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Running with your dog in winter.

Jogging with the dog in the parkBy Marilyn Miller

Happy New Year! So you’ve resolved to get back into shape, get back into those jeans, rediscover that six-pack that’s hidden under the natural consequences of eating pecan pie and mashed potatoes with gravy. Good for you!

It’s only natural that you want your best friend to come along with you. For companionship. For the exercise. For safety. For the fun of watching your dog flash you that grin.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind, however, before you head out onto the cold, icy trail.

  • First, not all dogs are meant to run. Dogs with short legs, or dogs with those cute little smushed in noses are not going to be able to tolerate running. Senior dogs. They’ll try. They’ll run their sweet little bodies into exhaustion for loyalty and love of you. Check with your vet first to see if your dog is safe for running.
  • Second, start slowly. If the most exercise you’ve accomplished in the past couple of months is lifting the TV remote, for the sake of your own health as well as your dog’s, start slowly. Look into a “Couch to 5K” program; there are several online.
  • It’s best if your dog takes care of its bladder and bowel needs before running. Hey, you make a pit stop before going out, and your dog is no different.
  • Salt is everywhere this time of year and can damage your dog’s feet, causing nasty ulcers. It can also cause stomach irritation if the dog licks it off. If your dog will wear booties, great. If not, there are waxes (Musher’s Secret is a favorite) and other products you can use to protect those precious little jelly bean toes. If all else fails, you can have the dog walk through clean snow to remove some of the residue, and then clean their paws with a damp cloth when you get home. It helps, too, to clip extra fur away from between their toes so that ice doesn’t collect there.
  • With all that extra exercise, your dog may need more food. Ask your vet about extra ration or treats, especially if your dog is a little overweight. If you’re willing to chow down a nutrition bar that tastes like autumn leaves held together with a little soap, then you know your dog is hungry, too.
  • Carry water for the dog. While you’re at it, carry water for yourself. Cold air is often dry air, and you’ll get dehydrated more easily than you might think.
  • Plan rest days. You need them and your dog needs them, too. Running every day, unless the dog is used to it and in top form, can cause injuries, including inflamed ligaments and tendons and even fractures.

Follow a few safety tips, have fun, and enjoy that feeling of accomplishment while spending time with the one who loves you unconditionally.

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