To make real progress with your outdoor running, and push yourself to new and unexplored levels of physical prowess, you’ll want a training partner. A training partner will provide you with the impetus to lace up your trainers and get out of the door every day, and inspire you to push yourself that little bit harder when you’re powering through those nasty uphill sections. But more than that, they’ll also provide the company you need to ensure that whole exercise isn’t just a terrible drag.
When it comes to training partners, there are few more enthusiastic than your dog. They’ll increase your motivation and sticking power in the same way as a human companion, and they’ll not let other commitments get in the way of the regime. But to get your dog running with you, you’ll need to run through some basic training. Once you’ve identified and corrected problems with your dog’s running behaviour, you’ll find that they’re enthusiastic and useful collaborators. Let’s take a look at how we might approach doing so.
Consult with your vet
Before you start with any exercise programme, or even sign up to a gym membership, it’s recommended that you consult with your doctor to see what you should be doing and why. The same basic principle applies to your dog. Ask your vet whether they’re a good fit for the running programme you have in mind. Some simply won’t be suitable. Particularly young dogs won’t yet have had their bones fully formed, and thus will be unable to run without the risk of severe skeletal problems later in life. Similar restrictions apply to older dogs, who may suffer with osteoarthritis and other debilitating conditions.
In other cases, it’s worth tailoring your running programme to suit your dog. Some breeds, like the greyhound, are better suited to short bursts of activity than to long-distance runs, and so a programme of high-intensity interval training might be what’s required to get the best from them. If you’re running with a bloodhound, on the other hand, the chances are that they’ll be able to last for far, far longer than you would. If you own an especially large or small dog, like a Great Dane or a Pug, it’s probably best that you stick to walking it.
Walk before you can run
When building up your fitness, it’s best to proceed in sensible steps, gradually increasing the level of exercise each week until you’re at the level you need to achieve. The same principle applies to your dog. Don’t force them to perform huge amounts of exercise from a standing start – you’ll just kill the fun of it, and make your regular runs a dreaded occasion rather than a happy one. Pay attention to your dog’s physiology: if they’re panting or foaming at the mouth, then they’re being overworked.
Pay attention to surfaces
While a dog’s paws are adapted to take on a range of surfaces, they’ll handle some better than others. The amount of miles they can chew up will be proportional to how tough their paws are, so be sure that you’ve allowed them to build up the required hardness in their paws before upping the ante. You should also pay attention to the surface you’re running on. If you’re running on tarmac on a sunny day, for example, the chances are that it won’t be comfortable for your dog. The same applies to hot sand, freezing ice and debris. If you notice that your dog is in discomfort, then it’s best to call time on the workout. Telltale signs include limping and licking the paws.
Your dog needs water just as much as you do – and if you don’t provide it, your dog will look for it in filthy puddles and ponds. This can easily lead to health problems, as such things are swimming with toxic elements. Avoid this by carrying a supply of water just for your dog.
Protect your car boot
When you go for a long run in the countryside, the chances are that you and your dog will return to the car with more than a little dirt and mud in tow. In order to protect the interior of your vehicle, you’ll want to invest in a car boot liner. These devices will slot neatly into your boot, protecting it against muddy pawprints. The best of them are made to fit a given model of car; you’ll find Volvo, Land Rover and Volkswagen boot liners available online, alongside a host of others.