Working Out with Your Dog

The loneliness of a long distance runner is a reality for many runners and walkers who are balancing family, a full-time job and a workout routine. Day after day you hit the road—pushing yourself to get through the workout. If you just had a training partner to help get you through some of those long days, your life certainly would be much easier.

Having a training partner can be the difference between choosing to workout each day or deciding instead to vegetate in front of the television set. Instead of searching the city for the perfect workout buddy, look no further than your backyard. Your family dog can make the ideal training mate.

Your dog won’t complain about the route that you run, the weather, or the way that you smell when you’re finished with your workout. However, working out with your canine does take some planning and careful consideration before you head out the door. The following tips will make your workout more enjoyable for you and your pooch.

Can My Dog Work Out with Me?

Most dogs will be able to tag along with you on your next walk or run, but some are better suited than others for the longer distances that runners and walkers tend to cover. If you don’t yet have a dog, and are seeking one that will also make a good training partner, you have countless options.

Mixed breeds are actually some of the best athletes because they aren’t as susceptible to hereditary problems as pure breeds. Retrievers, labradors, and many hunting dogs, as well as sighthounds, herding dogs and working dogs are also excellent runners. Particularly large and small breeds, however, like Great Danes and Chihuahuas, don’t handle distance running well, but can walk with you without problem. Dogs with smaller snouts, like bulldogs, pugs, and King Charles Cavaliers, should also be restricted from running because of their inability to breathe efficiently. However walking will do them no harm.

Visit the Vet

Before you even think of putting the leash on your dog and cruising the local streets, have your veterinarian give your dog a good once over. He will want to check out your pet’s cardiovascular system and joints, and may be able to provide you with additional tips that will make the experience more enjoyable for both you and your dog.

Check with the Weatherman

Dogs cannot handle the weather as efficiently as you can. Before you head out the door, make sure it is safe for your dog. Dogs cannot handle extreme heat. Hot weather puts them at greater risk for heat stoke and dehydration. If you workout early in the morning or when the sun goes down, you can avoid many of these heat related problems.

Train Your Dog

If your dog doesn’t obey you, running or walking will be a nightmare. It’s important that your dog is obedient and can follow basic commands such as “stop” and “sit,” and can be summoned when you call his name. A leash will also eliminate many problems. You’ll want to make sure you choose a leash that is safe for your dog. You can even purchase leashes that are specifically designed for working out.

Start Easy

Don’t take your dog out on your favorite ten miler on the first run or walk up the side of a mountain. You’ll need to give your pet some time to adjust to exercise. If you’re a runner, you’ll want to start by alternating running and walking—mostly walking during the first few weeks. Your dog will get in shape much more quickly than you do, so be patient for a few weeks, and before you know it your dog will be pulling you through the run. Walkers can work their dog in more quickly.

Monitor Your Dog

Just as you monitor your own condition while you’re working out, you need to keep an eye out for your pooch. Watch for limping, signs of discomfort, panting or anything that might look unusual. This is usually a sign that your pet is ready for a much-needed break. If you notice any of these signs, stop and walk or give your dog a chance to catch its breath. If the behavior continues, he may need to take a day or two off from workout out.

Keep the Fluids Handy

Because dogs sweat only through the pads of their feet and rely on panting to cool themselves, they’re much more vulnerable to heat exhaustion than their two-legged partners. A good rule of thumb is to give your dog access to fluids for every 20 minutes of activity. You may want to schedule a stop at home so your dog can gulp down some water before you continue on your run. It is also important to hydrate once the workout is complete.

Dogs in the Running

Some breeds are much better suited to distance running and intense walking sessions than others. Want to see how your pooch measures up? Here are some of the best running breeds—and keep in mind that a mixed breed often makes the best running partner: Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Dalmations, Greyhounds, Afghan Hounds, Weimaraners, Dobermans, Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, Huskies, Akitas, English Setters, Irish Setters, and German Shepherds.

Now that you have found the perfect training partner, the only challenge left is to try to keep up with your little workout buddy each day. The exercise that you do together each day will not only make you a healthy and happier dog owner, it will also bring you closer to the one training partner who will love you unconditionally—your family dog!