In recent years we’ve seen Britain’s sporting elite climb to the top of their game with the likes of Mo Farah and Jess Ennis-Hill inspiring more of us than ever to dust off those trainers and hit the pavement. However, despite our best intentions and New Year’s resolutions, an estimated 57% of adults and 52% of dogs in the UK are overweight or obese. At the crux of the matter is an imbalance between calories eaten and those burnt through daily activity and exercise. Our Felcana Go dog fitness tracker monitors your dog’s activity to help stay on track with your activity goals.
Running is one of the most popular activities in the UK with an estimated 29,100 participants in 2015/16. After all, there are no contracts, all you need is yourself and a pair of trainers, but it can be all too easy to hang up those running shoes when illness, work or a heat wave gets in the way of your scheduled workouts. Many fitness sites state having a workout buddy can be key to consistency and motivation in your training but where can you find a non-judgemental friend with the same fitness goals as you, working to the same schedule and in the same area? Look no further than your four legged companion!
So here are our top tips for building your bond, exploring your local area and of course getting a good workout with your new running partner:
1. Identify whether your dog is cut out for running
Just because your dog is not great on the lead or is happier when let off the lead the doesn’t mean they won’t be able to run with you. With a few training sessions (and patience) controlled lead running could be just what they need to keep their mind focused on the task! However, if your dog has a health condition such as arthritis or is a brachycephalic breed (e.g. pugs, frenchies and bulldogs), their bodies may not be able to cope with the added strain of running and you should consider a lower impact, less strenuous exercise instead. Furthermore, old dogs and puppies both have delicate joints so should be limited in their daily activity. The Kennel Club suggests a ratio of five minutes’ exercise per month of age up to twice a day until the puppy’s fully grown. Similarly, certain breeds such as Chihuahuas don’t need as much exercise as their bigger counterparts and their usual walks may do just fine. If you’re at all unsure whether to start running with your dog always check with your vet first.
2. Start slow
You wouldn’t go from completely sedentary to running a marathon, even if you were able to complete the miles your body probably wouldn’t be in a good way afterwards, and the same goes for your dog! So, if you’re a seasoned runner keen to get your dog involved in the fun, it’s vital to hold yourself back and build them up slowly. Programmes such as couch 2 5k can provide a good structure for building you and your dog’s strength and stamina with slow and steady progression. Felcana Go can show you the changes in your pet’s activity over time so you can make an exercise plan and stick to it. It is important to also pay attention to how your dog is coping, if they’re panting excessively, unwilling to continue, have discoloured gums (light pink is ideal), are drooling or show any signs of distress stop immediately and if you’re concerned consult your vet. Dogs can only sweat from glands on their feet and with their fur coats they’re far more susceptible to heat stroke than us.
3. Check the weather
We may be a nation of sun-worshipers, but hot temperatures and clear skies aren’t the best conditions for dogs to run! If you do take them out be sure to do so early in the morning (6-7am before it has had a chance to warm up) and in the evening (10-11pm – be sure to bring lights and reflective clothing so you’re both seen. Turn on the LED light on Felcana Go to help your dog be seen by other road users. Remember, if the pavement’s too hot for you to hold your hand on, it will be too hot for your dog’s paws. Similarly, paws can be harmed from excessive cold and salt treatment on roads during snow/ice, this, combined with the slippery surfaces mean it’s probably best to give running in the snow a miss unless both you and your pup are experienced and have the right kit.
4. Take everything you need
Most dog owners are used to packing the essentials for a walk – doggy bags, treats, keys, phone (with your vet’s number saved – in an emergency you don’t want to be waiting for your 3G too kick in!). When going on a run be sure to take all the essentials, including some water and a portable bowl for your pup (it’s recommended you stop every 10 minutes to offer water – it’s always better to be over cautious and they can choose to leave it). It’s also recommended that dogs run on a harness rather than with the lead attached to the collar. You should get your dog used to wearing the harness on walks first before heading off for a run. If you want a ‘hands free’ experience you can invest in round the body leads, but be sure to have your hands ready to grab the lead if the situation changes or you ever feel you’re losing control! Before you head out of the house make sure to let someone know where you plan on going and how long you expect to be.
5. Warm up properly
Warm ups are important for any run to get your muscles working and avoid injury but they’re even more important when running with your dog as it gives them time to do their business before you set off and hit your stride.
6. Protect your dog
Make sure your dog is vaccinated as they’ll be coming into contact with other dogs and possibly wildlife which may act as vectors for disease. Moreover, your dog should be protected against worms, especially if they like to pick up a cheeky snack on route. It is also important to make sure they’re protected from ticks if they’ll be rooting around in the undergrowth, either by a spot on treatment, oral tablet, or tick repellent collar, and get yourself a tick twister for those pesky ones that slip through the net. Last but not least, protect them from the elements, for example sun cream on pink noses in the sun and paw protection boots in the winter.
7. Keep your dog under control
If your dog doesn’t walk well on the lead, build up to running slowly by rewarding good behaviour. Also, be sure your dog has a reliable recall before letting them off the lead – while they may be the friendliest dog around, the one they choose to make friends with could not be! Remember, any dog can be unpredictable, so keep you and your dog as safe as possible by keeping them on the lead around any form of traffic. Teaching the ‘leave it’ command can also be helpful to guide your dog away from any ‘temptations’ e.g. roadkill and rubbish.
8. Cool down properly
Cooling down allows both you and your running buddy’s muscles to adjust from running to walking, and prevents injury. Be careful to wait at least an hour after exercise before feeding them to prevent bloat – which is potentially fatal (and give them an hour before running for any food to go down).
The most important thing is that you and your four-legged friend have a safe and fun time out on the trails. You never know, in a couple of years’ time you and your dog together could be giving Mo Farah a run for his money!