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Pet Vet: A dog can be a good running partner

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Daphne is Ann Anderson's running partner.
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Did you hear about the dog from Indiana named Boogie that finished a half marathon in 2 hours, 15 minutes? That's a pretty decent time, especially for an untrained athlete.

For his excellent sportsmanship, Boogie won a medal, a microchip, and an appointment to be neutered in the hopes this would tame his wandering ways.

Last fall Boogie would've beaten my dog Daphne "paws down." Daphne maxed out at 4 miles tops — not because she was out of shape, but because she was bored. I didn't run fast enough for her, apparently.

I'd hear about other runners training for marathons with their dogs, and wonder how they got them to stay focused. But after dashing through the icy temps this winter, Daphne's a changed dog. She couldn't be more excited to run. What's my secret? Am I that much faster?

Not really. It's just that Daphne wanted another dog to run with, and now she's got one.

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I'd like to share some training tips for running with your dog:

• Always be wary of overheating. Dogs can't sweat like we do. Most spring days are safe, temperature-wise; but use your common sense and monitor your dog. If their tongue is lolling on the ground, or they are slowing down, it's time to stop.

• Be sure to check the pads of your dog's feet after each run. Even in shoes, our feet get calluses and blisters. Consider how much wear and tear your dog's feet endure while running.

• To decrease chances of vomiting or diarrhea, wait at least an hour after a meal before running with your pet. Some dogs will get softer stools the longer they run.

• Although opinions vary, most experts agree that puppies shouldn't run until they are at least 6 to 8 months old to avoid damaging their developing joints. After that, increase mileage slowly, starting with a run/walk of a mile or less at first. Continue to increase mileage gradually to avoid injury. Naturally, if your pup or dog isn't well behaved on the leash for walking, perhaps an obedience class might be the first step to consider.

• For an adult dog, take an honest look at their waistline. If your dog's love handles are the first things you see, perhaps the running should wait. Carrying around the extra pounds puts added pressure on the joints, makes it more difficult to breathe, and increases the risk of overheating. Start by dieting and slowly increasing the lengths of your walks to lose the weight before attempting to run.

• Recognize that running with your dog can cause you injury if you trip on the leash. Decide if you want your pet to run alongside or in front of you. The length of the leash is another issue. It may take a few runs to determine what leash length and running position works best. A leash that attaches around your waist is helpful. Holding a jerking leash in your hands stresses your shoulders and back.

• Be considerate. Bring along poop bags. Don't hog the road. Move over and keep control over your dog when passing others. Consider bringing water and training your dog to use a water bottle.

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Be safe and have fun. It's a wonderful world to run in.

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