Dogs make great running partners. They're enthusiastic and motivated, and they act as a good reminder that your workout is waiting.
The problem is that not all dogs are ready to run. No matter how energetic they seem at the house, if your dog isn't in running shape, you might end up walking him back home.
Try these four tips to get Fido ready to hit the ground running.
Basic Training Tips
Before you start running with your dog, make sure he is healthy and ready for the exercise. Dogs that are too old or too young might not be able to handle a running program. In fact, dogs that are younger than 18 months should stick to walking. Puppies' bones are still developing up to 18 months old and running can impact the development of bones for optimal long-term physical integrity. Walking with a younger dog will help build a strong base for a future running program.
For dogs that are 18 months or older, start the same way you would. If your dog is new to running, don't set out for a 5-mile run. Start slow and build your mileage together. Consistency over time is the best approach.
How Far To Run
Start with a 10-minute run and then add 10 minutes each week until you reach your desired time or distance. Gradual build up allows for the muscles and connective tissue to adapt and grow to the activity without injury.
With time, your dog will adapt to your pace. This can be frustrating in the beginning. Many dogs want to go much faster than you are capable of and you find yourself trying to hang on to the leash. Others dogs may lag behind and appear distracted, which leads many dog owners to think their dog doesn't like to run.
In both cases, the dog simply doesn't know what he's supposed to do. You have to teach him how to be a runner. With a little patience and time, the two of you will be running side-by-side at a good pace.
Leash Training Tips
Dogs that already walk nicely on a leash will transition to running with ease. A dog that pulls can be challenging.
The first thing to do is shorten the leash. If you have a 6-foot leash, and you let your dog get in the habit of walking ahead of you, he'll continue to pull. Instead, keep the leash short enough that your dog is by your side, 2 to 3 feet at the most.
5K or 10K Training Plan
There are many 5K and 10K running plans to help you build distance and pace. You can try one of those or start out with something even easier.
To start, figure out your average mile time. Use a local track or mark the distance in your car and then time your mile run at a comfortable pace.
Once you have a comfortable pace, take that time and multiply it by the miles to get your run time for a 5K (3.1 miles) or 10K, (6.2 miles). Example: 11-minute mile x 3.1 miles = 34.1 minutes
Begin running with your dog 10 minutes every other day for a week. Then, the next week add another 10 minutes to your running time. Continue training every other day. The third week add another 10 minutes. The fourth week add another. Continue this process until you reach your projected time. Once you reach your projected time, keep running with your dog.
It will take time and patience to get your pup ready, but with a little guidance and practice you'll end up with one of the best running partners you could hope for.
Find your next race.