"Stop!" I said to the man. He looked at me in sheer amazement. "You have to stop running with your dog like that," I said in the desperation of trying to find my own breath, but also out of shock seeing what is unfolding in front of me.
The thing is, I am unable to look at an animal and just see the animal. I see the animals' state of mind and health. I can not help it, it is just who I am. Many people around me clearly did not see what I saw... for them, it was just another person running the parkrun with their beloved dog. They did not see that this person was running with a mouth harness that is designed to close the dog's mouth.
How can you run with your dog and forcibly close its mouth? Dogs regulate their body temperature via their tongue. This husky dog was being forced to run with its owner, with a closed mouth. The owner had no idea what pain and suffering he was causing his dog during this parkrun. I am glad to say that he did stop and replace the harness with a normal collar, and continued the run. Afterward, I walked up to the person and apologised for shouting at him, but he smiled and thanked me for helping him and making him aware of the mistake he so unknowingly made.
After having run a few parkruns with my dog - and without my dog, I have come to realise that many people love having their dogs with them, but do they understand that there are right ways and wrong ways to run with their dog?
This is what encouraged us to put together an easy guide on how to run with your dog. We will take you through the steps from the beginning to the end, to help you and your dog make the most of this super fun family outing first thing on a Saturday morning.
1. Breed type, Age and Health
What kind of dog can join you on your parkrun?
If your dog is on the list below, then go for it.
- Belgian Shepherd
- Border Collie
- Fox terrier
- Husky (winter only)
- Jack Russell
- Labrador (Avoid hot days)
- Malamute (winter only)
- Miniature pincher
- Springer spaniel
- And any mixture of the above should be suitable too.
If your dog is not mentioned above, especially short-nosed dogs that struggle with breathing (pugs, bulldogs, mastiffs, Boston terriers), rather seek advice from your local vet or do short shaded walks around your neighborhood. Unfit dogs, overweight dogs, puppies, old dogs, and unsocialized dogs should be kept at home, or taken out to venues that cater to their needs.
How old must a dog be to be ready to join you on your parkrun?
Any of the above mentioned breeds over the age of 2 years is perfectly fine. If your pup is younger than this, you run the risk of injuring the animal as their bones and muscles have not properly developed yet.
Is your dog fit enough to run 5km?
Just like you, your dog will need to be helped with covering the distance, start off with walks and then runs. Always allow your dog to dictate the speed of the route. If your dog does not run fast enough for you, then either, slow down to their pace, leave them at home or consider getting a running dog when you next add another member to your family.
2. Suitable and Unsuitable Dog Running Gear
Should you let your dog wear a jacket to a parkrun?
If your dog needs a jacket, then he should not do parkruns. The dog needs to find a way to regulate their temperature, and the jacket will cause overheating. Certain dog breeds, especially Husky Dogs should not run in summer.
What type of Lead should you take with for a parkrun?
The only lead allowed at parkruns, are short leads. Consider making yourself most visible, by using a very bright lead. You could add something to it such a little bell so that fellow runners can hear and see you and your dog better during the run.
Which works best, a Collar or a body Harness for a dog on a parkrun?
It is a logical answer, but somehow it just does not seem like it for one too many people who run with their dogs.
- A body harness is the kindest way to run with your dog. The body harness keeps the dog in control, without restricting the airways. Be careful not to have a too-tight fit, to allow the lungs to expand enough for the dog to regulate their breathing. The best one to use is the one that runs diagonally down the chest.
- You can consider getting a No Pull body harness too, which has two attachment points, one in front by the chest, and one above the spine, helping you to have more control over the animal, but this is really only for walking your dog, not running.
- Collars are being used, but it really should not be used during running at all - placing pressure on the throat is also not good. If you do however have a pulling dog, still consider using a body harness rather than a collar - or take the dog on a dog training course to correct pulling behaviour. Collars are a complete no-no when you go for runs.
- Experienced runners know their dogs and they develop a good running style together. This article is not aimed at people competing in races. If you are starting out with this ‘new running thing”, please do not use any collar while running your dog. Every collar was designed for a specific use, there is no one that meets all the needs at the same time. Collars are used for walking, behavioural training, identification, and restriction, but are not good for running.
What Muzzle can be used during a run?
Muzzles, just like collars and harnesses have been designed for specific requirements. There is no one muzzle that fits all breeds or needs. Contact a professional if you are unsure of what muzzle will be perfect for your (dogs') needs. Muzzles are used for training your dog or during a dog walk. No muzzle should be used when a dog needs to open their mouth to regulate their temperature.
3. Training Ground
What type of training happens at a parkrun?
Parkruns should be used as a venue for you and your dog to get out and enjoy fitness fun, not be used as a behavioural training ground. Walking or running, either way, it is a fun place to be.
Does your dog need water during the 5km parkrun?
Again, just like us humans, it is imperative that our dogs stay cool and hydrated during a run. We recommend that you always take some water along and offer it to your dog every 1km. On a hot day, the dog might also enjoy some water poured over his or her body to help them to cool down.
Parkruns are a great way for you and your family to get some fresh air and start the weekend and get the blood circulation going.
Whether you park more than you run (thank you Ewan), we hope that this information will help you to better understand and enjoy spending time getting outdoors and training with your dog.
The above article is not endorsed by parkrun, it is a review from PetHealthcare team regarding the status of dogs being run at parkruns. This fun family event is designed to get more people out and about and make the world a better place. They are not race events, and this is why anyone from any age or fitness level can join in on this fantastic opportunity to start your weekend.
Parkrun have a few set rules for dog-friendly parkrun events:
- Socialised dogs on leads are welcome at many parkruns.
- One dog per runner at the 5k events.
- Most of the events do allow runners with dogs but there are some events that do not.
- Dogs should be kept under firm control, on a short lead with a harness, and extreme care taken to avoid tripping other runners.
- Dogs should not be registered. Any registration allocated to a dog, or any other animal will be deleted, and any associated results will be removed.
- Parkrunners are responsible for the welfare of their own dogs.
- Please clean up after your dog.
- Dog owners not keeping to the rules will not be scanned at the finish.
- On the matter of courtesy at parkruns always consider others. This is particularly the case at some of the larger parkruns where they have had a few complaints that slow walkers and parkrunners with dogs often get in the way of the fast runners. Parkrun is never going to be similar to major races where there are seeded start areas and elite runners’ starts. (Every parkrunner is equal) but they would like to ask the slower runners and walkers to line up nearer the rear at a parkrun start.
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