Avoid making these mistakes while working out with your dog—especially in the hot summer months.

Deborah E. Linder, D.V.M., M.S., D.A.C.V.N., petfoodology.org
May 14, 2020
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Regularly hitting the pavement or hiking trail with your four-legged friend is a great way to keep them healthy and mentally stimulated, but there are some mistakes you could be making along the way. Here are seven things to avoid while working out with your dog, according to a veterinarian. 

You Haven’t Gotten Approval From Your Dog’s Vet.

Before hitting the pavement, ask if there are any health issues you may need to adjust for, like if your pet has heart disease, is less than a year old, or is a breed that’s especially prone to heatstroke. Remember—dogs don’t sweat. They cool off by panting. But breeds with short snouts, such as bulldogs and pugs (called brachycephalic breeds), might not be able to get air in— and so can’t cool down—as effectively as their long-nosed peers. They may need shorter outings and longer breaks.

You Didn’t Check the Temperature.

Heatstroke is a serious concern for dogs. Check heat indexes and avoid midday sun—early mornings or evenings are best. There are no hard-and-fast guidelines, but add around 20°F to whatever the current temperature is when deciding whether or not to head out, to account for the fur factor (kind of like you wearing a winter coat for your run).

You’re Going Full Speed. 

Just like humans, dogs can get injured from an intense “weekend warrior” run or hike. So if your dog is very sedentary now, start by walking for 5 minutes, 3 times per day—and then work your way up. When your dog can comfortably do 45 minutes total per day of walking, you’re likely safe to pick up the pace.

Getty / Heidi Harting / EyeEm

You’re Ignoring Your Dog’s Cues.

While you’re out pounding the pavement, allow your pooch to guide how much he can do. If he’s panting a lot, stop for a water break. If he sits or lags behind you, that means he’s done. After, monitor for any aches, pains or soreness like limping or slowness to get up—and scale back accordingly.

Always carry a water bottle and collapsible bowl (We love this portable, 2-in-1 bottle and bowl from Petco, $4) so you can provide plenty of water during your run. A good rule of thumb is a water stop and check-in with your pet every 10 minutes— or earlier if they are newer to running.

You’re using a retractable leash.

Whether on a walk or run, these types of tethers can lead to accidents with cars or other dogs, because it’s harder to control your pet if he decides to dart in the wrong direction.

A regular leash or special running leash that clips on a belt is a safer bet (like this one from Petco, $25). Consider picking one that’s reflective or has flashing lights if you’ll be out early in the morning or after dark, so motorists can spot you both.

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You’re letting your dog off leash.

Even on paths designated for free-roaming Fidos, there are a few things to consider. Only dogs with a proven ability to come when called should be allowed off leash. Also, consider that while your dog may be friendly, he may encounter dogs that aren’t. With a leash, you have more control to separate them before an incident happens.

You keep “forgetting” your poop bags at home.

Sounds obvious, but some parks and trails have stopped allowing dogs because owners failed to pick up after them. Let’s keep this privilege! (Stock up on a cute dispenser to attach to your dog's leash, like this one, Petco, $13)