Let me first preface by saying that before letting your dog begin any new walking, jogging or exercise routine (whatever you want to call it), you first want to make sure that your dog is physically up to the task. If you are not sure, I would recommend checking with your veterinarian. This is the same approach any person would take when starting their own new workout or physical exercise regiment. Additionally, just like any person would start off on any new exercise regime, you would want to ease your dog into it. Regardless if it’s jogging or even walking, take it slow and steady. You wouldn’t want to go out and run a 10K if you just started jogging. If you’re taking your dog out on walks, you wouldn’t want to start off with a 5 mile hike if all that you have done previously is a walk around the block. You would not want to take a dog that is overweight out jogging to try and shed the extra pounds. You would want to start off with short walks. Then as the dog closes back in on a normal weight, you can increase the distance and pace of the walks. You can see where I’m going with this.
Not all dog walks are the same but they are all fine in that you get to go out with your four-legged best friend; get some fresh air and stretch your legs (not mention letting your dog answer nature’s call). When I was first taking Taylor (my lab) on longer and longer walks, we would stroll very leisurely. My face would be buried in my iPhone or iPad most of the time. I was not engaged in what Taylor was doing so long as she was walking along by my side. We would sometimes walk in excess of 5 miles (3 miles was our average) in addition to a 30-45 minute stop at the local dog park. Though it was great exercise (more for me at the time), to Taylor it seemed to me like it was not enough. I say this because when we got back home, she was still full of bouncing-off-the wall-energy. I had just spent 10 + hours at the office and then walked another 3 + miles with my dog. What I wanted to do for the next hour or two before bed was to just chill in front of the TV (and catch up on SportsCenter or anything food related – No Reservation is my fave!).
It wasn’t until I stumbled upon a more up-tempo pace (as noted in my first post “How it all started”) that I noticed a change in our interaction during our walks. First of all, I put away the iPhone/iPad and focused on her (even talking to her). I noticed more things like she constantly ate things off the ground (being a lab this shouldn’t be surprising!). I deducted the reason why she would sometimes throw-up in the apartment was because she was a poop eater (and still is!). She’s really quick so I really pay attention to her, otherwise she could vacuum up something bad for her without me even realizing. You don’t know (and don’t want to know) where that poop came from! I became engaged and in return, Taylor became more engaged in me! I also noticed that she became less-likey to bark at another dog or at someone walking by for example. Most of all, I could see more and more that expression on her face that all of us dog walkers learn in dog walking school to be the sign of a relaxed dog. It’s kind of like when your dog sticks her head out the window of your car when it’s moving (I personally don’t let her stick her head out of my car window while driving but I’ve observed may other dogs doing just that).
As jogging became more and more of our walk, I made sure I paid extremely close attention that I was not even close to over-exerting her in any way. I made sure we would take plenty of breaks for water and rest (this was more for me as well!). I paid close attention to her breathing and made sure there was no sign of excessive panting (please see footnote in comments). I checked her gums to make sure they look normal and passed the finger test (gums should be pink and if you gently press your finger into her gums and let go, the white part from your finer should turn right back to pink). I also checked her paws everyday to make sure they were not being worn at all by our higher energy walks. I even went as far to check her pulse every couple blocks and made sure she was recovering normally. I still practice all of these safety methods today (and will do so with all dogs I walk). All of these safety checks that I just describe can be googled (I will go into more details plus add links in a not-to-distant blog post).
I am not trying to advocate jogging over walking or vice versa. The point I’m trying to make from this post is the simple (and sometimes viewed by me, as common sense) approach of being engaged with your dog and what she is doing, all-the-while getting her to focus her attention on you (a majority of the time). I was amazed on all the little things I picked up on by paying most of my attention to Taylor during our walks/jogs (exceptions are being aware of what’s ahead of you like some poop off to the side that Taylor could vacuum up in an instant). This will help you in preventing your dog from doing something you would not her to do on a walk (such as barking at someone or eating poop!).