The Benefits of Running for your Dog
Just like people, dogs experience a plethora of physiological and psychological benefits from being provided with the right levels of exercise, and a healthy balanced diet. Although walking is a great exercise, most dogs need a chance to burn off more energy than usual dog walking can provide. Brisk walking can help burn some calories, but can’t really be considered aerobic exercise for our canine companions. In a study conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention in 2006, they found that people walk their dog, on average, at 22 minutes per mile. In terms of a dog’s average speed, this pace would be considered quite slow, and constitute ‘casual walking’. It’s leisurely and enjoyable, but doesn’t get their heart rate going, or their muscles working hard. Most dogs (except possibly miniature and toy breeds, such as the Chihuahua) averagely walk roughly 4 miles per hour, or 15 minutes per mile. This average walking pace means dogs aren’t getting the optimal benefits they require from their daily exercise. It also makes it impossible to lose weight if they need to. Allowing your dog to run, on the other hand, can keep their heart rate up and allow them to enjoy their natural inclination towards faster speeds. In fact for most dogs, it is difficult to exceed their aerobic limits through fast paced walking or running. Aerobic activity is built into your dog’s muscle fibres, which are more resistant to fatigue than ours, and contain higher levels of aerobic enzymes designed for high speed movement.
Dogs require daily exercise to remain at optimum health, and cardiovascular exercise helps strengthen their heart muscles and improve lung health, thus living helping them to live a longer more fulfilling life. Running also uses different muscles from walking, and provides a continual and more intense work out. Dogs are sadly susceptible to the same health implications that we are due to lack of exercise, including diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and certain types of cancer. In fact, diabetes in dogs has increased 850% in the last five years, and weight gain is the predominant cause of this disease. Although a healthy, high-quality, diet is also important for weight management, a consistent exercise regime is vital too. As the UK’s human population becomes fatter, and the obesity crisis continues, the same fate is occurring to our fur-babies. In 2014, the PDSA released an Animal Welfare Report that estimated that one in three dogs in the UK are now overweight or obese, this is around 4 million dogs in the UK. These figures are set to rise as the epidemic worsens. The PDSA claim the cause is a combination of overfeeding (especially the wrong types of ‘junk’ food), and more seriously, a lack of decent exercise. The report states that approximately six million dogs go for less than an hour walk per day, and ¼ of a million don’t get any walk at all. No wonder our canines are falling ill, or being sent in alarming numbers to rescue centres for behavioural and emotional issues.
As well as the physiological benefits, allowing your dog the freedom to run, is also great for their mental health, and psychological wellbeing. Running improves mental sharpness, and reduces anxiety, stress and depression. In the same way running can improve the mood of humans, it can have the same affect on dogs. Aerobic exercise releases surges of happy endorphins called dopamine, meaning dogs too can experience a ‘runner’s high’. Under stimulated and under exercised dogs, can be prone to destructive behaviours such as chewing, digging and rubbish rummaging. They can become hyper, overly excitable and restless at night. It can be the cause of attention-seeking behaviour, like whining, jumping up and barking. Sadly, in some cases it can lead to aggressive behaviour. Many owners have noted that with increased daily exercise, their dogs have shown less destructive or anxious behaviours. Burning off this nervous energy is also great for puppies and dogs that suffer from separation anxiety, or are reactive on lead, or aggressive towards other dogs on walks. Running can help eliminate these issues, providing a great and distracting way to socialise your dog to new surroundings and unfamiliar dogs.
It must be noted that different breeds require different levels of exercise. Some dogs are more naturally athletic, such as working dogs, huskies, greyhounds. These dogs can manage long-distance running no problem. However, some smaller breeds can also find enjoyment and benefits from running. Some breeds with breathing difficulties, very short legs or dogs that are generally too large, may struggle with long distance, but could be better with short sprints.
The other great thing about getting your dog running is, you can run with them! It will greatly benefit your own health, and will provide you with another way to bond with your dog, over an activity you can both enjoy. If you don’t have time to run with your dog, Wanderdog provides 30 to 45 minute runs. We would love to help give your best friend the active lifestyle that you wish them to have. We take dogs on an individual basis, unless from the same house, and have been shown to run well together. If your dog hasn’t been for a run before, we will take it at their own pace, and build up their enthusiasm and energy for running. If you’re curious about getting your dog into running and want to know more, get in touch. We would be very happy to have a free consultation with you, to discuss how to get your dog out running, and super fit in no time!
See below for a fun and interactive graph on the best dog breeds to run with. It shows how far you can safely run with each breed, and how many calories you’d burn in doing so. The graph was created by Lovejoys Pet Food (see - https://www.lovejoyspetfood.co.uk/best-dogs-to-run-with)