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Summer is a great time to enjoy the outdoors with your dog — there’s nothing better than a long walk on a sunny day. An even better idea? Turn your walk into a show of support for a local rescue or shelter by participating in a dog jog or canine fun run.
But before you sign Fido up for that 5K, take a minute to think about proper etiquette. Good manners are important in every situation, but they are especially important at an event like this that's loaded with unpredictable scenarios. Often, a little advance planning and training make it possible for you and your dog to be on your best behavior — and have fun at the same time.
Read the rules. Some events are dog-friendly at all distances, which means that you and your pooch can choose to participate in either a 5K (3.1 miles) or a shorter run (usually 1K or 1 mile). But others specify that certain distances, typically the longer ones, are for people only. Be sure that you’ve signed up for the right race before you take Fido to the starting line.
Prep your pet. Running or walking a mile or so may not seem like a big deal for you, but unless your dog has been going that distance regularly, it may be too much for him, especially with the summer heat. Build up (safely!) to the designated distance before the event to be sure that you and your pooch are ready on race day. If you have any doubts as you're preparing, check with your vet, and always opt to be safe rather than sorry.
Bring the right gear. Even an early morning start can be hot and humid, so be sure you have water for your dog — and a portable bowl for him to drink from if needed. Carry treats to reward and motivate your pooch. And don’t forget the poop bags! It’s not good manners to leave a mess on the path — especially when you’re sharing it with other pet parents and their dogs.
Use your best leash manners. A retractable leash can be dangerous at an event like this. It offers too many opportunities to trip up other runners or walkers and lets your dog roam too far from you, which makes it harder for you to supervise his behavior. Instead, opt for a short leash that keeps your dog walking by your side, or a harness, which offers both comfort and control.
Pace yourself. Most dog-friendly running events bill themselves as “fun runs” rather than races, meaning the idea is not to sprint your way to a personal best, but rather to enjoy the time with your dog and a hundred of his canine brethren. Don’t be afraid to stop and rest as needed and to slow down — or even turn back early — if your pooch is looking pooped.
Be aware of the other participants. If you and your dog are planning to run the course at a quick pace, position yourself near the front of the pack and over to the side at the start — that way, you won’t have to weave in and out of the walkers as you set off for your jog. On the other hand, if you’re walking with multiple dogs or a dog and a stroller — or if you or your dog just like to dawdle — line up near the back where you can move at a slower pace without getting tangled up or knocked down.
Be a good pet parent. Dog jogs tend to be family events, which means lots of kids — many of whom may want to pet (or hug or kiss or snuggle) your dog. And while your dog has perfect manners (of course), not everyone else’s dog — or child — will. Be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your dog at all times.
Finally, keep in mind that if your pooch just isn’t up to participating in a dog-friendly event, you can still support the shelter or rescue by making a donation or even offering to volunteer. And then you can start training for next year’s dog jog!
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