We know dogs add much to our lives. But studies show they not only make us happy, but also keep us healthy—having a dog in your life darn near guarantees increased activity, lower blood pressure, and elevated moods.
Dogs can also be the ultimate motivators too. A long run seems better with a little company. Plus a dog will be happy to hit the trail with you every day—rain or shine—and daily physical activity improves blood flow, reduces blood pressure and aids weight control.
But what’s great for you may not be great for the fuzzy guy. Sure, exercise is important for a healthy pet, but the family pet has different needs on the trail than you do. For example, overexertion can be a problem. Dogs live to make us happy; lots of times they don’t know to quit or slow down when they need to, and since they don’t show or express pain as we do, it can be hard to tell if your canine friend is hitting the wall. But easing them into your workout routine gradually—say, starting off with 2 miles and slowly building up—lets them get fit and gain endurance. And while our Up North landscape is an ideal place for a dog-and-human workout duo, there are some hazards of the trail that can sideline your pooch. Here are a few tips to help keep your furfolk raring to go, courtesy of Dr. Charles Morrison DVM, of Suttons Bay Animal Hospital.
10 Safety tips for working out with your dog
- For puppies or dogs under age 1, keep your exercise to short bursts. Their muscles and joints can’t take a lot of pounding and pressure.
- Run with your dog on soft terrain because it’s much easier on their joints and yours.
- Wear on a dog’s paw pads can make them very sore. “They need to get callused up just like people,” Dr. Morrison says.
- It’s not a good idea to take them running in the 90s or high humidity because of the chance of heatstroke.
- Bring water for them or let them take a drink at the lake. Avoid puddles, ponds or other stagnant water, where harmful microorganisms or parasites may be living.
- Let them have frequent drinks, rather than letting them fill up all at one time.
- After swimming, gently towel off their ears to prevent infection. Snow, ice or very damp grass can also create a moist situation in their paws where yeast and bacteria like to grow.
- Is your dog sensitive to ragweed? Tall grasses? Remember that their faces are three or four feet closer to the ground, Dr. Morrison says, and right in the midst of the allergens.
- Dogs can have serious allergic reactions to bug bites. You can put a dab of gentle insect repellent on them (try Avon Skin-so-Soft on the tips of and behind their ears, a vulnerable spot and one they’re not likely to be able to lick).
- Remember that while dogs do not get a rash from poison ivy as a human would, they can get the rash-causing oils on their coat and transmit them to their people.