Biking, Running and Swimming with Dogs

dog exerciseThe Animal Medical Center Doggy Dash gives canine runners the chance to compete, but for daily exercise, the three components of the triathlon are good ways for you and your dog to stay healthy together. Here are some tips for biking, running and swimming with your dog:

Biking with Dogs
First, wearing the right apparel is important for both dogs and humans. If biking late at night to avoid NYC traffic, hot asphalt and heatstroke, dogs should wear flashing lights, slip collars and short leather leashes. Flexi-leads and chain leashes are not recommended as they could lead to an accident or injure someone seriously in a crash. You should wear light colored clothing, a reflective vest and helmet.

New York City biking presents some challenges. First, oil slicks on the street. In NYC, our bike lanes are on the left, so we suggest holding the leash in the left hand and having a really good brake mounted for right hand use, but the dogs have to contend with car doors from cars parking to the left of the bike lane, which could injure the rider or the dog.

In addition to watching out for car doors, you can train your dog to run right alongside of your bike, not in front of or lagging behind. Dogs can run faster than you can bike and if they get out ahead could easily pull you over. Let them lag behind and cross over to the right and they could spin the biker around like a top. Other dangers include wildlife, which distract the dogs and may cause them to bolt. In NYC, dogs can easily be distracted by rats or intimidated by police horses. Our orthopedic surgeons recommend you wait until a dog is about a year old to bike them. Heavy exercise in young dogs may lead to orthopedic issues in adulthood.

Swimming with Dogs
Many dog families think all dogs can swim, but they are mistaken. When it comes to the pool, pond or ocean, treat your dog like you treat your children. Never let your dog swim alone until you are sure of his swimming skills. Get in the pool and supervise dog swim time until you are sure he knows how to get in and out of the pool on his own. If you and your dog swim in the ocean or lake, start shallow and gradually wade out further until your dog is comfortable swimming. Avoid areas where there are rip currents that could drag your dog away from shore.

Swimming is a great activity for arthritic dogs and dogs recovering for orthopedic surgery, but these dogs should use a doggie lifejacket as a swimming aid while they build up their strength.

If your dog just can’t master swimming, but loves the water, consider getting him a kiddie pool for the backyard. He can safely keep cool on a hot summer day.

Running with Dogs
Carefully pick the time of day you run with your dog. Choose early morning or evening when it begins to cool down. Avoid mid-day when it is hot and humid. You stretch and warm up prior to running and your dog should too. Don’t expect Fido to jump off the sofa ready to run a 5K. Warm up and training are key for the success of the canine athlete. Consider making the exercises on The AMC’s dog exercise poster your dog’s warm up routine.

Don’t feed your dog right before or right after a run. After a run, let them cool down, have a drink of water and then feed a light snack. Be sure to help your running buddy stay hydrated by carrying a collapsible bowl or dog water bottle.

While your dog is cooling down after a run, check his feet for sores or blisters and his coat for any ticks that might have hitched a ride while he was exploring in the bushes. If the pavement is too hot for you to place your hand on, then it is too hot for your dog’s paw pads and running is off the schedule for the day.

Be considerate of fellow runners and bikers. Don’t use a retractable leash. When released to their full length, they can serve as a trip wire or provoke a bicycle crash on a busy path.