Safety When Exercising With Your Dog

I witnessed a bike accident today that inspired me to write a blog about safety when exercising with your dogs. I think it is great that people want to exercise with their pets, but there are some safety issues that should be taken into consideration. Thankfully, the accident I witnessed did not end up with serious injuries but it certainly could have. A biker had his dog attached to his bike with a leash. The dog was running along beside the bike and all was fine until suddenly a chipmunk ran across the road a bit in front of the bike. The dog simply looked at the critter but this caused him to pull on his leash which made the bike slightly tip. As the cyclist regained his balance, he ran into the dog and he then took a tumble off his bike. Afterward, the rider told me that his dog never chased other animals so he felt safe with him running beside his bike. But all his pet did this time was look at the chipmunk which caused the accident. Thankfully, both the cyclist and the dog ended up with only minor bruises (but I have to say, the bike didn’t do so well).

I see many people here on Mackinac Island who ride their bikes with their dogs on a leash (usually with the leash being held in their hand) and thankfully, this is the first accident I have actually witnessed but I have heard of others. It’s great that people enjoy the company of their dogs while cycling, but I personally think it very dangerous. More so than running with your dog, but both situations can be dangerous, especially when you might be passing other dogs. Personally, I would rather cyclists didn’t ride with their dogs but instead walk or run with them. However, even when doing that, the following safety precautions should be followed when exercising with your pet:

  1. 1. Be sure he is ready for the type and speed of movement you will be doing. Just like your own personal training, start training your dog at a slow speed and work your way up.
  2. 2. Check with your vet to be sure your dog is able to do the type activity you a planning to put him through. For example, I have a friend who started running his puppy too early in his life and caused him permanent hip damage. Not only was the dog too young to start a running program, but they were running for too long a distance and on a hard surface.
  3. 3. Be sure both of you stay hydrated. Along with your own water bottle, pack a dish you can use to pour water into so your pet can easily drink. 
  4. 4. Warm up both you and your dog. Start slowly and work your way up to your training speed. 
  5. 5. Instead of just stopping at the end of your walk or run, cool down by slowing down gradually and finally ending by taking a drink.
  6. 6. Watch your pet to be sure he is not panting heavily, drooling excessively or slowing down on his own.
  7. 7. Give your dog lots of praise for a job well done. He really wants to please you so let him know he has done just that.

Written by Joan Barch, 2016 Fitness Ambassador