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What you need to know to run with your dog

Sal Sloan, owner of Fetching, exercises with her dog Chewy near the waterworks building and the beach in Toronto, where she often holds outdoor exercise classes for people to do with their dogs.

Deborah Baic / The Globe and Mail/Deborah Baic / The Globe and Mail

BEFORE YOU BEGIN

Be realistic: Aim for twice a week, one hour each, for first-timers. Look at your lifestyle and schedule times for your runs together. Three times a week is ideal. You need to walk your dog every day but pick two days where you can boost the exercise and join in.

Start slowly: You and your dog will need to build up your fitness levels gradually. Don't overdo it and burn out – take pride in your gradual gains together, whether it's getting up that hill or going an extra block.

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Communicate: Watch a dog trainer with a pooch and you'll soon realize that communication is everything. Cheer on your dog, correct consistently, encourage eye contact – all of these will build the bond between you and your dog, and keep you both motivated.

Choose your location: Don't run down a busy sidewalk – there are too many distractions and people in the way. Get out to a boardwalk or a park, where you and your dog can focus on the run.

Choose your leash: Avoid retractable leashes – they can give a dog too much distance and can curl around trees and other people, causing rope burn. A two-metre leash will work, and leather is nice for strong dogs because there's little give. Leashes that attach to your waist are terrific – you can always use your hands when necessary, but they give you freedom while you run.

A SAMPLE WORKOUT

Warm up: Get both of your heart rates going with a fast walk or slow jog for five minutes.

Cardio exercise: Run or alternate run/walk for 15 minutes, pushing yourself without overdoing it. Add a few fast run/sprints into the mix to keep your heart rate up and your body working hard. Changing speeds encourages your dog to constantly pay attention to you.

Strength train: For three to five minutes, get your dog to sit and stay (while you hold or step on the leash) while you do push-ups on a park bench, lunges on the grass or hold a low squat against a tree. Keep in mind your pooch might not be used to holding a position for more than 15 to 20 seconds. He's learning, so reward him with praise or a treat, before he breaks his stay, to build his confidence.

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Repeat: Complete another cycle of cardio and strength training.

Cool down: Slow your heart rate by lightly jogging and doing dynamic stretches (lift your legs during a walk to stretch the hamstrings, swing your arms gently to stretch your back) for five minutes.

Stretch: End your workout with two to three minutes of stationary stretching, holding each stretch for a minimum of 20 seconds. Your dog can be in a down stay (lying down) – he'll be ready to relax, and he's deserved it.

Getting started and workout tips provided by Sal Sloan, owner of Fetching.

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About the Author
Editor in the Opinion section

Amberly McAteer is an editor in the Opinion section at The Globe and Mail. She has been a homepage editor, online editor and community editor in Features - including Life, Travel, Style, Arts and Books. She's written columns about her quest to run a 10K and find the perfect dog. More

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