Looking for something fun, frolicsome, and fast moving to do with your dog? If so, consider getting a 3.1-mile endorphin high, or in marathon-speak, entering a dog- friendly 5K.
For owners and canines in good physical condition, these 5-kilometer (5,000-meter) organized events provide a great way to rev up heart rates, interact with other dog lovers, and support pet charities. Animal shelters, veterinary groups, and community parks sponsor these people-and-pooch races in many cities across the U.S. Before signing up, check out each venue’s rules on doggie etiquette.
Aside from the joy of sharing an outing with your dog, the best part might come afterward at home, when you both hit the couch and get some well-earned ZZZs. But before you hit the road, get ready! If you wouldn’t run a marathon right off the couch, don’t expect your dog to jog along without any preparation.
Must Have Tips for Running a 5K with Your Dog:
- Stay close. Train your dog to stay within 3 feet of you on one side, and not lunge at other dogs. Begin by teaching your dog to walk nicely beside you. Use small treats or praise to reinforce this good behavior. If he pulls ahead, stop.
- Keep your dog on a clip-on leash. Use a hands-free or a regular 4- to 6-foot leash. Retractable leashes aren’t usually permitted in dog-friendly runs, as these can prove dangerous if a jogger runs between you and your dog.
- Watch the weather. Avoid overheating in hot weather by exercising early or late in the day. Brachycephalic breeds are particularly susceptible. Single-coated breeds and those with little body fat may need to wear a canine sweater to protect them from cold weather.
- Pick it up. Bring along plastic waste disposal bags to clean up after your dog.
- Stay hydrated. Bring water for you and your dog to remain energized.
- Get in condition before entering a 5K. Although dogs are born to run and easily race circles around the yard, start slow. Here’s how to do it:
- Wait until your dog reaches maturity. For small breeds, this takes about 18 months, and large breeds tend to mature around 24 months. Canine bones need time to develop, and joints are prone to injury if stressed before these ages.
- Assess you and your dog’s health and fitness. Could one or both of you stand to lose a few pounds? If you or your dog isn’t accustomed to running, spend a few weeks with easy strolls and a walking schedule. Ask your doctor and veterinarian if both you and your dog are healthy enough to participate in a 5K.
Not sure you and your dog are ready to run? Start with walking and build yourself up. Don’t get discouraged, start slow, set small goals and you and your dog will be up to speed in no time!
Have you and your dog ever entered a 5K? Are you considering running in a 5K with you dog? Tell us in the comments below!
Want a race to work toward? Join the DOG FANCY team for a day of doggie fun at the Rescue Me 5K-9 in Irvine, Calif. Not only will you be sharing the route with fellow pet-lovers and their canine companions, you’ll be helping animals in need with portions of the proceeds going to local area animal shelters, adoption centers and rescue groups.