Running With Your Dog

I’ve been a dog-lover all my life.

I grew up with dogs, I rescued dogs in college and to this day, I am a very proud dog Mom of young Preston, five months old, shown above.

Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while may recall our two older Weims, Graham and Daisy, who lived to the ripe old ages of 13 and 15, respectively, something I strongly feel is largely due to the fact that they both ate a real food (Paleo) diet and moved every day (they ran their little bums off!).

And this isn’t just coming from me, the Paleo, fat adaptation advocate that I am. It turns out that dogs are actually inherently better suited to use fat as their fuel (hmmm… this ringing any bells?)

When humans run, we start out burning mostly glycogen, which is stored carbohydrates. Dogs don’t, partly because they have more mitochondria in their muscles than we do. Dogs burn fat as their primary endurance fuel, and carbohydrates are not very important for them, says Dr. Joseph Wakshlag, a professor of clinical nutrition and sports medicine at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, N.Y in an interview in the New York Times[1].

They don’t need to be fueling up with extra carbs any more than we do; the only difference being that the sports nutrition industry has done a great job at making us think otherwise!

No doubt about it, dogs, like us humans, are animals who are meant to move.

Certainly there are some breeds more so than others; I can’t honestly say that I remember ever seeing a Yorkie or a Bichon Frise competing in the Iditarod, but then, not every human chooses running as their activity, either.

But if you happen to love running, and you happen to love dogs, there’s a beautiful synergy to be experienced by combining the two.

At the same time, you’ll both keep fit and lean (even more so if you both eat properly), you’ll both be calmer during the day and you’ll both narrow your chances of developing many health problems.

The pros of a canine running partner can be numerous, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association[2]. Many runners say their dog enjoys running and helps keep them motivated – after all, you might be able to shrug off your human workout partner’s teasing when you skip a workout, but it’s tough to ignore the expectant look of a canine workout partner (or their cold nose against your skin, which is much more effective than an alarm clock!). It can be great exercise and, given our two- and four-legged populations’ trend toward being overweight, it’s pretty clear we all need more exercise. Running can also be a good bonding experience for both of you.

If you’re new to running, or having a dog, or having a dog that’s new to running, there are some tried and true factors to consider in order to ensure an enjoyable experience for all, one that leads to regular runs, walks, hikes or whatever speed happens to suit your fancy.

Rather than risking your dogs’ health, or yours, it pays to be mindful of the risks and plan accordingly.

Terrain: Remember that you’re most likely wearing well-padded shoes that provide support and cushion when you run, but your dog is barefoot. Being barefoot isn’t that tough when a dog is running on grass or other natural ground surfaces, but running on concrete, asphalt, gravel or other hard surfaces can put a lot of stress on your dog’s body and can put them at risk of injury to their legs, paws or paw pads.

Breed: Your dog’s breed (or predominant breed) may play a role, too. Factor in the size and body type of the dog; including the size of their nose. Dogs with short noses like pugs are more likely to have breathing issues, making running a bit trickier.

Weather:   Both too hot and too cold can prove dangerous.   Your dog is wearing a fur coat, even in the summer. And he’s not wearing crampons in the winter, either. Have you ever run in a fur coat? Your dog is doing it every time they run, so if you’re feeling warm, your dog is feeling much warmer.

Dogs don’t sweat like we do, either; a dog’s primary method of cooling is panting, and it’s not as efficient as sweating.

Collar/ Harness: consider using a harness in lieu of a collar that could potentially harm your dog’s neck in the event he were to pull too fast, too hard in a mad dash to catch a squirrel. Better yet, find a trail where he can safely run off leash with you

While you can certainly opt to just hit the trails and enjoy an incredible morning run, dogs, like us, also need to build their endurance, stamina and strength.

You may be lucky enough to live in an area with a running club catering to dogs, such as Washington DC, where veterinary neurosurgeon Laruen Talarico founded We Ruff DC, a running club specifically for dogs and their owners[3].

She provides free training programs and support to help two- and four-legged runners alike get fit, lose weight, and feel good.

Not to worry if there’s no dog run club in your neck of the woods, though. Just by providing a variety of terrain in the appropriate climates and varying what you do, day in and day out is a great starting point.

Add eating a proper diet (think about it- do you really want to give your dog corn, rice and wheat) into the mix and you’ll set yourself and your canine family members up for a long, fruitful life filled of running adventures!

[1] “Feeding Your Canine Athlete.” Well Feeding Your Canine Athlete Comments. N.p., 20 Aug. 2014. Web. 06 Aug. 2015

[2]  Run, Spot, Run!” Run, Spot, Run! American Veterinary Medical Association, n.d. Web. 06 Aug. 2015

[3] “The Perfect Running Program for Your Dog.” Runner’s World. Rodale, 25 Feb. 2015. Web. 06 Aug. 2015