With the weather warming up runners throughout Chicagoland are getting outside as quickly often and quickly as possible. However, it’s not just the two-legged athletes who need to get out and stretch their legs while burning off that excess winter energy. Dogs need to get out as much as their owners and runners can take care of both exercise needs at once if they decide to take their canines out with them.
Like people, there are concerns that need to be monitored and proper training is needed, but with the right build-up the family pet can enjoy a run with you. David Hill is the owner and founder of Chicago Dog Runner, a variation of a normal dog walking service but at a pace run nerds can appreciate. He said there is an important way to prepare a dog to run with their owner. Like people, a dog’s make up and history are crucial in finding the pace and distance a dog can handle. A more athletic breed that is in at least decent physical shape should be ready to start training with their owner. Hill said it’s important to make sure that the dog has been to a vet recently and is up to date with shots. It’s also important to pay attention to the weather when first starting out. A dog who is running for the first time can be put in a difficult situation if they are taken running in temperatures hotter than 70 degrees, Hill said. Once out on the run, Hill said to pay close attention to the dog’s reactions.
“When you take a dog on the run for the first time just monitor them and see the pace and breathing,” Hill said. “Most dogs can run a couple of miles if they are reasonably fit. If you get to mile three or four you want to pay closer and closer attention. Are they breathing heavy? I’d say if you can get the dog to 4 miles the first run and he’s not to wiped out, that’s a good baseline.”
Dogs, unlike humans, don’t show they are tired by sweating. When a dog is tired they begin to pant, pull on the leash in other directions or just try to lie down. With training the dog will be able to slowly increase distances. Hill said that it’s a good idea to just try an additional half-mile with each new run if your dog isn’t showing negative signs. Also, the dog should only be taken on runs two or three times a week and at least 45 minutes after a feeding.
The route taken is also important to take in to consideration. Well trained dogs will tend to stick right by their owners side during runs, but some like to pull out in front. While this is fine, Hill said, if they aren’t social dogs or don’t do well with other people or dogs a more secluded route is better. Also important on the route is keeping track of where the closest water source is. Some dogs will drink out of the owner’s hand, but others need a bowl. In these situations Hill said there are a number of products that can help with this problem.
Hill said he uses a Ruffwear Quencher to pour water either from his water bottle or a fountain for the thirsty dogs. The Quencher is a water-proof collapsible bowl that easily fits in a waistband that runners can carry with them. As any dog owner would know there are thousands of products aimed at taking care of man’s best friend and many of them are perfect for dogs on the run. Hands-free leashes work both for runners to wear or, in the case of the Doggerjogger, for cyclists as well. The DoggerJogger connects to the bike and allows the dog to run alongside the cyclist without pulling on the handlebars.
Hill has owned The Chicago Dog Runner for eight years and works with dogs throughout the city to help get them the exercise often missed while living in a city high-rise or apartment. He, or one of his team members, take the dogs out for up to an hour long run at a pace and distance they can handle. Hill said that taking the dogs out on trips like this can keep them from bouncing off the walls during their owners work day.