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Longer days and warmer weather bring ideal conditions to get outside. It’s also an opportune time to bring your favorite four-legged friend out and about. But do you worry about running with your dog during, well, the hot dog days of summer?
Bryan Bailey, known as The Wolf Whisperer, says, “In the wild, wolves living in the Northwest, Canada and Alaska, are subjected to extreme cold for nearly nine months out of the year. Escaping the cold is impossible for the wolves because of the lack of natural shelter. However, avoiding the high heat and humidity of the summer months is easily accomplished by moving to higher altitudes, burrowing into the ground, wading into a shallow creek, or lying in the shade,” explains Bailey.
Therefore, wolves with thick fur coats have the ability to go long periods without food to conserve energy. Because domestic dogs are still genetically linked to their wolf ancestors, they share the same ability to withstand cold more than heat.
While you’re ready to hit the ground running with your pup, there are a few precautions you should take into account before you lace up, leash up, and go. From breathing patterns and water intake to surface and breed types, use his guidance to run safely during the warmer months.
What to Consider When Selecting a Running Dog
Because many dogs have been bred with various breed types, the physical capabilities have changed. Bailey points out breeds with shorter muzzles, such as Pugs, Bulldogs, Lhasa Apsos, ShihTzus and Boston Terriers, have a much harder time with breathing compared to those with typical, elongated muzzles. Since dogs pant to cool down, breeds with shorter muzzles have a harder time breathing and won’t be able to cool down in warmer weather.
Another change that has severely degraded the running capabilities of certain breeds is the shortening of the length of the legs while extending the torso. Breeds such as Welsh Corgis, Bassett Hounds and Dachshunds will have a harder time working and will spend much of their energy just trying to keep up. A half mile will most likely gas them out.
Lastly, obesity has become a major issue with dog breeds in the United States. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, more than 53 percent of American dogs are classified as obese. Bailey says attempting to run an overweight dog can lead to the same problems that could occur to an overweight human runner. These problems can range in severity from muscle strains to heat exhaustion to death. Before you engage your dog in any running program, speak with your vet first to make sure Fido is healthy enough to join you.
Water breaks are essential for cooling both human and dogs during long runs in warmer weather. When you sip on water, you should stop and have your dog hydrate too. If your dog has long hair, hydrate twice as often as you do. “Because dogs lap water, they take on a great amount of air at the same time. This fast intake of air can lead to a life-threatening condition known as bloat. Especially in deep, barrel-chested dogs, such as German Shepherds, Siberian Huskies and Vizslas,” explains Bailey. Give your dog about 10 seconds of lapping time per water break to prevent too much air being swallowed with the water.
You might want to consider leaving your headphones at home. When running with your dog on warm days, it’s important to monitor your dog’s breathing to help prevent heat exhaustion. If you’re listening to music, it will be hard to hear fido breathing. If your dog’s breathing suddenly increases during your run, stop running and find shade.
Immediately check your dog’s gums. “If they are chalky white, and your dog appears to be distressed, heat exhaustion may be setting in. Move your dog to a cool area (air-conditioned if possible) and give him sips of water while trying to contact a veterinarian,” says Bailey.
Don’t throw your dog into cold water, like a lake or pool, because rapid cooling can constrict blood vessels and cause organ failure. “If your dog’s breathing suddenly increases on cooler days, this could be indicative of inadequate conditioning or possibly congestive heart failure,” Bailey explains. If your dog’s breathing should change, contact your veterinarian.
A flat, hard surface such as concrete or asphalt makes for a faster and safer run over a grass path. However, concrete and asphalt usually are warmer on your dog’s paws than grass. “The grass can transpire, and because it is lighter in color, is also able to reflect more heat than the harder surfaces,” shares Bailey. “When it’s warm outside, you may want to pick a cross country route versus your usual urban fitness trail. Not only will this keep your four-legged running buddy cooler, but it’ll also provide a bit of an adventure for the both of you.”