By: Brandon Gregoire

Just as cardiovascular exercise is important for human health, it is also beneficial for our four legged companions.  Running will help maintain your dog’s weight, improve their muscle tone, and help build their endurance.  After running with dogs of all ages and breeds, I have come to the conclusion that providing dogs adequate time to run and exercise their cardio system is essential for optimal physical and mental health.  The majority of vets, dog experts, and dog owners I have spoken with agree that running, when done properly and on a schedule, is one of the best forms of exercise for dogs.  Far more then the standard 15-30 minute walk they may or may not get each day.  This article provides valuable insight for dog owners who want to start their dogs, and themselves for that matter, on a path to better health through running or faster paced customized workouts.

There are many factors to consider when running a dog, but 3 things I determine during my first consultation with any new client is age, breed, and overall health.  Prior to frequent running, I highly recommend waiting until your puppy is through its first year vaccination schedule so they are protected from other dogs.  (Most dog walking/running services will request proof of vaccinations and it’s simple pet ethics to keep your dog up to date on their shots.)  Puppies under one year are also still growing and developing.  Running too hard or for an extended period of time can be damaging to their joints and inhibit proper growth.  However, appropriate exercise is still vital to their development.  When first working with puppies and adult dogs, I focus on faster paced walks and slow to medium jogs to begin building endurance and strengthening their muscles and paw pads.  Dogs that are less active will have softer, more sensitive pads and therefor toughing of the pad is crucial for performance and to protect from injury.  In older dogs, arthritis is quite common and it is important to take this into consideration before running.   Slower jogs and shorter distances are best for the more elderly of pups!

Most dog experts and dog literature I have read suggest that not all dog breeds are made for running.  I completely agree with this statement, but I also believe that faster walks or slow jogs are very acceptable options for cardio exercise in all breeds.  According to Susan Dicks, D.V.M., an Albuquerque-based veterinarian and marathoner, “There’s no perfect running breed for all conditions, and a dog’s personality and temperament are as important as its pedigree.”  My experience has shown that even the smallest of lap dogs will benefit from a faster than normal 15-20 minute walk.  Larger breeds are able to perform at a higher level for longer periods of time, while breeds with shorter muzzles and legs are not always the most efficient runners.  However, appropriate running is advantageous for all breeds.  Working as a dog runner, I am able to develop a specific exercise plan for my clients.

This article by Runners World provides a great table matching dog breed with run type.,7120,s6-238-527–13611-0,00.html

During any workout, a run, walk, or something in between, there are a few fundamental things to pay attention to.  First and foremost, be sure you able to identify warning signs of injury or exhaustion.  A noticeable change is your dog’s gate, frequent stopping and limping, or heavy panting after the workout could be a sign of injury.  About half way through any run I will stop to offer the dog some water.  It is good to allow them to take small sips, but do not provide free reign to the water bowl.  This can cause the dog to become water logged, just like human athletes.  If any signs of injury persist, always seek your vet advice immediately.  Dog running/walking service providers should always ask for dog health background and emergency contact information, but if not, be sure to provide them with it.

Taking the running surface into consideration is something that is commonly overlooked.  When planning a run route for a client, I try hard to ensure the run does not consist of solely paved surfaces.  A diverse running route with softer surfaces, such as grass, dirt tracks, and fields, will be better for joint health and your dog’s comfort.  Dogs do not have the luxury of $150 running shoes!  The famous Houston summer can also heat up the pavement, making it more difficult for the paw pad to perspire and help cool the dog’s temperature.  During our hottest months, I enjoy early morning and evening runs with short water breaks along the way.

Running will provide dogs the daily exercise they require to enhance their healthy, happiness, and overall quality of life.  I believe if one takes the time to develop a quality exercise routine for themselves and their pets, you, and your best friend, are sure to live longer and happier lives.  If you feel that you cannot provide the amount of exercise needed for your dog, I highly recommend, and I’m sure your dog does too, you discuss your options with an experience dog runner or dog walker.  Your dog’s health is counting on you.