Jogging With Your Dog Improves Overall Fitness and Health
I can’t be the only person who sees running as a huge undertaking. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. But there are so many things to consider when you start to do it seriously, like what kind of warm ups decrease injury risks the most, or whether it is worth picking up expensive running gear, or what kind of treadmill to buy for the best workout on days you just don’t want to leave the house. Or one that I recently faced: should you go jogging with your dog?
The last one was something I was resistant to, which might surprise a lot of people. I love my dog, he is my best friend. He sleeps on the edge of my bed every night and his wagging tail and sniffing wake my husband and I every morning more effectively than an alarm clock ever has. I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to have to worry about him running unleashed beside me when I took my runs and the thought of holding a leash and being stopped every few feet for him to mark his territory…well, it was less than appealing.
It wasn’t until I started noticing just how many people took their dogs out on their own jogs that I started to reevaluate my opinion on the matter. Finally, after feeling guilty for the fifth time spotting a canine companion during an especially long session, I gave in. The next time I hit the pavement there were a pair of paws beside my running shoes. Since then, I have never gone back to running alone.
Jogging With Your Dog = The Best Run Of Your Life
Because of the many do’s and dont’s of running, I was nervous about adding in another factor. Particularly one that had a mind of its own and a penchant for chasing squirrels every time we pass by a tree. It turns out I had nothing to worry about. Once I took off, Toby was right there with me. He was thrilled to be free to run while sticking by my side and while he did take off a couple of times to sniff at a spot ahead, for the most part he was well behaved and the perfect jogging buddy.
I found some other benefits I didn’t expect, as well.
A Dog Keeps You In The Moment
In the past I would use my run as me time. I liked to forget the world around me and let my mind wander. Maybe I would listen to a podcast or audiobook, or get lost in a blood pumping playlist. When I started to take Toby with me I began to notice things in the moment: the feeling of the breeze, the color of the leaves, the warmth of the sun on my face. I found that I appreciated that awareness more than I had my unawareness and now running has become almost meditative.
A Dog Keeps Your Pace Up
Though I start out strong my pace will often wane a little past the halfway point of my runs. It isn’t necessarily a stamina issue, more of a boredom one. My speed flags and I might actually stop to walk for awhile. With my dog by my side I don’t have that urge to slow down. I want to keep moving because he is so obviously enjoying the experience. How could I take it away from him?
A Dog Makes Others Happy
One of my favorite places to jog these days is a canine friendly park that allows you to keep your pooch off a leash as long as it doesn’t cause any problems with others in the park. It is the unspoken rule of the place and you rarely see a pup tied up there. Every time I bring Toby around he will run and play with other dogs and even kids as I run the track, eventually joining me again after he has had a chance to spread joy to others in the park.
A Dog Varies Your Routine
Before I was taking Toby along I would run on the same stretch of round every time, usually tripling the circle I took around nearby blocks to get in the steps. Once he was with me we changed it up to twice around the block, twice around the park track so he could have a bit of playtime. I didn’t realize how badly I needed to a bit of new scenery until I got it.
A Dog Is Protective
I always ran in the early evening before it got dark because I didn’t feel safe running early in the morning, or after the sun had gone down. Now I don’t worry as much. Toby is the sweetest dog you could ever meet, but not only do I know he would protect me if needed, I know the likelihood that I will be harassed is less when there is a large dog along with me.
So now I run whenever I feel like it, even in areas that I might have avoided in the past because they were less lit or familiar to me. The ability to widen my running schedule has opened up a whole new level of training for me, allowing me to switch to early mornings. That means I have more energy for the run and I feel more ready to start my day once I am done.
A Dog Is a Motivator
I have lost count of the number of times I have wanted to skip my run. I would much rather take an extra long bath and read, or watch the next episode of Orange Is The New Black for my third consecutive marathon of the show. But just as I am thinking of skipping just this one time, Toby looked at me with those big, expectant eyes.
Have you ever tried to tell a dog no to playtime? It is absolutely impossible. So I end up strapping on my shoes, pulling on my big-girl pants and doing what I need to do. My fuzzy friend knows nothing of my inner conflict, only that once again he gets to set off with one of the people he loves most on another adventure, one he never tires of.
How to Understand Your Dog
Before you take off with your dog it is important that you understand your dog and his needs and capabilities. Toby, for example, is a young, energetic breed that requires a lot of exercise. If he doesn’t get at least two lengthy walks a day he will start to act out, destroying furniture and scratching at doors. Since joining me on a run in addition to two walks a day he has been better behaved than ever.
There are some breeds that aren’t so suited for running and don’t have the need or stamina for too much exercise. That doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from some off and on jogging, but walking may be more their speed.
Other factors such as age, health history and injuries are also very important to keep in mind. Start out slow and see how they respond before going whole hog and taking them out for an hour jog at once.
If you do start running with your poochie pal, make sure they are getting the right hydration and nutrition. Jogging with your dog may up our dog’s food consumption, a natural consequence of physical activity.