Marathon Monday…one of our favorite days of the year! How can you not be inspired watching thousands of determined runners pounding the pavement towards Boylston? Every year It inspires us to lace up our sneaks and hit the road. And this year it got us thinking, hey, why not bring the pup?
We did some research about what to know before taking your dog from couch to 5K. Here are some tips we’d like to pass along.
Consider these issues BEFORE you hit the road!
Not every dog is cut out for running. Consider his age and overall health first. Young dogs, for example, need to develop their bones and joints before they can safely run (age 2-ish), while older dogs with joint issues, like older people, will benefit from lower intensity exercise. Some breeds are also less adept at running, particularly those short-nosed ones (think pugs and bulldogs) who are susceptible to respiratory issues. Obviously, you know your dog and his or her health restrictions, but it’s always wise to consult with your trusty vet first!
Have a Training Plan
Whether it’s couch to 5K or marathon training, most “human” runners have some sort of training plan or regimen, so it makes sense to have a plan in place for your dog.
First and most importantly, make sure he has good leash manners. If he’s pulling you or veering off to chase other runners, your run won’t be enjoyable for either of you. Get him reliably trained to “heel” before you pick up the pace.
You may be a hardcore runner used to intervals and distance running, but keep it simple with your pup. Start slow and build up. Experts say most dogs can safely handle 2-3 miles at a time.
The Route Matters
Consider that your dog is essentially running on bare feet so consider finding a soft surface trail over a concrete road. A remote route without cars and people constantly whizzing past can also make for a safer and more enjoyable jog.
Fortunately, we have tons of great off-road options here on the Cape! Two of our favorites are Crow’s Pasture in Dennis and Kent's Point in Orleans. We’ve also heard that the trails at Gray’s Beach in Yarmouthport offer beautiful views and nice terrain.
The Gear Also Matters
One of the great benefits of running is that it really requires minimal gear. But when you add your dog into the equation, you have to up the ante on the gear. If you’re running in the heat, consider carrying water and a collapsible bowl to keep him (and you!) hydrated. We love this Pendleton one, which folds up small enough to tuck in a pocket. Have a sturdy non-retractable leash and make sure his collar is tight enough that it won’t slip off, but not so tight to cause chaffing.
Back to those bare feet. His paws are tough, but remember that they’re not protected by the highly-engineered running shoes you’re wearing. Always check your dog’s paws after a run to make sure they haven’t suffered any cuts or burns or don't have debris stuck between the pads. If the pavement feels hot to the touch with your hand, it’s too hot for his paws. In the winter, salt treated roads can be irritating (or worse, poisonous), and snow and ice can crack the pads. Consider booties like these Pawz Waterproof Dog Boots if your dog will tolerate them.
Know the Signs of Heat Exhaustion
If you’re hot, your dog is even hotter. Apart from the fact that he’s wearing a fur coat, he doesn’t sweat like we do. Instead, dogs cool down by panting. Pay attention to him and watch for signs of distress including excessive panting, lameness, limping, disorientation or stumbling, reddened gums, vomiting or sudden stopping. If it looks like he's in trouble, stop immediately, seek shade and cool him down with tepid (not ice) water. For safety sake, experts say just avoid running if it’s 80 degrees or above and stick to the early mornings or evenings during the summer months.
Poop Happens – What are you gonna do about it?
It’s not fun carrying a bag of poop on your run, but be prepared to do so. If you’re not running in an area where you’ll be passing a trash barrel, consider this nifty invention called The Poop Transporter. It attaches to the leash, includes bags AND has a pouch to hold the "contents" until you can dispose of them. It's versatile (comes in 3 sizes), colorful (you choose), doesn’t retain odor, and attaches to the leash in such a way that it doesn’t dangle, which would be annoying on a run! Ideally, you’ll get your pup to do his business before you hit your running stride (a quick walk will usually do it for our guys), but better safe than sorry!
We hope these tips help and that you'll get outside with your pup and enjoy this beautiful weather -- at whatever speed you choose!