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How To Get Your Dog Into The Holiday Spirit

We all know that regular exercise is a key ingredient for living a healthy lifestyle, and the same is true for our dogs. A fit animal is a happy animal and ensures that your furry friend will be around for a long and happy time. Regular exercise improves cardiovascular fitness, bone and muscle strength, and weight management for both you and your dog. Before you start hitting the trails with your pup, it is important to follow a few guidelines for safety.

Just like humans, you have to start with where your four legged friends are fitness-wise and progress very slowly to avoid injury or heat-related stress. This is especially true if your dog is a puppy, older, or overweight. Start with a slow walk of 5-10 minutes per day and add 5 minutes to the walk time no sooner than once per week.

Watch your animal for signs of fatigue and adjust accordingly. Dogs are very loyal and will follow you for days if you let them. Listen to their breathing rate along the way, and if they are struggling for air or breathing loudly, slow your pace or walk it out to allow them to catch their breath. Be mindful of the heat and humidity and adjust the pace slower and bring water for you and the dog. Pay close attention to your dog’s foot pads for signs of excessive wear and cracking, and avoid hot surfaces and trails with sharp rocks.

 

For most breeds, especially smaller dogs, walking is the perfect activity, while others prefer to run-walk or run. It also depends on the dog itself. Consult with your vet, as some breeds are better at distance running than others, and most are made to run for short durations or walk.

 

Participating in a 5K with your pet is a fun time, just don’t forget to make sure your dog is in shape for the race. If you’re looking for a great, family and dog friendly fun run, the Rotary Santa Run in Arlington Heights is a great first entry. Register for the Fun Run, taking place on 12/07 in downtown Arlington Heights. Click for more information including race day details and FAQ’s.

 

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Training With Your Dog For A Successful Holiday Fun Run

Running with your dog is a fun way to spend time together and helps keep both of you in shape. Plus, having a running buddy can be an important source of motivation. To train your dog to be the perfect running companion, check out the following tips.

 

The Right Breed and Age to Start Fun Running

Before you start your training program, make sure your dog is suited to long-distance running. For example, brachycephalic dogs (those with short muzzles), like Bulldogs or Pugs,should only sprint for short distances. Also, be aware that running is not safe for puppies, as their bones are still growing. For most breeds, wait until the dog is about one-and-one-half-years old.

 

Even within breeds, every dog has its own personality, and some will take to running more than others. Consider your dog’s temperament, research breed, and take your pupper to the veterinarian for a physical checkup to ensure that this is a safe activity.

 

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Cute dog running outside.

Walk Before You Fun Run

Your dog should master loose-leash walking before you start training him to run beside you. A canine companion that pulls on the leash is frustrating when walking, but downright dangerous at faster speeds. Remember that the environment is full of rewards, like squirrels and interesting smells. So, if you want your dog to stay near you, with the leash hanging in a J shape, you need to be equally rewarding. Use treats, toys, and praise to reinforce your dog for keeping the leash slack.

 

Keeping your dog on one side of you will be essential when you start running together. If he runs in front of you or weaves from side-to-side, he can trip you or tangle your legs in the leash. It doesn’t matter which side you choose, left or right, but pick one and stick with it. Start training at a walking pace and keep reward placement in mind. Always give your dog his treats in the position you want to reinforce, so if you want him on your left, only offer treats at your left leg. Once your dog has mastered one side, you can train the other with a different cue.

 

Speed Cues on a Fun Run

Now that your dog is politely walking at your side, it’s time to speed things up. When you’re out for a walk, it’s handy to have a cue, such as “let’s go,” that tells your dog it’s time to move on and get walking. A different cue, like “get running” or “move it,” can be used to tell your dog it’s time to pick up the pace. The more information you can give your dog about what you expect, the better he will be at responding appropriately.

 

To teach the running cue, intersperse short bursts of jogging or running with your normal walking pace. Simply give the cue immediately before you increase your speed, and then reward your dog when he hurries to catch up. In the same way, you can teach a cue such as “whoa” to slow your dog down.

 

 

Building Endurance for a 5K Fun Run

Now that your dog knows to stay at your side and match your pace, it’s time to get his body in shape. Just as humans need to build strength and endurance slowly, so does your dog. Start by adding small stretches of running into your walks. Then, on each subsequent walk, gradually increase the portion of your time spent running and decrease the portion spent walking. After several weeks, your dog will have adapted to running long distances.

 

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Woman jogging with her dog

Tips for a Safe and Enjoyable Fun Run

Your dog is finally trained and conditioned to be your running companion. But to ensure that he’s safe and enjoys running with you, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Warm up your dog before you run and cool him down when you’re finished by walking for several minutes.
  • Be aware of weather conditions. Dogs can’t handle heat and humidity as well as humans can.
  • Carry water on your walks and offer it to your dog regularly.
  • Give your dog frequent breaks, so he can recharge, go to the bathroom, and enjoy his surroundings.
  • Only allow your dog to run off-leash where it’s safe and legal, and only if he has a reliable recall amid distractions.
  • Watch your dog for signs that he’s had enough, such as excessive panting or lagging behind you. Dogs may run to please their owner, even when they want to stop.

Extreme Weather Conditioning

Dedicated runners will head out in rain, snow, or heat, but sometimes the weather outside is simply too cold for your dog. Even though you can’t run together, you can still maintain your dog’s physical conditioning with indoor exercise. Depending on his size, a game of fetch down a long hall or up and down a flight of carpeted stairs can get your dog’s heart pumping and work his muscles. You can also set up an obstacle course with things you have lying around the house like a hula hoop or a cardboard box. Many training facilities also offer indoor agility classes that will get your dog running and jumping.

 

Many dogs can even be trained to use a treadmill. Some treadmills are specifically designed for dogs, but if you already have one of your own, that will work fine too. Just be sure the length of the ramp is long enough for the size of your dog. The bigger the dog, the bigger the treadmill he will need. Even though this is one of the easiest ways to give your dog an indoor workout, you can’t just drop him on and go. Research treadmill training or speak to your dog trainer so you can teach your dog to enjoy the machine and use it safely. And never tie your dog to the treadmill or leave him on it unsupervised.

 

Register for a Fun Run Near You

 

Once you are comfortable with your dog as a running partner, it’s time to select a race that is dog friendly. Make sure before you register that the race you are planning allows pets. The Arlington Heights Rotary Club’s Santa Run is a fun race to participant with your dog. Registrants receive a five piece Santa suit. There race is a competitive chip timed fun run, offering run/walk options at distances of 5K and 1 mile along with a holiday themed Reindeer Run for kids. Register for the Rotary Santa Run before midnight on 10/31 to receive the lowest price.