Safely run with your dog in the summer

Just like with people, obesity is on the rise dog world as well. Routine exercise is an excellent way to fight weight gain and it’s also a great stress reliever. Exercising with man’s best friend is a special way to bond and stay active with your dog. Let’s face it, your dog is probably the best workout wing-man there is. They never complain how long or short the run is, and they are ready to go anytime of the day- as long as they are with you.

I like to run with my running buddy Koopa Troopa, a six year old Border Collie mix. I’m a military wife and mother of two girls. I’ve lived in the Ottawa Valley for the last 11 years, coming from Nova Scotia. I have two cats; Captain America and Hank, but they don’t like to run much. Koopa is an excellent running buddy.

He loves to be at my side at all times and will show his displeasure when I’m not near- he has quite the “signing” voice. His favourite post run meal is homemade banana muffins, really anything homemade that his long legs can reach. He is a master thief and I have the Tupperware bill to prove it. His top three favourite things in life are running, muffins and his mom- that’s me!

I started running five years ago when a friend signed me up for the Army Run Half Marathon and the rest is history. Koopa and I continue to run together several times a week. He is energetic and always has an encouraging way about him. He’s been a great companion to navigate the world of canine exercise during this hot summer weather, and this is what I’ve learned from him.

Before starting a new exercise routine there are some helpful suggestions and safety tips you should know about how to safely exercise with your dog this summer:

Try to run in the early morning or late evening when it’s cooler; always check the pavement to ensure that it’s cool and try to stick to shaded areas.

Pack enough water for both you and dog; you can carry a collapsible bowl in a running bag.
Bandannas are a great option for a quick cool down; soak it in cold water before you hit the road.
Look for signs of heat stroke; this includes increase panting, increase drooling, fast heat rate, lethargy and lagging behind- if you notice any of these symptoms, call your veterinarian right away!

Remember to check your dog’s paw pads after running to ensure no sores or cuts have developed.
Different breeds of dogs handle certain weather conditions differently; your short nose breeds (Pugs, Shih Tzu, Pekinese) are going to have a harder time breathing in the heat, and thicker coated breeds (Huskies, St. Bernard, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Great Pyrenees) are going to get hotter faster. It’s important to understand your dog’s limitations.

If you are just starting out running with your dog then it’s important to note that everyone- dogs included- is at different levels of fitness. Start off slow and work your way up to the longer distances and faster paces. Remember that your dog is happy just to be out with you, regardless of the distance and speed of your run. They can hurt themselves if they are not conditioned properly. Watch for any lameness or signs of pain.

Heading out for a run today with your pet? Here’s what to bring:

  • ID tags- make sure your pet’s got them!
  • Lots and lots of water, and a bowl or bottle your pet can easily drink from.
  • Poop bags; no one wants to step in that…
  • We recommend your dog be up-to-date on vaccinations, because you never know what you will run into.
  • Tick/Flea and Heartworm prevention is a must- whether you are on the trail or pavement, those pesky parasites are everywhere!
  • Light for collar if running at night.
  • Always have a leash for your dog- I use a gentle leader and 4 foot leash.

By Melissa Fitzgerald, VA

Melissa is a Veterinary Assistant at Pembroke Animal Hospital. She has been working at PAH for over 10 years. She enjoys staying active and spending time with her daughters and her fur-family.