All is fine on your 5-K—until your corgi decides to chase a squirrel. Here, experts share how to maximize workouts with four-leggers.
1. Get the green light.
Check with your vet, as some breeds are better suited for exercise than others. Some short noses like English bulldogs (plus large breeds like mastiffs) should avoid endurance. Boxers are bomb runners, unless it’s hot and humid. Weimaraners, vizslas, and border collies are distance MVPs. But if you want to run very long stretches with your pooch, ask a vet who specializes in rehab medicine for a biomechanical exam.
2. Ease into it.
Dogs can’t complain about being tired or sore or needing more downtime, so it’s up to you to monitor their effort and recovery closely. Start with two short runs each week, adding 10 minutes every week following, says Sean Prichard, head canine fitness trainer at Pant & Wag in Washington, D.C. And pay close attention to your dog’s body language: Subtle signs like slowing down or stopping more frequently, as well as a drooping tail, can be warning signs she needs a break.
3. Hit the surf.
Before paddling out, have your dog wear his life vest and let him stand and sit on your board or a kayak (on solid ground) until it’s old hat, says Dawn Celapino of Leash Your Fitness in San Diego. Once in the water, practice commands for sitting still as you paddle (i.e., “steady”), when to hop off (try “okay, swim”), and when to head to shore (“in” or “heel”).
4. Be competitive.
There’s been a rise in dog-plus-owner races—from the Atlanta Dog Jog to the Seattle Furry 5K. (Check with local running clubs for other races.) Experts’ best training tip: Spend time on trails or roads frequented by runners with dogs. That’ll get your pooch comfortable being in a pack with distractions.
5. Mix things up.
You need strength and cardio, your dog needs activity and obedience training. Do it all at once! At the nationwide Thank Dog Bootcamp, participants alternate between (joint) cardio and (owner) strength intervals, says co-owner Noelle Blessey. You can too: Sprint for one minute, then command your dog to sit or lie down while you do as many burpees as you can in one minute. Continue this pattern for 10 minutes, then repeat up to two more times (swapping burpees for lunges, squats, or pushups). Your dog isn’t slacking off: “Practicing the discipline of sitting still after getting wound up from the cardio provides a lot of mental stimulation, which many dogs need,” she says. “It makes them think and can improve their overall behavior.” Plus, the short breather gets Mr. Pookey ready to keep you working hard during each sprint.