Dozer the dog ran the Maryland Half Marathon earlier this year. Dogs love to run. As Mark Remy of Runner’s World says of his dog, “He just loves to run. And every time he does, his face and his body telegraph one simple message: This. Is. AWESOME. I’m runningrunningrunningrunning!”
Most dog owners have considered including their canine companion in their running routine and many have made it work, but it isn’t as easy as putting on a collar and leash and hitting the pavement. Bones and cartilage are not fully developed in small dogs until after 6 months old and in larger dogs until after they are a year old, so wait until your puppy is old enough to run. Also, as with most human runners, dogs should not be fed a large meal before running.
Start slowly on pavement and monitor your dog’s foot pads and panting; keeping in mind that dogs do not sweat but rather cool themselves down through panting. Heat exhaustion is a serious risk for your dog and Renee Despres of Runner’s World notes, “Warning signs that your dog might be in trouble include slowing down, an extremely lolling tongue, foaming at the mouth and glazed eyes. The dog may become weak and wobbly or even collapse.” Heat exhaustion for both dog and humans is a critical concern in our hot, desert climate.
At the other extreme, consideration should be taken into account for your dog in cold weather. Coats and booties are available to help protect your dog from cold and ice. Keep an eye out for frostbite and Gale Bernhardt of active.com suggests, “Just like humans, dogs can experience frostbite to feet, nose and ears. Frost-bitten skin appears red, gray or whitish. If you suspect frostbite, be sure to slowly warm frostbitten areas with your hands or use warm towels. Once the areas look pink again, see your veterinarian.”
Human runners are often training for a race and there are many “Dog Run Dog” 5K and 10K races available nationally. Locally, the Doggie Dash and Dawdle (5K dash and 2-mile dawdle) is hosted by Animal Humane of New Mexico and generally occurs in the fall. The next race is November 6, 2011 at the Albuquerque Internatonal Balloon Fiesta Park. Awards are given to top finishers by age, gener, and with/without a dog. Proceeds go to Animal Humane of New Mexico. During the event, there are also many booths and vendors as well as music. The Doggie Dash and Dawdle race began in 1982; here is a report on the 2010 event.
Don’t have a dog? Consider adopting one from the Albuquerque or Rio Rancho animal shelters. Or visit Animal Humane of New Mexico or Watermelon Mountain Ranch to visit adoptable dogs.