Running with your dog can be one of the more rewarding experiences for you and your furry friend. I have been running with our dogs for 10 years now and adopted the practice of Skijoring and Canicross since 2011. I will split this into three parts, running, skiing and biking.
Here are a couple of things to consider when you are running or skiing with your dog.
- The weather – some dogs need some help in the heat and in the cold. You should take care, especially in hot weather, and watch how your dog is doing. I plan my summer runs around lakes and lets the dog cool down each 1-2 miles. We are lucky in Minneapolis to have a chain of lakes that lets me run from the beach to the beach. Your dog will get in and cool down then be ready to â€œSprintâ€ off on the next jaunt! Sasha is so excited when she gets out of the water that she goes sprinting down the road pulling me along. In hot weather, you should also avoid blacktop surfaces as they can burn paws. Cold weather has its own problems. Some dogs need some extra protection in sub-zero weather but what I found is the biggest problem is salt on the road. The salt gets into your dog’s paws and causes burning and discomfort. There are booties you can get and salve you can apply to their paws pre and post-run. I find my dog logs to run on snow and start to get enthusiastic as soon as she can dig into the surface and really pull! (Of course, pulling while running is not always the best thing, I will go into this later)
- Leashes and Harnesses – I donâ€™t run with a normal leash but rather I use a harness with a stretch style bungee. This allows me to go hands-free while running and also stops that annoying jolts and pulls if you have a hard pull or starter. There are two basic styles around the waist harnesses. The first is a simple one that goes around your waist and then attaches to your dog. This is the cheapest but I would not recommend it for running. The leash goes above your hips and can give you undue pressure around your back.
I have used this hardness (https://gearwest.com/hdog-caniski-belt/) as well as the Skijor Now harness. (Which doesnâ€™t seem to be available) The key to these are they wrap around your hips and below your lower back. This gives you more stability and is much easier on your back. I use this for both running and skiing.
Your dog harness is the next piece of equipment you should consider. Your standard dog collar is ok for walking but doesnâ€™t give you control and can be hard on your dog while running. This is especially a problem with skiing you would never want to let a dog pull using a collar. I use a dog harness for running then a different harness for skiing. One is meant to pull and the other is not.
Pull harness – I would recommend an â€œX-backâ€ harness for pulling (See here). This distributes the pressure across the back of the dog and the leash attaches near the dog’s tail. It is designed for your dog to be our front and pull all the time. You will find this type of harness on sled dogs.
Running harness – I like the Canadog harness or this Howling Dog harness. This puts the leash higher up on the back and will allow your dog to move from side to side and if they are tired they will choose to run beside you or even run behind you.
- Shoes and booties – When you first start running with your dog, you should consider your shoes and the amount of forefoot braking you will be doing. Be aware of shin splints and take it easy to start. For your dog, you should consider booties when it is very cold. Donâ€™t assume your dog and take every type of surface. They have sensitive feet.
- Time – Give your dog time to ease into running. I would not recommend running with your dog until they are at least a year old. Let them grow up into their bones. If you are a long-distance runner donâ€™t assume your dog can run 6-8-12-20 miles. Maybe they can, but give them time to move into longer distances. When you started running you were sore after a 20-mile run. Assume your dog will be sore the next day after some vigorous activities.
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