Running is a great way to get in shape, yet it’s not just good for you. Dogs love to run too, so I thought I would share my dog running story.

Everyone loves to run

I love running and over the years I have ‘borrowed’ people’s dogs to run with me so much so that the dog owners called me a personal trainer for their four-legged family members.

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Then I finally got my own dog – rescued from the Humane Society.  Barney, half Siberian Husky and half Golden Retriever, was 10 months old and had been returned twice because he had too much energy.  Slowly we started adding the miles until he could comfortably do a half marathon by the time he was three.

Even your doggy friends

He learned to drink from a water bottle and on long runs carried his own.  Eventually we rescued another dog from the SPCA – Jet, a Black Labrador Retriever mix (we swear he is part Greyhound).  His story was tragic.  He had been locked in a cage for more than a year with a broken front paw, a bad hip, four kinds of intestinal worms, and at two years old weighed a mere 25 pounds.  The SPCA took him in and nursed him back to health before he could come home.

He had tons of energy and loved to chew on things, but he too turned into an incredible runner, although he would rather do a five minute mile. Barney is now almost 14 and Jet 9 ½ years old.  Alas Barney is down to walks with a little running because he loves it so much, but Jet is still going strong. Their veterinarian calls them her super athletes.

Dogs who don’t exercise

The SPCA suggests the following potential problems for dogs as a result of no exercise:

– Destructive chewing, digging, or scratching

Investigative behaviors, like garbage raiding

Hyperactivity, excitability and night-time activity

– Unruliness, knocking over furniture, and jumping up on people

– Excessive predatory and social play

Play biting and rough play

– Attention-getting behaviors like barking and whining (ASPCA)

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Health risks of too little exercise

Of course, not exercising isn’t good for humans either! Research at John Hopkins University reports the following health risks for individuals who do not engage in regular aerobic exercise

 – Cardiovascular disease and certain cancers

– Increases the chance of developing high blood pressure

– May cause anxiety, stress and depression

– Increases the risk of strokes, stiff joints and osteoporosis

Leads to poor posture and muscle tone

Weight gain and obesity

– Maybe linked to insomnia

Health benefits of running with your dog

It is a win/win situation.  Running does not need to be fast to reap the health benefits for both you and your dog. However, be sure to check with your medical practitioner prior to engaging in physical activity.

Just like people, it takes time to train a dog.  Some breeds are not great runners with inherent breathing issues, short legs, long ears, or too large for long distances while others want to sprint, deliver lots of ‘pee-mail’, and take more effort to train.

Take your time, be patient, don’t push too hard and always carry water.

Dogs love to please their owners and they will keep running past the point of exhaustion. Do some research on what breeds will fit your running schedule and habits and discuss the options with a veterinarian.

Now put on your running shoes, pick up the leash and start reaping the health benefits of running with your dog!

Read more from WatchFit Expert Leslie Olsen

References

ASPCA. (2015). Exercise for Dogs.

John Hopkins Medicine. Risks of Physical Inactivity.

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