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Running with your dog!

Spring is here and that means people are thinking about getting outside and getting in shape. This includes getting your dog in shape too. Lets be honest, we all tend to put on a few pounds during the winter months. It hard to go outside and move around when it is cold and snowing. But we don't want to think about that, it is warm, the birds are chirping, the grass is green, and your dog loves to run around the back yard and lay in the sun.

Now it is time for you to get in shape and wouldn't it be more fun for both you and your dog to do it together. Dogs love to go for walks and sniff new smells. A run can take them further and get them more tired when they come home. To start running with your dog, make sure you clear it with your vet first. You want to make sure that your dogs joints and health are were they are suppose to be. Also, your dog should be about 2 years old before you start to think about running with them. Before two year old, their joints are still growing and if you start them running and even walking long distances to soon, it can damage their joints in the long run.

To start running your dog, I would start by walking with them first to build up their endurance. You can run a little with them in the beginning but don't push them. Depending on your dog, I would start out at a mile or two first to see how they do. Once they are feeling like they can go longer on a run/walk, add another half mile to a mile. It will take time to build up mileage but your dog will be so happy that he was able to go enjoy some time with his favorite person.

A couple things you want to watch out for is their pads and chaffing. If your dog has been in the house a lot this past winter, their pads might be pretty soft and the pounding on the pavement could hurt their pads. That is another reason why you want to build up the mileage and not just push them as far as you think they will go. You could come home to their pads being ripped and bloody. A product that I recommend to help protect their pads from the pavement is mushers secret. It is a waxy like substance that you rub on your dogs pads before you go out and it will help protect their pads from the elements. If you are a trail runner, your dogs pads should be better off. The dirt and grass will help protect their pads but still be mindful and check their pad as you run. The other thing to look out for is chaffing. If you are using a harness that is not padded very well, it can cause chaffing under their armpits. I have found that the easy walk harness has caused this problem. I love the easy walk harness for walking but it is not great for running.

So how to run with your dog. I usually like my dog to run in front of me because I can watch them better and we both stay on the far side of the road. Once they start to get a little tired, they will show down and move to the side of you. At this point you should be running against traffic if you are not on a side walk and your dog should be on your left side. Drivers will be able to see you a lot better than your dog.

Their are several commands I use when running with my dog. The first one is OVER. This command I say when I want my dog to move over to the edge of the street. He is getting to far into the street for my comfort. How I teach this is to say the command OVER, then guide him over to the edge of the street with the leash. The leash is usually on is right side and along his body so he feels the leash push him. Over time, your dog will hear the command and just move over. The next command I use is LETS GO. This tells your dog to start running again. This might be after a pee break or after you stopped at a stoplight or stop sign. How I teach this is after we are stopped I say the command LETS GO and give the leash a little jerk, they know it is time to start going again. I also use this command when my dog feels like peeing on everything in his sight. Eventually you won't have to jerk the leash, they will just start to run again after hearing the command. Another command I use is LEAVE IT. I use this when my dog has to sniff everything or tries to put something in his mouth during our run. To teach this command just say the command LEAVE IT when they are going after something or sniff every inch of grass you pass, just jerk the leash a little to get them to keep moving and understand the command.

The equipment that you can use for running with your dog is either a flat nylon or leather collar, a martingale collar, or a harness. If you do run with a harness, make sure it won't chafe your dog but also if it hooks in the front of the chest, it will be easier to control your dog. The martingale collar I would recommend over the flat collar simply because they can't slip out of the martingale collar. If you have a martingale collar and a harness that hooks at the chest, you can hook them together and that way your dog cannot get loose. The leashes I would use for running is a regular 6 foot leash or a leash that you wear around your waist called a hands free leash. I have used both and I love walking my dogs with the hands free leash, but when I am running I prefer to have the leash in my hand so I have more control. I do not recommend running with a retractable leash. You don't have very good control over a retractable leash and your dog can get to far ahead of you when you are running and that is just not safe.

Honestly, it is fairly easy to run with your dog. Once they get a little tired they listen better and the more you run with them, the more they will understand what is expected of them during a run. When you do run with your dog, it builds a bond between you two (the same with training your dog), and they are happier dogs and when your dog is tired and happy so are you!

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