Between work, family commitments and everyday errands, it can be hard to find the time to exercise. But if you’ve got a four-legged friend at home, running together is a great way to squeeze a workout into your day, while ticking the dog walk off your list too!
As with any new activity, it’s important to start gradually, so here are our top tips for getting started, including how to plan ahead, stay hydrated, and the optimal running conditions.
Dog breeds can vary hugely, so before you begin, have a chat with your vet to find out the optimal distance for your dog, the best kind of terrain, and any health or age concerns to be aware of. Not all are built to run far! Once you’ve got the go-ahead, figure out the best dog-friendly areas near you where you can run freely. Consider investing in a hands-free leash to make it easier to run, and a portable dog bowl too – staying hydrated is extremely important. Make sure to pack enough water for both of you.
Start with a brisk walk to help warm up their muscles (and yours!), which will help protect you both from injury. Build up slowly with training stages and shorter runs at varying speeds to build up a tolerance, which will also help your dog to get used to running with you on a leash or alongside you. Keep an eye on how tired they are by watching if they’re panting and slowing down, and finish early if necessary.
If your dog is not accustomed to running with you, start out in a safe area such as a dog-friendly park or the beach – away from fast cars and traffic. Check with the park authorities beforehand on whether the park is pet-friendly – a lot of public spaces in India discourage or ban bringing pet dogs into them. Avoid running with your earphones on so that you are aware of your dog and its needs at all times.
If you enjoy jogging along the road, go early in the mornings or later in the evenings to avoid cars and bikes (as well as the harsh heat of summer). Keep to quiet neighborhoods and bylines and avoid main roads where you can encounter speeding vehicles.
Be sure to carry along a disposable bag to dispose of waste in case you need to clean up after your pet. It’s the responsibility of every pet owner to keep their public spaces in good shape and clean up after their pets.
Check the weather beforehand, and only run if the conditions are right – dogs overheat easily in hot weather and can burn their paws on materials like asphalt or sand, so try to stay in the shade on sunny days. When you get home, always check them over for any cuts or injuries, especially on the paws, and watch closely for any signs of illness or over-exertion.
Running with your dog for company can be an ideal exercise in these times as meeting friends may not be possible because of the pandemic. According to a report, dog owners are estimated to be four times more likely than their peers to meet recommended physical activity guidelines. The study cited focuses on the role that dogs may have in keeping humans healthy. The CDC states that owning an animal can, “increase opportunities to exercise, get outside, and socialize. Regular walking or playing with pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels. Pets can help manage loneliness and depression by giving us companionship.”
Taking care of our health is so important, and finding the motivation to do so is key to maintaining a consistent regime. So while running with your pet is a great way to keep fit and healthy, there are many other factors too that contribute greatly to your wellbeing. Other than exercise, a balanced diet, a healthy lifestyle and good health insurance can ensure protection against heavy medical and financial burdens in the future.