Dogs are perfect running mates
Looking for a running mate? Web sites like exercisefriends.com allow you to set up a profile and search for the perfect partner for all your athletic needs. Or, you could look down and realize that crazy-cute creature staring up at you with the soulful eyes just might be the perfect running mate.
Notice I say "might." All dogs are not created equal. Some are not built for speed. Your old English bulldog isn't going to fare well at even a slow trot. His respiratory system isn't built for cardio. Nor is the pug's.
That doesn't mean only big dogs make good running mates, though. Nor does it mean all big dogs make good running mates. Some purebreds, like the German shepherd, tend to suffer hip dysplasia in their latter years, which could be exacerbated by extreme long-distance running. Then there are those under-30-pound terriers, spaniels and collies that will run circles around you, literally. So why not take them for a jog instead? They might stop running dirt paths into your green grass if they get a little more exercise than the back yard allows.
Research your breed and get to know your dog's limits. Many smaller dogs can run farther and faster than you might realize, and many larger breeds can easily out-distance the human at the other end of the leash. The key for any healthy canine jogger is the gradual building of endurance. Don't get nutty and take your 6-year-old, out-of-shape Rottie on a 5K out of the blue.
He could suffer some dire consequences.
If you're going to jog with your dog, great! You'll both reap the health benefits if you're smart about it, and some of those behavioral problems I've on occasion mentioned will lessen or even disappear when your dog gets a good dose of regular cardio.
There are so many perks to substituting your dog for your neighbor, boss, friend or significant other on that morning run, there's really no contest. Whoever they are, the human has a schedule, a job, a spouse, kids, people to consider, places to be, problems to dissect, issues to analyze. The dog has none of these. The pooch is ready and willing on a whim.
He won't chat, but doesn't mind if you do. He's happy to go your speed and content with your route. He won't argue, cancel, show up late or get jealous if another jogger catches your eye in passing. He really is the perfect running mate.
Of course, it's up to you to make sure you're his, as well. Grass, sand or dirt paths are easier on the paws than concrete, asphalt or gravel, which can be too hot at times. Puddles are to him what the shower is to you -- sweet relief! So let him at 'em when they come along.
You'll also have to keep an eye on the panting. Dogs don't sweat. They pant to cool themselves. If your pal's panting gets out of control, it's time for a break. A water break every 20 minutes is probably a good idea for him, if not for both of you. Also, puppies are not ready to be running partners. Wait until he's 2 years old.
Best of all, though, there's nothing like the look on a dog's face when he's running to remind you what it's all about. He's not in it for the competition. He's not in it for the svelte figure. He's in it for the pleasure -- the pure physical sensation of the sun, the breeze, the adrenaline, the feeling of being alive. It doesn't get better than that.
Woof! Dog trainer Matthew "Uncle Matty" Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series "WOOF! It's a Dog's Life!" Send your questions to email@example.com or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619.