You don't need to spend a lot of time nosing around SlowTwitch before you notice dogs are held in high regard around here. So you would be excused if you thought an article about Man's Best Running Partner was another weary apology for animal's rights. But you'd also be surprised to know how many times we get asked about running with dogs. So please just skip this section if it doesn't speak to you. Read on if you have a dog, or for that matter a coyote, wolf, or jackal, we think the principles apply...

Running With Your Best Friend

JulieAnne White 10/99

Man's, or in many cases woman's, best friend--the four-legged variety--can be beautiful, homely, small, tall, skinny, solid, slow or fast. It won't turn up wearing the latest running gear or talk your ear off with all its latest accomplishments. However, it will run with you in all sorts of conditions, always eager and never complaining.

Its love for you, and of running, is unconditional. However, you are the master--or alpha--person in its life and you must make critical decisions when it affects your dog's health. You must know when it is too hot to take your dog along for a run, or when to cut the run short for its own good. Yes, OK, you did not get all your mileage in for the day. But are the extra miles worth losing your best running buddy? I really don't think so!

Here are some tips on how to keep your best friend happy and comfortable during his or her running years:

1. Always run during the early morning or early evening hours when temps are usually at their coolest. You must know your dog's limits or its athletic ability. Obviously greyhounds are not endurance dogs; neither are toy poddles. Labs are usually one of the best endurance dogs. Start your dog off gradually just as you would with a running program.

2. Always carry enough water for you and the dog(s). Teach your dog(s) how to drink from a water bottle or some sort of drinking container. ALL dogs can quickly overheat! Remember, dogs need more water than humans do!

3. Try to run on trails which are shaded and soft. This will not only protect your dog's joints but yours as well.

4. Teach your dogs to stay away from snakes. If off leash keep your dogs within your sight at all times on the trails. If your dog is bitten by a poisonous snake, get him or her to the vet as quickly as possible. This is an emergency!

5. If you do not have trails available to you, and roads are the only option, then keep your dog on a lead at all times. The best-trained dog can go astray. If it happens to see some furry creature cross in front of it, your best friend may become a victim. It happens all the time!

6. It is up to you to know the signs of fatigue or heat illness. If your dog(s) start to fall behind during the run, slow down and wait. If it continues to lag behind, cut your run short and walk if necessary. Signs of heatstroke or illness are panting, mouth open and gasping for air, white foaming at the mouth, distressed, often unable to stand, movement uncontrolled and agitated, gums that are deep red. The chest or tummy area (groin area of its hindquarters) may be blotchy-red. If your dog shows any of these signs, cool the dog immediately by thoroughly wetting with cold water and placing it in front of a fan in a shaded area.

If your dog should start to vomit, or show no improvement within 10 minutes, seek veterinary help as quickly as possible. Heatstroke can lead to coma, brain damage and death. Always remember that dogs do not have sweat glands as we do, and they can only regulate their body temperature by panting. Obviously, never muzzle your dog with the velcro kind that does not allow it to pant.

Please give your best friend a long and healthy life!

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