The weather is starting to cool and my human wants to start jogging to keep in shape. I need to shed a few pounds myself! She is talking about taking me along… what precautions should we take?
Jogging in Jacksonville
Dear Jogging in Jacksonville,
An enjoyable way of keeping fit is jogging with your dog. Having your best four-legged friend along makes running less of a lonely activity and turns it into a fun experience. Just like people, dogs need exercise but also like people not all dogs are meant to be marathoners. So, before you start pounding the pavement, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Always take your dog to the vet for a full check-up before starting any new, strenuous activity: make sure that it is in good physical condition and can cope with the rigors of running (e.g. heart, lungs, joints, etc.)
- Don’t give your dog large meals and or allow him to drink excessively one hour before and after the run. This is especially important in dogs with deep chests that are susceptible to “bloat” (gastric torsion), which is a life-threatening condition (e.g. Great Danes, Dobermans Pinschers, Weimaraners, German Shepherds).
- Always remember your dog’s limitations – and remember that dogs will always try to please you, even at the detriment of their own health so don’t inadvertently force him to do anything he struggles with. Some breeds are simply not designed for sustained exercise, such as the brachycephalic breeds (e.g. bulldogs and pugs) with their shortened muzzles.
- NEVER forcibly exercise with a puppy or a young dog whose limbs might still be growing – you can cause serious damage to his joints and bones which may not be reversible.
- Build up the distance that you run gradually and give your dog time to adjust. Don’t try to do too much and go too far on your first run – it is always better to underestimate than overestimate your dog’s abilities.
- If the weather is warm and you are planning a long run, carry a water bottle for your dog or make sure your dog has access to water along the route.
- To make an ideal jogging partner, your dog must be well-behaved and obedient dog. If your dog pulls on the lead, lunges at other dogs or people, jumps up, barks at things or generally misbehaves on lead, make sure that you resolve these problems – with the help of a good trainer or obedience class - before attempting to jog together. Running with an unruly dog is dangerous – both to yourself and others.
- Always give your dog a chance to relieve himself before you start the run and make sure that you carry extra bags in case he needs to go again during the run. Always clean up after your dog!
- Always keep your dog on leash unless you are in a designated off-leash area and this is especially important if you are jogging past children playing or through busy streets with crowds and traffic.
- Beware of heatstroke! Unlike humans, dogs cannot sweat and so they can overheat very rapidly in hot weather, with fatal consequences. Black dogs, dogs with thick coats and dogs with short muzzles are the most at risk. Especially in warm weather, keep an eye on your dog and watch for any signs of heatstroke, such as: panting hard and excessively, becoming sluggish and unresponsive, being disorientated (staggering around) and bright red gums and tongue - followed by vomiting, seizures and eventually collapse and coma. If heatstroke is suspected, you must immediately lower your dog’s temperature by placing a cool—not cold, wet towel over him. Contact your vet immediately!
Exercise is a great bonding experience for you and your human and with your best friend by your side, a fitness routine can be the highlight of the day.
Best of luck,