By Debbie Sanville, Lab Rescue Volunteer
I have been running with my 12.5 year old black lab, AJ, for almost 11 years. It is an activity we both take great pleasure in and benefit from. Our longevity is not by chance- it has been made possible because of some simple, considerate, and necessary things I do each and every time we go out. I am sure AJ would have suggested them had I not.
Before You Go Out
- Consider your lab’s age, health, weight, and size – is he suited to running? AJ is a lean 60- pound field lab with a flat coat. Not all labs should run.
- Check the thermometer - particularly important in the spring and summer. Do NOT take your lab for a run if it is over 70 degrees or if it WILL BE over 70 degrees when you finish. No exceptions! Dogs do not sweat, and can suffer heat exhaustion in warm/hot weather.
- Make sure your lab is hydrated, rested, and is not limping or stiff. Do the same for yourself.
- Check your dog’s collar and leash- are they on properly? Are they secure? Is he wearing rabies/ID tags?
- Select a route that will provide good footing and safety for both of you. If possible, run on trails or soft ground. Avoid high traffic, rocky, or littered areas. Know where you are going ahead of time and make sure that there is fresh water readily available – stream, pond, river, water fountain, etc. If you’re in doubt bring water and a some kind of container with you so your dog can drink
- Get your lab in shape to run with you. AJ and I started by running easily for 10- minute increments and gradually worked up to longer distances. Do not expect your lab to be able to run for any length of time without training.
While on the Run
- Run at a pace that easily accommodates your lab. You should NEVER have to pull him along- and if you do- you are going too fast! This is not a race -rather it is a great opportunity to connect with your best pal.
- Keep an eye out for distractions- cars, pedestrians, bikes, dogs, cats, wild animals. Remember that your lab has a different vantage point and a much better sense of smell.
- Be sure your dog gets water- even before he is panting desperately. If he is really hot, get him submerged up to his chest.
- Finish while you are both feeling good.
After the Run
- Take it easy and see that your lab does too!
- Give him a day or two to recover before venturing out again. Watch for limping, stiffness or irregular gait. If there is any sign of injury, get him to the vet ASAP.
- Marvel at the new bond between you and your lab.
Labs are athletic, happy dogs who will do almost anything to please their people- including going far beyond their physical endurance. Do not put your dog at risk because he loves you so much- instead find the right balance and travel new roads together. AJ and I highly recommend it!
Additional Note from Lab Rescue
Our vets have strongly recommended that owners do not run on pavement/sidewalks with dogs under 18 months as this bone plates are not fully developed and running on hard surfaces can cause damage to joints including hips and knees.