Last week our 12 year old coon hound mix, Maximus, passed away. His departure has been difficult for our family, but it also helped us recall the many wonderful memories that involved our furry family member. As so many of those memories involved activity and the outdoors, I thought it only fitting to dedicate this blog post to my original exercise partner. Max was our running buddy, rock climbing anchor, mountain cycling pacer, hiking partner, and a professional snowball catcher. This entry is for those dog owners, (or future dog companions) out there who exercise with their pets, or would like to start doing so. I’ve put together a little list of tips to optimize the exercise experience for you and your dog.
1. Account for your dog’s age. If you plan to go out for long runs, give your puppy’s bones a chance to mature as doing too much too soon can be painful for them. Ask your vet when would be a good age for your individual dog to start logging structured miles. As dogs age, (or decrease activity) their health is impacted much the same as humans. Be sure their joints are up for the type of activity that you’re doing and consider that when choosing the volume and intensity of the workout. Older dogs may need a slower progression and more recovery time.
2. Follow the rule of progression. If your dog is unaccustomed to activity, start off nice and easy, just as humans should! Give your dog’s heart, lungs, muscles, and joints a chance to acclimate to new activity levels and slowly increase with progressions in duration and/or intensity. Incorporating rest or active recovery days (i.e. a casual walk) in the beginning would be helpful.
3. Consider your dog’s breed. Some breeds, (like our hound dog) are wonderful pacers and built for distance but others, (like our lab/border collie mix) do better with short bursts of faster paces (great for interval training). Factor in their body’s shape and size. If you have a smaller dog that was not originally bred for endurance, consider how many strides they have take to match yours!
4. Hydrate your canine! Make sure your dog is drinking, before her tongue is hanging all the way to the ground. Give your dog small drinks throughout the workout. Either map out your water sources or carry a water bottle and collapsible bowl. If you have a camelbak you can press the nozzle to create a stream like a water fountain and train your dog to lap it up like ours does!
Here are some fun links for other ideas and tips:
- Web MD’s Healthy Pets: Safe Exercise With Your Dog Slideshow
- Pet MD’s Exercising With Your Dog 101
- ASPCA’s Exercise for Dogs
I hope to never stop thinking of Maximus when I’m out on a run as I do now. Here’s to you, our wonderful and faithful friend!