For most of the US, spring is in full effect. Now that the snow line is receding and the daylight hours are increasing, many of us are planning our running training calendars, long distance mountain bike rides, peak-bagging missions and other fitness goals.
We realize that to accomplish our goals, we need to train and get in shape, and the same goes for our dogs. Although they may try to keep up for the long haul, our dogs really need to build up slowly in order to ensure safety and maximum enjoyment for everyone.
Our dogs can be the best training partner we’ve ever had – Runner’s World magazine even ran a story called, “Five reasons to run with your furry friend”. Here are some tips to help you and your dog get into shape safely!
- Don’t start too early. It is best to allow puppies to fully develop their bones and joints prior to starting high impact activities. You can get out and hike or go for short light runs with puppies but wait until their bodies are ready before doing longer, high impact activities like mountain biking and long runs. How long should you wait? That tends to vary by size and breed of dog. Check with your veterinarian for what is right for your puppy.
- Start small and slowly build up distance and/or time. This allows your dogs fitness level to slowly increase naturally while also allowing the paw pads to toughen up and adapt to this new lifestyle of active fun.
- Stay hydrated! Make sure that you have a regular source of water for both you and your dog. For the dog, this could be a flowing creek or river, carrying a collapsible dog bowl or using a dog hydration pack.
- Make it fun! You may be trying to achieve targeted training goals, which is great, but we recommend keeping these training outings fun by providing regular excited encouragement and reward for your dog. A few animated “good dog!” affirmations and maybe a stick toss here and there can confirm that this whole outdoor adventure thing is awesome – not that many dogs need a reminder of that!
Pay attention to your dog. They have many subtle ways of telling us that they are tired, hot or uncomfortable. Here are a few clues to look for:
- Slowing down, completely stopping or sitting down. This can tell you that they are getting tired and may need a rest.
- Excessive panting – dogs naturally pant when exercising so here you really need to know your dog’s natural habits. If you think they are panting too much, chances are they need a break or may be overheating. If the temperatures are very hot, think about planning your trips along creeks, lakes or rivers where your dog can take a quick dip to cool off or try the Swamp Cooler™ cooling vest, a great tool for keeping dogs cool when temps rise.
- Licking at paws – Start by checking the paw pads and in between the toes. If their paw pads are not used to rough surfaces they can become raw or tear (but should toughen up over time). If you do not see any sores on the pad, check between the toes for thorns, cheatgrass, or other objects that may be causing irritation. If the pad does rub raw or tear, give it time to heal before running again. A little vet wrap and a dog boot can help keep the pad protected.
- A dog’s tail can speak volumes about their current state. When starting your run, if their tail is up and wagging and later you notice the tail tucked between their hind legs, this could be another sign that they are tiring and need a break.
Recreating with our dogs is what drives us here at Ruffwear. It’s what we look forward to when we aren’t obsessing over new gear that will support future adventures. The bond formed outdoors is everlasting and that is why we agree that a dog is the best companion around for training, playing and all other outdoor excursions.