Do take precautions when running in cold weather.
If you live in a cold-weather climate and like to run in the winter with your dog, try to avoid roads and sidewalks that have been treated with salt or ice-melting products. These can damage your dog’s paws and cause stomach upset if he licks his paws once he’s back inside. Canine booties will help protect your dog’s paws in the winter, or if your dog won’t tolerate booties, you can apply petroleum jelly to his paws before running to add a layer of protection. Always rinse off your dog’s feet once you’re back indoors.
Also take your dog’s haircoat into consideration – if it’s very short, or he’s less tolerant of cold temperatures, you can protect him with a coat or sweater. Avoid running in severe winter weather or very cold conditions, since dogs are susceptible to frostbite, especially on their ear tips.
When can dogs run on concrete?
Walking or playing on a concrete surface is tough on soft, young joints and can lead to early arthritis. Once your puppy has reached the age of one year, you can begin to take him for walks on concrete sidewalks. Even then, build gradually.
Your dog’s paws have footpads that can usually handle whatever a stroll or walk in nature throws at them. But a lot of human-made surfaces can burn your pooch’s paws, including concrete, metal, pavement, sidewalks and asphalt. Dogs showing these symptoms may have burned paws: Limping or avoiding walking.
And yes, hot pavement on bare paws can hurt your dog from mild discomfort to severe burns and blisters. Besides checking their paws, your dog will show signs of discomfort. Look out for limping, holding a paw, or whimpering. It can put stress on your dog’s body.
Do head for trails and natural surfaces whenever possible.
Running on grass, dirt trails, or sandy beaches is much gentler on your dog’s joints than running on asphalt or concrete. Plus, it gives dogs a more natural environment in which to run, complete with mentally stimulating sights, sounds, and smells.
Natural surfaces also tend to stay cooler in warm weather than asphalt. Hot pavement can quickly burn your dog’s paws, so be sure to check the ground temperature before you run by placing your palm on the pavement and counting to ten. If it’s too hot for you to leave your hand down, it’s too hot for your dog to run on.
Asphalt vs Concrete running surfaces and injury risk
The “Dog Days of Summer” are now behind us, and the heat is giving us a break as we head into fall — a perfect time to start the “Dog Days of Running.” We know not every dog loves to run with their owners, but if you have one suited to a few miles on a leash, they can be a great running companion and accountability partner, to boot.
We talked to Dr. Tom Watson, a veterinary orthopedic and soft tissue surgeon at Carolina Veterinary Medical Hospital, about how to safely run with dogs. In addition to being a well-known veterinarian and a regular on many local media outlets, Dr. Watson is also an avid runner and ‘dad’ to numerous rescue pups over the years.
“Your dog will be the most loyal running partner you’ve ever had,” Dr. Watson reminds us. “It’s a good thing, promotes bonding between dog and owner, offers exercise, and it’s fun!” He shared both his professional and personal experience with us to make sure you keep your doggo safe while you get your miles in.
Too hot? Too cold? It may not be a good time to take your pup along. In summers, hot pavement can burn dogs’ pads, even though their feet are tougher than ours. If you wouldn’t consider running more than a few feet barefoot, or placing your hand on the pavement for more than a few seconds, then your dog shouldn’t either. And don’t forget the sheer misery of that fur coat they’re wearing: “Dogs can’t sweat,” says Dr. Watson. “They have to pant to dissipate heat.”
Think about it, if you couldn’t breathe fast enough to get air and stay cool, how far would you continue to run? You’d probably pull over under a tree for a few minutes, and your pup should too. “Dogs can be struggling, but they’re going to do everything they can to keep up with you,” says Dr. Watson. Don’t make them choose — they want to be with you, so run in the early mornings or on shaded trails when the sun shines brightest.
The cold weather can be a shivering experience for a dog with short hair, too. If you have a thin-skinned (or furred) dog, consider getting them a well-fitted coat. And while some breeds, like Huskies, are suited to running in snow, check their feet — ice can get compacted between their toes and cause problems. It might be worth the investment to get them booties (which are also very cute). Also be sure to rinse their paws when you get home in case there are salt or chemicals on the road.
All dogs love to play, but not all are built for running. Dogs with short legs are meant for short distances — not marathon training. Take them on your warm-up walks and finish with a short jog down the block before you go on your long run. Also, dogs with “smushed faces” — called brachycephalic — are adorable and loving pets, but not well-suited for running because of their breathing mechanism. Stick to playing fetch with these cuties like bulldogs and pugs.
“For the average runner, the longer-legged the dog, the better,” says Dr. Watson. Labs, Goldens, Huskies, Dalmatian, and shepherds are just a few breeds that usually make good running companions. Greyhounds, known for speedy sprints, usually do not, FYI. And note that even if the breed is one that generally makes a good running companion, dogs’ personalities can be like people’s — some would simply rather stay home and watch Netflix than bolt out the door at 5 a.m. with you. You know your dog best!
You didn’t run marathons as a toddler, did you? (Though your mother may have stories about your sprints!) Then don’t expect a puppy to run 5 miles on his first trip out the door. Spend those first months going for walks together, building strength and endurance, and especially, WORKING ON MANNERS. A dog with bad manners will make a bad running companion if it darts for every squirrel, cat, and fellow runner on the route, or is constantly tripping you. You can throw in a block or two of running with each walk until they can follow you for more.
“Wait until they’re 6 months, at least, before you do some longer running,” says Dr. Watson. This helps their bone and muscle development as well as those all-important manners. You don’t want to create an early injury that plagues them for years, so start slow. “A smaller pup can go 5 to 10 minutes at most.” From there, add a little running at a time — walk, slow jog, moderate jog, back to a walk. If they can stop, sit, and stay on command, you can take off again. Dogs generally reach adulthood at a year, so leave serious running until then.
“When your dog starts lagging, or they stop and sit down, they’ve had too much,” says Dr. Watson. “That’s how they say I’m done. Read the room, know your pet.”
Don’t let your dog drink a gallon of water before a run, because that can cause a life-threatening condition called bloat. (This applies to food, too — don’t let them eat before running, either.) Instead, bring a water bottle so they can drink out of your hand or a collapsible cup if they start panting excessively. You can also build your route around water fountains, ( https://runcharlotte.com/water-fountain-map/ ) or stash a gallon or two of water on your route ahead of time. Dr. Watson says a run of 45 minutes or less should be fine — just make sure plenty of clean water is available when you get home.
Just like you need a stretch before you run, your dog can use one too. They may not do lunges (though that would be funny!), but a warm-up walk is a great way to stretch their legs and get them ready for something faster. There are even ways to stretch your dog’s legs and massage his muscles to get him rolling out the door more safely.
After your run, make sure you cool down adequately. That means walking until your heart rate comes down and your dog’s panting slows a little. And again, WATER! They need it and so do you. If they seem hot, pour a little over their heads to cool them, but don’t send them into a cold tub or a pool too quickly.
“If a dog seems overheated, a sudden cool down can be dangerous,” says Dr. Watson. “It can send them into shock.” Let them cool gradually as they drink water, and give them a little massage while you do your cool-down stretches.