Studies have shown that working out with a partner increases your motivation and the likelihood you'll actually stick to your training program.
But finding a reliable, training partner who'll motivate you without pissing you off is rough. The best workout partner is always ready to go and never says, “I have a headache," "I'm tired," or "baseball's on tonight.” So why not ask your best friend? The one who's always happy to see you, never complains, and has a ton of energy to expend. Yes, we're talking about your pooch.
And just because he or she won't complain or quit on you doesn't mean you can ignore cues the workout's a little too intense. Follow these nine tips so man’s best friend might just become, man’s best workout partner.
1. Talk to your vet
"Don't begin an exercise program without first consulting your physician." It's in the fine print of nearly every gym membership form and for good reason. This is smart advice not just for you but for your dog as well. Since dogs don’t complain as we do, they may have a nagging health issue you're unaware of. Be sure to tell your veterinarian that you plan on exercising with your dog, so he or she pays extra close attention to his/her heart, lungs, and joints.
2. Know your breed
Certain breeds of dog are better suited than others for distance running. Shepherds, terriers, retrievers, and other working dogs are built to run long distances, while others are not. If you own a small dog that looks like it could star in a Taco Bell commercial, it's recommended they stick to walking. A list of breeds that make good running partners can be found at dogbreedinfo.com.
3. Build up gradually
While you may want to train like Rocky Balboa right out of the gate, that's not a safe option for your pet. Like any person, a dog who hasn't exercised before needs to work his way up. The pads on a dog’s paws are also very sensitive and must be toughened up with gradual increases in mileage.
4. Watch your paws
Be aware of the type of surface you're running on. Hot blacktop, jagged ice, glass, and other roadside debris can cause injuries. If your dog starts to limp or lick its pads, stop the workout immediately. Until they come out with running sneakers for dogs, you must inspect your dog’s pads for cuts before and after outdoor workouts.
5. Stay hydrated
Good advice for you and your pooch: Make sure your buddy has water before and after your workout. If you plan on running long distances, it's smart to bring water with you. When your dog gets tired, it will look to drink water from puddles. Make sure you don't allow this as that water is high in toxins and contaminants, which can make your dog sick.
6. Listen to what he's saying
Dogs can't talk, but foaming at the mouth, heavy panting, glazed eyes, and slowing down are sure signs that your dog is being overworked and should take a break. Don’t worry: It won't be long before you're the one panting and in need of a break.
7. Acknowledge s#$% happens
It’s just a fact of life. Another fact is that, depending on where you live, you could be facing a hefty fine for not picking up after your pet. The “but I’m in the middle of a workout” excuse probably won’t work with the police.
8. Keep a (semi) tight leash
Leashing your dog will keep both of you under control and will ensure your pet keeps pace. Avoid using retractable leashes. They provide too much room between you and your training partner and can tangle. A three- to six-foot leather leash should provide the right amount of distance.
9. Clean up post-run
Salt and dirt from the road can get in between your dog’s toes, causing irritation and even infection. Cleaning your dog’s paws with a warm, soapy rag after your run will take care of this problem.