Motivated by man's best friend!

Nutrition Team

Expensive personal trainers, costly gym memberships and over-caffeinated exercise experts aren't the only ways I or you can get motivated. Your inspiration may be at the foot of your bed, ready and willing to please you. No, we don’t mean your partner. We mean your real true love: your puppy.

The road can get lonely for a runner, especially in the early stages of training. Your best friend will keep you company, stave off boredom and motivate you when your own legs are ready to give up. But before you and Rover begin a new programme, there are a few things you should know about training with your dog. The benefits of a training programme are much the same for you as they are for your dog: more energy, a longer lifespan, fewer health problems and a better night’s sleep. The training principals are also very similar.

Make it a habit

Dogs, like most people, like routine. If you’re going to start a running programme, try to run at the same time each day, and on the same days each week. Your dog will begin to look forward to the day’s run, and hopefully you will, too. It’s OK to break routine every once in a while. Just make sure to get back on track again.

See the signs

Your dog loves you and will do anything to please you - including running well past his stopping point. Pay attention to your companion and look for signs that he or she is working too hard: excessive panting, lagging behind or his or her tongue hanging out. Bring water for you and your dog, but be sure not to let him or her drink too much. Like people, dogs shouldn’t eat less than an hour before working out or immediately afterward and should drink only small amounts of water during the run.

On the right foot

You wouldn’t start a training program with a 10-mile run, and your dog shouldn’t either. Like people, dogs need to build up their endurance slowly. Start with long walks and work your way up to a short jog before heading out for a long afternoon run. Because your dog doesn’t have the designer running shoes you perhaps are privy to, his pads have to toughen up. Never run at high noon when the road is too hot. Also, start out on soft surfaces like grass before moving to blacktop or asphalt. Check your pooch’s pads frequently for cuts, cracks or splinters.

Considerations: Questions to ask

• How old is your dog? Puppies shouldn’t begin a training programme before they are fully grown. Small breeds can usually begin running between eight and 10 months, but some larger breeds, such as the Great Dane and Saint Bernard, aren’t fully matured until 18 months. Older dogs may be more suited for leisurely walks than strenuous runs.

• What breed is your dog? Toy breeds, short-nosed dogs (such as bulldogs) and short-legged dogs (such as dachshunds) are not suited for running.

• How healthy is your dog? Extremely overweight dogs, dogs suspected of having heartworms or dogs with serious health problems should not begin a running programme before they are healthy and have been OK’d by their vet.

• If you are unsure if your dog should begin a running programme, consult your vet.

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