Seeing the smile on your dog’s face as he bounds down the trail or road is one of life’s greatest joys. Their flapping ears, wagging tail, and sparkling brown eyes will always lighten my heart and lift my spirits. Having your furry best friend as your training partner who never complains, keeps pace with you, and never says a discouraging word can help you get through those tough miles.
One of the things we have to remember about our wet nosed training partner is that they are no different from us when it comes to building miles, resting, hydration, and fueling during a run.
I see a lot of people out there running long miles and I can only hope that they have laid down the foundation for those miles with their dogs. Sure, we can see when our dog is limping or lethargic, but if you get to that point you have pushed them too hard too soon. Of course, they never tell you that and they will always go out with you with enthusiasm, which is why we need to be mindful of their bodies as well as our own.
Follow the ten percent rule, carry water for them, and allow them rest days. This can be hard when you have been running for awhile and are much more advanced than they are, but if you want your furry friend along you just need to follow the same rules as you did for yourself when you started running.
Since they don’t have shoes, you should be checking their paws for any stickers, dirt, or cracks. If you are running on roads or sand, make sure it’s not burning your dog’s paws. Dogs can get sunburned too, spray on sun block is much easier to apply than lotion. Bug spray will help keep mosquitos and ticks off. Definitely, keep them on a heartworm prevention medication.
You can get a collapsible bowl for their water, and there are packs for them to carry their own gear. Keep in mind that dogs don’t sweat, they pant. You may need to let them lay in the shade for a few minutes or in a cold stream to prevent them from overheating especially for our dark furred friends.
Stay up on your dog’s veterinary appointments making sure they have a clean bill of health. Inquire about a high-energy food for your dog and make sure you tell the vet how many miles they are running and what type of miles, trail verses roads. This will help your vet know what to look for with your dog.
There are some breeds who are better runners than others. A dog with long legs and sleek short coat are going to have an easier time than short and stout. A heavy fur coat is probably not the best choice. Pick a dog with a lot of energy who is friendly to both other dogs and people because you will encounter both while running.
Dogs can be trained to stop and sit when they find a snake on the trail or another threat to both your safety and theirs.
I’ve read articles that recommend limiting the amount of miles your dog runs to a half marathon, but I’ve seen happy healthy dogs complete as many as 50 miles. Again, if falls back on training and taking care of your dog’s healthy as you would for yourself or a human child.