Once you have both warmed up, let your dog have a sniff around and take a toilet break so this will hopefully mean fewer mid-workout pit stops once you get started. With time, you can train your dog to urinate and defecate on demand by taking them to the place where they usually go and using a verbal cue. We like the simple command "toilet" but you can choose whatever suits you best. 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.
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, so it is important to start gently, don’t run too often, and keep your dog/s on soft terrain.
If you are confident the weather conditions are favourable for your first run together, ensure your equipment i.e. hands free running leash and harness for your dog is fitted correctly and that you are both comfortable. (Don't forget those all important poo bags so you can clean up after your dog appropriately). We recommend that you start out on a grassed oval and put those running commands into practice. Be prepared for your first run together potentially not going to plan the first time round, but we are confident that it will improve over time as your dog learns your body language and as you begin to read their movements. You may encounter good and bad days but don't be afraid to call it quits early and come back and try again the next time. There may also be the odd trip or tumble and that's why grass is a good option while your training continues. Even the more experienced runners can occasionally take a tumble if a dog suddenly reacts out of character and catches us by surprise.
Once you feel confident enough to try alternate running routes, 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 that you have plenty of time for active recovery and catching your breath (and don't feel you have to follow them precisely). Should you decide to run on harder or rougher terrain or trails, you may wish to consider applying a barrier wax to your dogs paw pads in order to provide them with greater protection. On these sorts of surfaces we recommend checking your dogs paws at regular intervals to ensure they are free from tears, cuts or abrasions. You need to ensure you keep a close watch on your dog during this increased learning phase because they will likely not want to stop. It’s up to us to keep their enthusiasm in check while they are learning this new skill.
Medibank has a comprehensive eight week training plan you can download which will gradually build you and your dog up to a five kilometer distance. You will need to use this program as a guide to build your strength and endurance and may need to alter the program so that it works for you as well as your dog by watching their cues. Another training program you may wish to utilise comes from Pooch to 5K.
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!
Although cuts and grazes are a rare occurrence, one final check of their paws and paw pads when you return home will ensure you quickly pick up any injuries they may have sustained along the way. We also recommend running your hand all over them to check for any grass seeds or ticks if you have been in a grassy or tick prone area (after they have cooled down appropriately of course). If you associate this process with treat rewards they'll even look forward to this close time with you after their run.
To keep you and your pet safe when running, always seek clearance from your veterinarian and consider: