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Teaching your dog to walk or run with you

If you’re looking to get in shape while keep your four-legged friend healthy and happy, snap on the leash and teach your dog to walk and/or run with you. Before you set out on a new trail or walk around the neighborhood, follow these dog walking safety tips.

Start out slowly. You can’t go from couch potato to marathoner without taking baby steps. If you and your dog are out of shape or haven’t exercised in a while, start slow. Plan a short walk daily—or more than once a day—then add time to the walk. Pick up the pace until you’re speed walking, then break into a run.

Leash training is key. Start leash training as soon as possible. Choose a side for your dog to walk on and be consistent—right or left. Choose a four-to six-foot leash for training: You’re ultimately looking for your dog to walk with a loose leash so he does not tug. Have your dog stay at your side and move forward at a slow walk. Be sure he keeps constant eye contact with you. To reinforcement training in a positive manner, pack treats for this exercise. Reward him with treats when he maintains eye contact and stays at your side. If he gets ahead of you, stop walking before he tugs at the leash. Have him sit and then start over until he is walking at a loose leash consistently.

Pick up the pace. Once your dog has mastered walking by your side at a loose leash, it’s time to start running! Consider using a hands-free leash when you’re running. Even if you’ve been walking and perhaps speed walking, start with interval runs with your dog. Run, then walk, then jog—or slow down to a walk again. Be prepared to stop if he lags, as you don’t want him to get injured or too tired.

Hydration is crucial. Bring a collapsible water dish and a refillable bottle for the both of you to share. Don’t wait until your dog’s tongue is dragging on the ground from thirst or exhaustion. Stop about every ten minutes and offer water; the breed of your dog may require more frequent stops or your dog may be built for long distance runs. Since your dog wants to please you, he will run until he can run no further. It’s up to you as a responsible pet parent to know the signs of exhaustion in your dog.

Note: Many veterinarians say a puppy should not go for runs until they are seven months old, their bodies need time to develop properly. Giant breed puppies may not reach skeletal maturity until they are close to two years old. According to Dr. Erick Egger, Small Animal Orthopedic Surgeon at Colorado State University, “Dogs must reach skeletal maturity before they begin running…when a puppy’s muscles tire, they cannot support his skeletal system and there will be bone grinding against bone.”

If you’re concerned whether your dog is physically fit enough for running, ask your veterinarian.

Robbi Hess, award-winning author, is multi-petual: She shares her home with two Devon Rex kittens, three adult rescue cats, a mini poodle, a Goldendoodle, three lizards and two ferrets. When not caring for her pets, she is an editor, speaker, time management and productivity guru, content creator, social media manager and blogger. She writes at All Words MatterMy Divas Dish, and is the story editor and chief cat herder at Positively Woof.

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