One of my favorite things in life is running with my weimaraners. I’ve been lucky enough to have three amazing pups who all liked to go for runs. Tobey-boy has loved running from Day 1. Something as simple as moving my running shoes gets him excited. Lili was a bit reluctant to run at first but eventually came around. Her favorite runs were when we would run to a remote location she and could run and play off leash with Tobey-boy. Baby Leo is still a work in progress. He likes running, but hates the gentle leader and isn’t as great on a leash as the others.
Mark & Tobey at the CHA Dog Jog
Anyway….Below are some things I’ve learned and some things to watch out for. If you have any others tips or hints that you think would be helpful, please drop a note in the comments.
- Not all dogs can/want to run – This probably goes without saying, but it’s worth pointing out. Not all dogs are built to run. Weims are a special sporting breed of dog with a seemingly endless supply of energy. A lot of dogs aren’t made for running or especially for running long distances. No one knows the dog’s temperament better than the owner. If the dog has a lot of energy, then running might be right.
- Start out with short distances – This is the same rule as for people. When you start training for a marathon, your first run isn’t going to be 26.2 miles. This is the same for dogs. They need to be eased into running longer distances just like humans. When I started running with Baby Leo, our first run was ½ a mile around the block. This was to get him familiar with running on a leash and also to make sure he doesn’t overdo it and hurt himself. Now that we’ve been running for almost a year, he’s up in the 7-8 mile range. My longest run with Tobey was in the 10 mile range but we started small and built up to that range. Also, if your pup is a bit overweight, that should also be taken into consideration.
- Find the right leash/harness – Having control over your dog is critical when running. There are so many more distractions than playing in the yard or even walking on leash (because the distractions come much faster). I can’t count the number of times that Tobey has been fixated on another dog or a bird… or come to think of it… anything that moves. I use a choke collar with him (and sometimes a gentle choke). This allows me to pull him back quickly if he lunges for anything or is in danger. Lili and Baby Leo used gentle leaders. Both of them would throw fits to get it off, but again, it served a purpose. I’ve also incorporated a harness with Baby Leo. This is as much for my health as with the dogs as it only takes one awkward step to pull a muscle and put both of us on the shelf for weeks or even months.
- Check the pavement – When running in summer, always always always check the pavement temperature. There are a few ways I do this… the most obvious way is to put your hand or bare feet on the ground and feel how hot it is. If you can’t handle the heat by leaving your hand/feet on the ground without moving, then it’s too hot for your dog. Another way to read the dog. If they keep lifting up paws and moving locations to avoid the heat on their paws, then it’s best to call the run.
- Listen to the dog – Always be aware of the dog and what they’re trying to tell you. I can recall one particular run where Lili started to fall behind a little bit, which was not normal for her. I thought maybe she may have been distracted so I kept running. After another minute or two, I realized something was wrong. Sure enough, she had a cut on her paw. Her slowing down was letting me know something was wrong.
Another example is as Tobey has aged (he’s 11 ½), he simply can’t go as fast or far as he could in his prime. He lets me know when I’m going too fast or far by slowing down. When he does this, I know I need to slow down too or risk hurting him.
- Don’t overdo the ice and water afterwards – My biggest fear with the weimaraners is bloat. This is where the accumulation of gas sometimes causes the stomach to rotate or twist on its axis; this is referred to as torsion or volvulus and can be fatal. After a run, I try to limit the water and I don’t give the pups ice. Like humans, they definitely need to re-hydrate, but they need to do it in a safe manner by not allowing them to consuming a large amount of water at one time. For more information, Snopes addressed the topic here.
- Don’t feed immediately before or afterwards – Like the old adage of having to wait 30-60 minutes after a meal to go swimming, dogs are the same way. If you feed immediately or afterwards, you’ll probably make your dog sick at minimum and could be considerably worse. I make sure the boys are back to breathing and behaving normally before feeding. Depending on the run, this could be up to an hour afterwards.
- Rest is key – Like humans, dogs need time to recover. Depending on how active and where your dog is in age will dictate how much rest is needed. With Tobey (age 11 ½), we never run two days in a row. With Baby Leo, he can run forever so he doesn’t need or get as much rest between runs.
- Supplements may help – I’ve found that giving Tobey a cosequin twice daily has helped with his joint health. Sometimes I would notice him limping the day after a run. Giving the cosequin has definitely helped. It may not work with every dog, but if you notice any stiffness or limping, there may be options to help the dog out. The recommendation is always to error on the side of caution when you notice any of the signs.
- Have Fun – This is what it’s all about. I absolutely love running with my dogs to the point where I don’t enjoy running solo as much. One of my favorite events each year is the CHA Dog Jog, which is a 5k to raise money for one of the local shelters in Columbus, OH. If you would like to donate to my run this year, please donate here!
Anyway, I can’t think of a better way to spend some quality time with your dogs than sharing a hobby such as running and by following these guidelines, I’ve been able to keep my dogs happy and healthy. Hopefully they’ll inspire you to as well!
As an added bonus, here are some pictures of me running with the pups.
Tobey and I at our first CHA Dog Jog in 2008
Lili and I at the Friends of the Shelter 5k
Tobey and I at the Defend Your Friend 5k (I think)
Tobey and I at the Defend Your Friend 5k… I think Tobey was the first dog to finish
Tobey and I finishing up at one of the CHA Dog Jog’s
CHA Dog Jog 5k with the Scioto River in the background
CHA Dog Jog. I know for a fact Tobey won this race. Still one of the great running highlights of my life.
Me and Lili-Girl at one of the CHA Dog Jog’s
Me and Baby Leo after his second 5k