It’s gradually starting to cool down this week in the Los Angeles area, making for mild weather and an easier time with exercising outdoors. As any owner knows and will tell you, it’s rather difficult to get a Siberian Husky to heel at your side on a loose leash. It can be taught yes, and they’re just as capable at it as the average dog — but that instinct of theirs is still telling them to RUN RUN RUN!
When you have a dog that was originally bred to run for miles a day, it’s more kind for them to go for runs than it is to go for a walk. I’m not saying you need to make each day a leg of the Iditarod, no. But unless you’re up to the task of a daily 5+ mile trek around your neighborhood, a standard walk around the block really doesn’t do much to the stamina of the average Siberian Husky. They really need and want to run, and fortunately for you, even if you’re not up to the task, they’d be more than happy to do all the work for you while you just sit back and give them directions where to go.
Bicycles are relatively inexpensive these days, especially with used bike shops to be found all over Los Angeles, freebies in classified ads or through your local Freecycle. Add in one of the many hands-free bike leashes available on the market today, such as the WalkyDog or Springer, and you’ll be set to take to the road and get some exercise. These bike leashes are mounted to the frame of the bike, making them completely hands free. They also feature shock absorption and allow you the ability to maintain control of your dog, reducing the risk of accidents that occur with a standard leash, such as the leash breaking from your hand, your dog pulling you off the bike, or leash + dog coming into contact with the wheels.
Before setting out though, be sure to go over some basic ground rules!
- NEVER run in hot weather. It should be a minimum of 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid overheating, with colder temperatures being much preferable. It’s easier to run in the morning, around 6-8am when it’s much cooler out. If it’s too warm in your neighborhood in the morning, cooler weather can usually be found a couple miles away near the beach or a mountain park. Just find out what their dog policies are before heading out!
- Start out SLOW when beginning any exercise regime with yourself or your dog and never go too fast. Jogging and trotting is good after they get used to it, running full-out is not! Overexertion can very easily occur if you let them start booking it from day one. Your dog may think he’s capable of a full marathon in the beginning, but they cannot be allowed to do so. Remember, they’re not just running by themselves, they’re pulling YOUR WEIGHT, too, if they’re going faster than you’re able to pedal! Begin slow with short distances, gradually working up with time. Ride the brake if you have to, to keep them from going too fast. And for safety’s sake, never go full-out. You always want to be at a speed that allows you to react to any danger; a tree branch in the path, other dogs, vehicles, and so on.
- ALWAYS hydrate before and after! Many people will bait a bowl of water with chicken broth to make sure their dog gets enough water before a run.
- ABSOLUTELY NO FOOD BEFORE RUNNING. Eating before exercise can cause deadly bloat in dogs. Give them a few hours before running, or forgo food until after they’ve rested from the run.
- Use a harness on your dog instead of a collar when attaching to a bike leash. If you’re only planning on a slow pace, collars are fine. But if there’s to be some amount of speed and running, where your dog may end up doing some pulling and tugging at it (not to mention if you need to stop quickly!) a harness is much safer on their bodies. You will want to get a harness, preferably with padding, that is used primarily for pulling, such as the Ruff Wear. Standard walking harnesses are not built for these types of activities and should be avoided.
- Wear a helmet and other safety gear. Helmets can save lives.
- If you’re on the street, obey your traffic laws! Go WITH traffic, never against and stay off of sidewalks as well. You’re more likely to be hit by vehicles when going against traffic and riding bikes on sidewalks (not to mention it’s against the law to do so).
- Keep collar and ID tags on your dog, in the rare instance the leash may break, he slips his harness, or another incident occurs letting him loose.
- Lastly, be sure to check your dog’s paws for injuries frequently. Asphalt on the road can be rough on their paws, as can terrain in a park. Consider using a product called Musher’s Secret to protect their feet.
Bicycling with your dog can be a very enjoyable activity, but dangerous as well if you don’t exercise caution and know what you’re doing. Use common sense before hitting the road, check your dog frequently, and bring lots of water along. If you live in a crowded neighborhood, it’s safer to find a less traveled area to bike in with your dog. There are many parks, such as Runyan Canyon, that you can go to instead.