Monday, January 21, 2013

Running With Your Dog

Just as the percentage of overweight Americans increases, so does the percentage of overweight dogs. It is estimated that 40-45% of all U.S. dogs are either overweight or obese – that’s about 35 million dogs! Similarly to humans, the best way for dogs to lose weight is to focus on diet and exercise. So what better way to get your dog in shape than to focus on getting yourself fit as well. Find an activity that you both enjoy and can benefit from – such as running.

Dogs love to run, it is in their bones. And they make a great running partner. They won’t care about the number of calories burned, or how fast/far you run, or what the weather is like. They’ll just be happy to get outside with you and be active. If you’ve been running for a while or are just looking to start, getting your dog involved is one of the best motivators. Once you get into a routine, you’ll feel obligated to not let your partner down, even if you’re not in the mood – the guilt of depriving your best friend of a favorite activity will make you never want to skip out.

Running with your dog should start with some basic training. The first step is to have your pooch trained and comfortable on a leash. It is recommended that you have a four-foot to six-foot leash and a snugly fitting flat collar to keep your dog safe at your side (a harness is also an option, but may cause chafing on longer runs). When running with your dog you’ll want to keep a few things in mind: you should be able to hold the leash while keeping your arm bent at your side in a normal running position and unlike a normal walk, you’ll want your dog’s front feet to be even with or slightly behind yours. Avoid straightening your arm and allowing your dog to get ahead of you.

When starting out, slower is better. If you or your dog (or both of you) are new to running gradually ease into a running program and begin with alternating walking and running for brief periods. Try walking for 2 minutes followed by jogging for 2 minutes throughout the entirety of your normal walk. The generally accepted guideline for increasing your running mileage is not to exceed a 10% increase (in either time or distance) a week.

As with any kind of exercise, there are a few things to be mindful of. If you need water during a run, you should provide your dog with same number of water breaks. Monitor your dog closely during the run. Watch out for signs of fatigue, pain, or overheating. If your dog begins to pant excessively, slows down, or refuses to continue, stop running. NEVER put your running goals ahead of your dog’s well-being.

Think about the terrain you are running on. Paved roads will toughen your dog’s pads and should be broken up with dirt roads or trails (which are better on your joints as well). Try finding locations where you can run in the street or on the pavement, while your dog can run mostly on grass. The Green Mill Run Greenway, South Tar River Greenway, and River Park North are great local places to take your pooch for a run.

It is suggested that all dogs should be a year or older (with closed bone growth plates) before any rigorous activity. Older dogs and overweight dogs will need different training programs than younger healthy dog. Check with your veterinarian for more details.

On March 17, HSEC will sponsor a 5K in conjunction with the annual Canine Crawl. Dogs are welcome to run in the 5K, but we have some rules:
  1. Do NOT bring your dog if he/she is younger than SIX months of age and/or is not fully vaccinated.
  2. Do NOT bring your dog if she is in HEAT.
  3. Have your dog wear current ID and rabies tag (or bring rabies certificate)
  4. Even if you are not thirsty, be sure to let your dog have plenty of access to water. Water will be provided.
  5. Keep your dog on a 6-foot or shorter leash at all times. No dragging dogs during the race.
  6. Please make sure your dog has been conditioned to run the 5k. If your dog does not run regularly, the 1 mile walk may be a better option for you and your dog.
Check back to receive some 5K training tips and see why some of our own HSEC dogs could be your prefect running partner.

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