running

Dogs are natural intuitive exercisers

Driving my son to rugby in cities across our large province means I’ve been listening to the CBC a lot, at times when I don’t usually have the radio on. The other day during the noon hour call in show they had a vet on answering questions and generally talking about hot weather and pets. Mostly it’s this: FOR GOD’S SAKE DON’T LEAVE THEM IN CARS.

But also it turns out, don’t make dogs run if they don’t feel like it. Unlike people dogs have a pretty good sense of whether they ought to be running. Unlike people (see Tracy’s Intuitive eating? Yes! Intuitive Exercising? Not So Much) dogs are naturals at intuitive exercise. Given the opportunity and the right environment they run, though obviously this is breed dependent.

In light of this there’s a habit those of us who keep company with dogs ought to avoid in the heat. Some people attach their dog to their bike on a hot, humid day and ride off with the dog jogging along beside. There are other issues with this besides the heat. (I’d never trust my squirrel seeking dog to do this, yes I’m talking about you Manny, large dog on the left.) When you’re riding dogs have no choice but to run and their breathing serves two purposes. Dogs breathe hard when they run for the same reason we do, getting air to the lungs etc. But they are also panting in the heat to cool themselves. For dogs that’s vital to not over heating.

In addition to the poor dogs trapped in over heated cars, vets see dogs suffering from heat exhaustion after running in hot muggy summer weather.

Left to their own judgement, dogs won’t run in this stuff.

My dogs had zero interest in walking, let alone running, during the recent heat wave. We’d get out the door, get to the end of the block and they’d flop. They’d drop to the ground like expert protesters trained in passive resistance and look longingly back at the house.

Our house doesn’t have air conditioning so it wasn’t the cool they craved. It was not moving!

In the end we resorted to walking slowly in the early morning and at night. High risk for skunks and squirrel chasing but better from a heat and humidity perspective.

But this morning they were frisky and jumping about looking at their leashes before I’d even had a cup of coffee. Hilarious. Like totally different dogs. Come on, let’s go! Run! You remember how to run, right? Bark, whimper, bark. Lots of jumping up and down.

I haven’t been running lately so much as I’ve been jogging with dogs. You can read a bit about exercising with dogs here, Injuries, exercise, and thank God for dogs, and a bit about running with dogs here, Six things I love about running and six things I wish I could change.

My smaller dog, the one on the right, lets me set the pace. She just wants to be by my side. Aside from being terrified of buses and cowering in shrubs, she’s perfect to run with. When I run with just her I have a waist leash I use so I can still run swinging my arms normally. I haven’t attempted that yet with our new arrival. Our new larger dog Manny weighs in at over a hundred and fifty pounds and he has two speeds, dash and dawdle, neither of which are good running speeds for me. We’re working on it and making some progress. One nice feature of having Manny by my side is there’s zero personal security worries.

Jogging with dogs is best in the winter. It’s almost never too cold for them and they have to get outside for exercise no matter what the conditions.

But unlike people they don’t do it for exercise or to lose weight. No goals at all. They run because it feels good and if doesn’t, they don’t.

5 thoughts on “Dogs are natural intuitive exercisers

  1. Great post! I have a mixed hound breed. We’re still working on running – that nose of his often leads him in different paths… usually directly up into people’s yards! I will say this though, having a pooch means I am out walking twice a day, every day, in sun, rain and snow. We end up usually getting 4-5 miles in a day. So, even if I have a hard time getting in other exercise, I always do that. He’s great motivation!

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    1. Yes, I was dog sitting two beagle crosses in Australia and there was no stopping them when they caught an interesting scent. Hard work to walk!

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  2. Ha and people think dogs are stupid. Sounds very sensible to me, not running in extreme heat!

    “They run because it feels good and if doesn’t, they don’t.” I love this and try and apply it to my exercise regime (weights rather than running however!)

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  3. Sam, get air conditioning for your house – if not for yourself, for your dog! The units are relatively cheap these days. Just started feeling for you (and I admit it, your dog) and thinking about how you guys survived the recent heatwave without.

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    1. I have a room unit in my bedroom and upstairs on our third floor but the dogs don’t hang out there…so my guess is that they don’t care. We only run it on really bad days. Mostly I don’t mind the heat.

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