In case you didn't know, I'm training for my first marathon. I'm running to raise money for Henrico Humane Society. To learn more about it, visit here.
Anyway, I'm training with Cody. Now, due to heat throughout the summer, Cody has had to skip some of the longer runs, but he has run 7+ miles with me, and this is quite an accomplishment. Seven miles isn't easy for anyone, but when you're also in daycare 5 days a week, 7 miles could be dangerous. So, in case you're interested in running with your dog, I'm providing some tips for training with your dog.
1) Ease into it. You didn't go from 0 miles to 20 miles overnight, and neither should your dog. If your dog is new to running, start with just walking him. Build up to running short distances and gradually increase distance and pace. I was lucky. Cody started training with me when I was first attempting a 5k. I could barely run a mile, and that was at a slow pace. Cody trained the entire time, and he even ran my first 5k race with me. When I decided to start working towards a 10k, Cody trained with me for that as well. He's basically been with me the whole way. I'm a little farther ahead of him now, but I know he could easily catch up.
2) Hydrate- You know how, on a long run, it's important for you to hydrate before, during, and after? Guess what. The same is true for your dog! Since dogs are built a little differently than people, and shouldn't take on a whole lot of water while running, hydration before is really key. I actually heard a really great trick the other day to help your dog stock up on electrolytes AND water. A few hours before your run, have your dog drink a bit of chicken broth (not too much as this will upset his tummy). Chicken broth is salty, so this will encourage your dog to drink a little more water. Slow down his water intake about an hour before your run, so he doesn't end up with intestinal issues. During your run, you can let him have some water, but not full bowls. That could cause him to get sick.
3) Fuel- Yep, food is important too. I will sometimes bring a small snack for Cody (i.e. give him a few bites of what I'm having), but his daily nutrition is important too. Cody is on a fairly high protein diet, with few fillers, and he gets lots of food. He'll eat anywhere between 2 and 8 cups of food a day with lots of snacks in between.
4) Crosstrain- It is important for your dog to strengthen other parts of his body as well. If your dog plays well with others, day care can help with that, but there are quite a few other useful activities as well. Cody loves swimming and he practices some mild agility from time to time. Swimming, of course, is a great work out for him, and agility helps with focus, strength, and balance.
5) Rest- Some dogs can run 20 miles and feel like it was just a warm up. Other dogs run 2 and feel like they're about to die. If your dog needs a rest, let him rest. Occasionally give him a day off. Yesterday, Cody and I ran 3 miles together and then Cody came to the daycare with me. This morning, Cody wanted to sleep in, so he got the morning off, while I ran 7 miles. He was simply too tired to go for any sort of run.
6) Stretch- Dogs need to stretch out, just like people do. The internet is very useful for finding different stretches for your dog, but I also encourage people to look into Doga. It's quite useful and relaxing. You may also want to look into other sorts of care for your dog as well, such as massage, chiropractic care, or acupuncture. Your dog can have aches and pains just like you do. He just can't tell you how or where it hurts.
As always, consult a licensed veterinarian before attempting any sort of exercise / diet with your dog. If, however, you take care of your dog's needs, you'll end up with a terrific running companion.