Running With Your Dog - The Sequel
2 Januray 2010
A dozen years ago I wrote about running with man’s best friend and a runner's worst fear, a dog. The original article appears below. Since that time, both the running world and the dog world have experienced changes that are worth mention.
First, the benefits to humans of canine running partners used to outweigh the disadvantages. Dogs provided a sense of protection for their human partners. While the proliferation of electronic fences prevents many suburban dogs from straying, the use of invisible fences has decreased the amount of time owners spend socializing their dogs with humans and other dogs. Doggy day care centers provide structured social experiences and some pampered pets see other dogs only from a DVD. We are experiencing a decline in appropriate dog social behavior among dogs and with humans, and among dog owners with each other. Unless you have access to private trails, keep your dog on a leash so you can prevent any misunderstandings.
Even with these misgivings, a canine running partner continues to offer benefits unmatched by humans or high-resolution videoscapes. A dog wants to run and will push a moderate runner to run faster – even if it is to avoid hearing the same story about missed PRs or food fetishes. A dog does not stress about politics or fashion. A dog enjoys running the same route every day and may even resist a change, although a dog will not mind exploring new routes if the reward is to meet someone with appropriate dog treats.
I offer the following updated guidelines based on a review of the September 1998 list:
- The ideal running dog has a medium-build with neither too thin a frame or too large a body; it weighs 50 to 70 pounds and has a well-groomed coat free of mats that can lead to hot spots and accumulated debris. Climate plays a key role in the suitability of a dog for running. Vizlas, Dalmations and Labrador Retrievers are well-suited for running in temperate weather conditions; German Shepherds, Siberian Huskies, and Border Collies enjoy cold seasons and certainly tolerate shorter distances in warm weather.
- Dogs with extreme body proportions may enjoy bursts of speed but they cannot be expected to tolerate much beyond a half mile. Don’t expect giant and toy dogs to be good running partners.
- Engineered breeds have physical characteristic unsuitable for intense aerobic activity -- reproduction or running. The Bulldog comes to mind. However, designer or hybrid breeds like the Airedoodle or Labradinger are emerging as attractive alternatives to AKC breeds. Mixed breeds with good dispositions and good body types are good choices, especially those with hunting breed foundations.
- Hip dysplasia is a degenerative disease that is a critical factor in the suitability of a dog to run. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) registers hip conformation for purebred dogs. See OFA.org for more information about hip dysplasia and other heritable canine diseases.
- Puppies – regardless of breed, size or disposition -- should not run long distance because their bones are developing and are vulnerable to malformation. Puppies enjoy bursts of exertion followed by intense rest throughout their growing years, which lasts until age two. By four months of age, your puppy may begin to trot half a mile within long walks. Increase the distance by 10 percent each week. Give the dog a day off running between those long (two mile) walks. Wait until the dog is two years old to begin distance training.
- Dogs also need protection from heartworm disease (mosquitoes), Lyme disease (deer ticks), intestinal parasites (dog feces, water and fleas), gunshot (deer hunters), concrete surfaces, broken glass, hormones, vehicle exhaust, road salt, and a growing number of infectious diseases.
- Migrations of cougar, coyote, and wild boar bring new threats to trail running and deer often graze in urban recreational areas. A six-foot leash secured by a belt – like the DawgByte Dog Belt® -- gives your dog room to run and gives you a tug of authority.
- Be smart about weather conditions. Dogs dissipate heat through their paws and mouths. Long-haired dogs feel the heat as much as short-haired breeds suffer in the cold. In hot weather, plan for safe drinking stops and allow your dog to run through puddles. In extreme cold weather, consider protective footwear for your partner and if necessary, a wind barrier or coat.
- Obedience training makes for good dogs. Your partner should be socialized with all kinds of humans and animals, and be respectful of any distractions, including moving vehicles, wild animals, sharp, sudden noises, terrorist attacks, and bad grammar.
