Certain dogs make great trail running companions, but they need to ease into it. Help your dog build up their endurance and energy with these training and nutrition tips.
Trail running is a great way to exercise with your dog and let them get in touch with some of their wild side. However, the added exertion of running, especially in warmer months, requires more calories and nutrients than in colder, more sedentary months.
Purina’s Pro Plan foods are formulated with levels of protein, fat, and other nutrients. The brand aims to help fuel your dog’s metabolic needs for endurance activities as well as recovery afterward.
The Pro Plan foods are available through PetSmart’s AutoShip service. That’s one less errand and maybe more free time to spend running with your dog. Now, you can save 35% off your first AutoShip order and 5% on all future AutoShip orders with your Treats Membership at PetSmart.com.
Is Your Dog a Runner?
First things first, not all breeds will be able to keep up with your running stride and pace, so consider that. Your veterinarian should be able to estimate your dog’s limits based on the breed mix and physical features. They can also help formulate a rough training plan to build up endurance from just a few laps.
Age is also a factor. Puppies, like children, are not going to last long and don’t need a full run to get enough exercise. Typically, dogs need to be at least 12 to 15 months old before they’ve left the puppy stage behind. Ask your veterinarian if they think your dog is ready to work into running.
Like humans starting a new running regimen, dogs may benefit from mixing bouts of running with walking. Even dogs accustomed to running will benefit from a warmup of walking. Over time, you can build up your dog’s endurance by introducing longer periods of running than walking.
And lastly, don’t jump back into a previous distance or intensity if there’s been a lull in running with them.
Out on the Trail
Most park trails require leashing your dog to keep them close to you and from chasing wildlife or other trail users.
Consider getting a harness that will secure your dog comfortably and more securely than a collar. Some dogs find extra inspiration for slipping out of a collar when they see a rabbit or bird.
Most harnesses also include a pocket or two for holding poop bags and a collapsible water bowl. You’ll need to carry water for two and routinely hydrate your dog.
When it comes to choosing a trail, find one that’s a good fit and won’t make it too much of a challenge for your dog, especially on steep terrain at altitude. Carrying a dog back down an alpine trail can make for a long day for both you and your furry friend.
The American Kennel Club recommends taking frequent breaks to let your dog check out their surroundings and take care of bodily functions. These pauses let you check their panting and assess their energy levels. Dogs run to keep up with and please you, even if they’re past their limit.
Toward the end of your trail run, allow for a cooldown walk so your dog can recover. Once home, turn on a floor fan for your dog to lie in front of to help them cool off faster.
Avoid Hot Midday Runs
Humans tend to run more during the longer, warmer days of summer. However, these are the most challenging times for dogs to stay cool.
Dogs mainly cool themselves through panting, which exchanges hot air for cool air. When the air is hot, and humidity is up, this exchange is less efficient. Similarly, dogs sweat through their paws, which is harder when they are on hot surfaces, and they may have callouses from an increase in running.
On hot days, early-morning or evening runs are best. As a general rule, temps above 77 degrees Fahrenheit mean asphalt is too hot for your dog’s paws.
You can use the 7-second rule to test it yourself. Rest the back of your hand on the ground and see if you can hold it for 7 seconds without pain. We’re talking about trail running, so hard trails may not be quite as hot, but you can apply the same test.
Another popular rule is to leave your dog behind when the temperature and humidity added together creep above 140 or 150. For example, 75 degrees F and 75% humidity add up to 150, which is definitely too hot for running. In general, stick to early mornings or evenings and look for more shaded trails during the hottest months.
You can help your dog hydrate well before a day of prolonged effort. One way of doing that is to add some wet food to your dog’s diet. Some trainers even add wet food to a bowl of water, causing the dog to lap up extra water as they try to eat the food.
Purina Pro Plan Foods
Like you, an increase in running and exercise requires an uptick in calories. Purina Pro Plan foods are formulated to provide advanced nutrition for strength and stamina for your dog.
The first ingredient is real meat, according to the brand. Of course, meat alone is not a complete diet, so Pro Plan foods are designed to provide 23 essential vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants, which can help promote a healthy immune system. That’s why Purina labels these foods 100% complete and balanced.
Pro Plan is available in three life-stage formulas and includes dry and wet foods.
Pro Plan Puppy dry foods are formulated to promote concentration, problem-solving, and trainability. Pro Plan Adult foods are made to help muscles recover after exercise by offering protein and fat to fuel your dog’s metabolic needs. Lastly, Pro Plan Senior recipes aim to support joint health and mobility as well as promote your dog’s cognitive health.
The dry foods include 30/20 formulas (30% protein and 20% fat) that Purina claims can assist with optimizing your dog’s metabolism (think VO2 max) for greater endurance. These foods also contain amino acids to help with recovery after exercise. Additionally, omega-6 fatty acids and vitamin A in the food can nourish your dog’s skin and coat.
And, as noted earlier, wet foods can even help your dog hydrate.
Trail runners and dog-lovers can enjoy the best of both worlds by running with their dogs off the beaten path. It’s a good way for both of you to bond and stay in shape.
The main thing to remember is that this shared activity requires balancing your endurance with your dog’s. Always look out for signs of thirst and energy loss.
Either way, let your dog build up their endurance so you can both enjoy trail running for as long as possible.