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Warm weather is here and it's the perfect time for you to get active with your dog! But before you hit the pavement, the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association (WVMA) has some tips to ensure you're taking the proper steps with your sidekick.

"Before you start exercising with your dog, consider their ability to go on runs or longer walks," says
WVMA Member, Dr. Kimberly Kratt. "Just as a person does, dogs need to build up endurance to be able to enjoy a run." Fotolia 96317013 Subscription Monthly M

Training your dog to walk nicely on a leash will also help make running more enjoyable. Many dogs on a leash will weave back and forth in front of their owner as they walk, which can cause their owners to trip or stumble. Teaching them to walk/run beside you instead of in front will help. It's helpful to work on this before your first run so you will be less likely to trip.

"Any healthy dog can enjoy activity with their owner," says Dr. Kratt. "However, the brachycephalic breeds, (those with shorter noses) and those with underlying respiratory conditions often have a harder time moving air through their lungs."

While it is still important for these breeds of dogs to receive exercise, their capacity for exercise may be reduced. Your veterinarian will be able to help you determine the amount and type of exercise that is safe for your dog.

When deciding if your dog would make a good running partner, consider their desire to run and whether they enjoy being on a leash.

"Sporting breeds are very good runners," says Dr. Kratt. "But any dog can be a good running partner."

A great benefit of running is that you don't need a lot of additional equipment.

Any leash will work when going for a run, but if you would like your hands free you can purchase a leash that attaches to a waistband. Dr. Kratt reminds you to always plan for water, for you and your dog, and to bring plenty of bags to pick up after your dog.

Simple obedience commands like sit and stay should be taught, and it will help to bring some treats along.

"If your dog becomes frightened or upset by another dog or person, keeping them focused with some simple commands and treat rewards will return their focus to you," she says.

Once you get moving, it's important to watch your dog's body language to determine when they've had enough.

"If he/she is pulling at the front of the leash, they are probably able to continue," says Dr. Kratt. "If they lag back next to your side or are hanging their tongue fully out, it is probably time to slow down or stop."

If your dog is behind you and panting, you have probably gone too far and should stop immediately and reduce your pace/distance next time, she advises.

It is also important to pay attention to the weather when you plan on going for a run with your dog.

"Dogs can take longer to adapt to warmer weather, especially early in the season," says Dr. Kratt. "We may be very comfortable with a sunny 65 degree run, but that is still warm enough for a dog to overheat."

Heat stroke is more prevalent in very driven dogs, black dogs, overweight dogs, and early in the season when temperatures just begin to rise.

"If it is too hot for you, it is definitely too hot for your dog," says Dr. Kratt. "Try not to run in the heat of the day, full sunlight, or when the humidity is high."

The surface you run on should also be taken into consideration.

"If the sun is shining, concrete and asphalt will be very warm," she says. "If your pet is not used to running on warm concrete, they will be prone to burn their feet. Stick to a shady trail if the sun is hot."

The benefits of getting active with your dog are more than just increased physical and mental stimulation.

"Exercising with your pet offers a great opportunity to spend time with your pet and increase the bond between you both," says Dr. Kratt.

Before hitting the pavement, talk with your local WVMA member veterinarian to see what approach is best for your dog. To find a veterinary clinic near you, visit www.wvma.org/findaclinic.

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4610 S. Biltmore Lane, Suite 107
Madison, WI 53718
Phone: (608) 257-3665
Fax: (608) 257-8989
Email: wvma@wvma.org

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