- Speaking of protection, spay or neuter your dog to prevent embarrassment to yourself and your dog. While your dog is under anesthesia, have your veterinarian take care of any dangling dewclaws, have a microchip embedded for permanent identification, and register your friend with Home Again®.
- Enter a race with your dog partner? Sure, but only events specifically designed for dogs and their runners. Dog Run Dog [http://dogrundog.com/] lists appropriate venues.
Even in 2010, it is possible to be one of the lucky runners who enjoy long partnerships with a canine running partner.
Dr. Marla A. Jabbour shadow writes for her husband on topics outside his expertise. She enjoys taking their German Shepherd puppy Lady Godiva on daily hour-long walks. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever the endorphines call.
Running with your Dog
Not For All Breeds Published September 21, 1998, in The Post-Standard.
By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
A man's best friend and a runner's worst fear, a dog can also be a runner's best training partner. In the ever-changing landscape of running, many runners are trading in their human partners for the canine variety.
A canine running partner offers many benefits. A dog adds a sense of security. A dog is always ready and willing to run. A dog patiently listens and does not interrupt. A dog never criticizes your running form and never mocks your attire. A dog does not complain about work or home. A dog does not mind running the same boring route every day. A dog does not complain if you spontaneously change your daily route to check out the latest running fashion on the roads.
On the dog side, a dog that exercises is a happy dog. A dog accustomed to a running routine may shame a reluctant partner into a pair of running shoes and out of the door.
On the down side, a dog has favorite trees and water hydrants. A dog may prefer to chase a squirrel rather than your new neighbor. A dog attracts other dogs. An erratic dog may alter your running form. Finally, a large dog darting into the road may drag a smaller runner off balance.
If your puppy likes to run around, it does not mean that it is ready for the rigors of long distance running. My resident veterinary expert provides the following guidelines:
By following simple common sense, many runners enjoy long partnerships with canine training partners.
Carefully choose your breed. All dogs are not created equal. The ideal running dog is medium-built, weighs 50 to 70 pounds, and has short light hair. Greyhounds and Labrador Retrievers are good runners. Avoid large dogs like Great Danes, and small dogs like Chihuahuas, since their body proportions do not favor distance running.
Avoid engineered breeds. The breathing system of Bulldogs is ill-developed and does not permit intense aerobic activity.
Respect the heat. Dogs do not sweat. They dissipate heat through their paws and mouths. Long-haired dogs like Chows and Collies have more difficulty in the heat. Plan your running route to allow drinking stops, and let the dog run through puddles.
Beware of genetic defects. Pure breeds like German Shepherds suffer debilitating inherited conditions such as hip displasia. Mixed breeds are less susceptible to hereditary problems.
Puppies should not run long distances. Wait until the dog is 2 years old to begin distance training. Start with half a mile every other day. Increase the distance by 10 percent each week. Give the dog a day off for every day of running.
Watch the paws carefully. Dogs do not have the luxury of carbon rubber outsoles. Check the paws before and after every run for any cuts or abrasions.
Run on a soft surface. The best running surfaces for dogs are grass fields and dirt trails. Concrete and hot asphalt impair a dog's ability to dissipate heat through the paws. At the other extreme, frozen roads, ice and salt are harmful to the paws.
Keep the dog on a leash when running on public roads and trails. It is safer for everyone, and it is the law in many communities. A 6-foot leash held to your waist by a belt keeps your hands free and gives the dog room to run around you.
Keep the dog visible to traffic. At night, use a reflective dog harness, a reflective tape the length of the leash, or flashing lights around the collar.
If you must run on roads, avoid busy traffic. The dog's head and nose are at the same height as automobile exhaust pipes.
Train your dog to obey you and ignore distractions. A simple jerk on the leash should bring the dog back to your left side.
Spay or neuter your dog. A dog in heat may spoil a good run.
Never enter a race with your dog. A road race is not a safe place for a dog. Many runners fear dogs, many dogs fear crowds, and starting guns startle dogs.
Kamal Jabbour enjoyed many runs with his German Shepherd Scout, before her retirement from running.
His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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