February 03, 2022
If you’ve ever run a mountain trail - or let’s face it - even let your dog off-leash during a walk, she probably makes you look like Newman from Seinfeld racing Usain Bolt.
I once strapped my GPS watch to Luna’s collar during an 8-mile run. By the time I’d finished, she’d clocked a little over 13 miles, AND all at the pace she uses to chase deer (fast). I thought it was cool until I saw bloody paw marks on the floor, and watched her nap much longer than she had before. I was proud of her, but felt like a big dummy myself.
Dogs have twice as many legs as we do, but that doesn’t mean they’re meant to go twice as hard all the time - some will if you let them. Luna woke up with a limp the next morning, and still wanted to join me on my run. Instincts and love are stronger than pain for these creatures.
So how can you tell when your four-legged companion might need a recovery day?
Stiffness or Limping
Ignore the meatheads. Your dog does not need to be hobbling around in a cut-off tanktop to show she got in a good #legday. If she is hobbling, that’s a clear sign she went too hard during her last outing. Pay close attention to her. Is she pausing before jumping up into the car when she normally doesn’t hesitate? Is she walking more slowly up the stairs? Does she not want to bend all the way down to her food bowl? Give her a massage, and a few days of short, easy walks. She’s earned it. And try to avoid the same length of that particular activity again.
If your dog’s tail normally shoots to the ceiling when you say “walk,” and she instead comes begrudgingly to have her leash attached without enthusiasm, that’s your sign. If she isn’t giving the mailman quite as much hell as she normally does, that’s your sign. One day like this might just be a sign of a great, long day in the mountains, but let it happen too often and you’ll be dancing with injuries, vet bills, and a sad pup.
Torn Paw Pads
One bleeding paw pad, and your dog can still get around. Two, and she’ll be pretty hard-pressed to move without being in a good amount of pain. Cutting or wearing through the paw pad is like you walking on a ruptured blister, only you can find ways of getting off your feet and still be productive. Luna isn’t so lucky. If the paw pad is cut or worn through, you may notice your dog licking her feet more than usual. If you’ve been running with her on cement (like fine-grit sandpaper to paw pads), transition to grass, then dirt for a week or two.
All in all, you want your best friend to join you on your escapades as much as possible. And she wants the same! Spread your exercise out. Don’t try to fit all your workouts into a couple days just because you have work off. Keep an eye on how she reacts after different exercise types and intervals, and keep track of the times when she goes over the top. Lastly, take breaks and days off when you notice any of the above. Your dog is tough, and she is wild, but it’s your job to make sure she stays that way.
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