Our muscles are what propels us into action and the same goes for our dogs. Research has repeatedly shown that warm up and cool down sessions improve athletic performance and reduce the risk of physical injury. A warm up revs up the cardiovascular system by raising the bodys temperature and increasing blood flow to muscles, and uniformly fires the motor neurons that control your muscles.
Warm up routines should vary according to the level of exertion expected of your dog/s, and will also depend on the age of your dog and their orthopedic history.
You may wish to warm up by doing five to ten minutes of walking or slow jogging which you can gradually increase in pace once your dog has had a chance to sniff around and get any toilet stops out of the way. This will mean fewer stops and fewer injuries for your both later on.
If you have a calm and tolerant dog, you may wish to integrate some stretching of their hip and shoulder flexors, back and chest into their warm up routine.
Just as we need to start out and gradually and build our distances, so do our dogs. Too much too soon may put you or your dog at risk of injury. Settle on a running plan that you feel may work for you both at a safe, manageable and healthy pace. Many of these running plans combine intervals of walking and jogging so there's plenty of time for active recovery and catching your breath (and don't feel you have to follow them precisely). Start gently, don’t run too often and keep your dog/s on soft terrain. Make sure you watch them because a lot of dogs don’t want to stop when they should. It’s up to us to keep their enthusiasm in check.
Medibank has a comprehensive eight week training plan you can download which will gradually build you up to a five kilometer distance. Just as you need to watch for your dogs cues, you will need to use this program as a guide to build your strength and endurance and you may need to alter the program so that it works for you. Another training program you may wish to utilise comes from Pooch to 5K.
Hydration for both you and your dog while on a run is vital. We lose a lot of fluid during exercise and your dog is likely to be working harder than you due to their fur coat. Hydration helps the muscles to work effectively, supports swift reflexes and enables the body to flush out toxins, and so water provision should be an integral part of exercise for your dog, before, during and after.
Be prepared for your water breaks along your route. Carry a collapsible container or bowl with a special spout for dogs and ensure you are aware of the water sources available to you along your chosen route. Alternatively you or your dog can carry your own water in the form of a hydration pack or dog pack harness . You are the best judge of when you think it may be time to stop for a water break and the frequency will also depend on the weather and intensity of your run. If you are still learning your dog’s behaviour, then try to stop every ten minutes until you can get a better gauge of your dogs thirst. Don't let your dog gulp too much water during or after exercise. When they're hot and thirsty it is possible for dogs to drink too much and suffer from potentially fatal water intoxication or from bloat - a dangerous condition in which they swallow a lot of air (or food). So it is wise to offer them water after your run, but to wait until they are cool and relaxed before giving them free rein to drink as much as they want.
During and after your run watch your dog for signs of heatstroke or overexertion - like lethargy, weakness, drooling and dark red gums, vomiting, bloody diarrhoea, or panting to the point that he/she can't catch their breath. If your dog stops and refuses to continue, don't force them. Any time your dog seems overheated you should find shade and give them cool or air-temperature water. If your dog is physically hot when you get home, soak a towel in some cool (not cold) water and wrap it around them until they become cooler and more relaxed. You can also wet their head or body or find some water to cool off in. Always seek immediate veterinary attention to give them the all clear. Heatstroke in dogs can be prevented by taking caution not to expose a dog to hot and humid conditions. Dogs are people-pleasers and most will continue to run until collapse - so its up to us to do our best to keep them safe!