My four-legged running buddy

Running with Karina

Exercise is important — even for our family members with four legs.

In the beginning of April, I made a decision to stop walking the dog and running by myself. I decided to teach the dog to run with me, so I could get everything done at once.

This wasn’t purely a selfish move. Karina’s weight was creeping up, and I know how important it is for a service dog to maintain a healthy weight.

At our team training at Canine Companions for Independence, Karina weighed 44 pounds. She has put on about five pounds while with us, and I didn’t want it to get out of control.

It was on a whim that I decided it was time for a change, but I knew I couldn’t just expect her to run any amount of distance off the bat.

Training with Karina
Karina learns to run with me.

We generally walk around our subdivision, which is just over a mile’s worth of sidewalks.

We began running parts of that mile, and over a few weeks we got to the point of running the entire time. I then began taking her with me on a bigger loop of about 2.5 miles, and we were quickly able to ramp up to running the entire time. It wasn’t hard to get her from there to 5K or 3.1 miles.

I recently posted on the blog about our new cat, Duncan. During a visit to the vet’s office with Duncan, I took a few minutes to talk to the doctor about running with a dog and got some valuable advice.

Luckily, the vet is also a runner. He said to always be mindful of the temperature. Try to run with a dog in the early morning or late evening. Any temperature more than about 85 degrees will require precautions, such as bringing water or taking breaks.

Some cues to watch for from the dog include not wanting to run, sitting down during a run or appearing lethargic, weak or showing excessive panting.

Also, make sure to give the dog time to warm up. Start off slow and gradually increase your pace. Karina is currently running at a 12 to 13 minute per mile pace. The vet told me I should be able to get that down to a 10 to 12 minute pace.

Before running with a dog, it’s important to discuss it with a veterinarian. The breed of dog and age can make a difference.

I think our running outings have helped us to strengthen the bond between us. I swear Karina always seems to have a bit of a grin on her face when we cross the finish line.

If you’ve run with your dog, please share your thoughts and tips below. Thank you!


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Cynthia Weirr

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Cynthia Weirr

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