the breed of your dog – some can run and run and run, such as Siberian Huskies, Dalmatians and many working dogs. Others may have less stamina, shorter strides and be more suited to gentle jogs or perhaps Nordic walking.
Equipment is the next step. Just as you’ll need the right kind of running equipment (trail shoes for cross-country and some jazzy Lycra), so your dog will need a comfortable harness. I prefer to connect my dog to a padded waist/hip belt, using a bungee type of lead and she wears a harness that does not restrict her leg or shoulder movement in any way.
Now for the actual exercise. Take it slowly to begin with. Just as with any new exercise regime, human and canine alike, start gradually. Think along the lines of a ‘Couch to 5K’ programme where you build up the distance, duration and running intervals progressively. Don’t expect your dog to be able to do a 5K run on day one; build the level of fitness steadily. If your dog is reliable off the lead, a good option is to jog together for short intervals off-lead to begin with. That way, they can break off for a sniff when they wish and you can gauge how they are doing. Incorporate water breaks into your run too – you’ll both need to stay hydrated.
Finally, don’t forget both of you need to stretch afterwards – walk it off and teach your dog to ‘take a bow’.
There are canicross events across the country, so connect with a local group and get started.