Your new German Shepherd pup will be a great companion for you. The breed originated in Germany and was bred for herding sheep, so they naturally enjoy exercise and running around. GSD's are highly intelligent and keen to have a purpose, making them the ideal running companion. This is perfect as you have recently decided to run a half marathon! How exciting it is that you can train your dog to be ready to run with you!
Keep in mind that not all breeds are compatible with a half marathon. See this great article in Runner's World that discusses which breeds are ideal for this notable feat.
It is also vital that the dog is correctly socialized so that he does not become too territorial. While training, he will meet lots of people with dogs. Many runners take their dogs to run half marathon. (Be sure to check your specific race rules and guidelines as not all races permit dogs.)
At What Age Can a German Shepherd Begin Running with You?
At the age of six months old, start him running gradually. By the time he is 1 year old he should be in peak form to run a half marathon. (Note that it is highly frowned upon to start race training with your puppy before he is six months old.) You both have a lot of consistent training to prepare for the event, and the first step is to take him to the vet to get the best diet advice and undergo a medical check-up. An examination by the vet ensures that the dog is healthy and can begin training for long-distance running.
Commence Running Training
It is advised (if possible) to train in the early morning hours prior to work. Not only is this a cooler time of day, but the sun angle is also low, and the traffic is practically non-existent. When you get home, your dog's mental and physical energy will be spent. In turn, he will be calmer and less likely to have separation anxiety while you're at work.
The Right Harness for a German Shepherd
Once you have trained your German Shepherd to walk/run roadside on a leash, he will become more confident in the traffic. Buy a hands-free harness to clip to your waist. With the weather warming and increasing distances, you will also need a running belt to hold both your water bottles (unless you opt for a hydration pack), essential for the half marathon. Typically, when you run a half marathon, you will find dogs are well catered for with water bowls along the way.
It will take a couple of months for the German Shepherd to get used to long-distance running with a harness, but he will become as committed to it as you are and ready for the next run.
The Right Collar for a German Shepherd
The collar is equally important for those that don't utilize a harness. A Martingale collar is a good choice as it applies gentle pressure when the dog pulls, and with this collar, he will soon learn to stay close to you. It is a matter of personal preference and what works best for you when running.
Hydration for your German Shepherd
Your dog can become dehydrated much more quickly than you can, so he must have regular water breaks. While you are running along, teach him some common cues, like: "run, walk, stop," and then he will get to recognize the change of pace. You may even be able to teach him to recognize the word drink, so he will be ready when you stop for that all-important water break. Your GSD will soon get used to half marathon training and will look forward to this bonding experience.
Remember your GSD is still relatively young, and you want to build strength and endurance gradually. If you encounter a particularly scorching/humid day, either run early or don't run at all that day, as dogs only sweat through their mouths, and you don't want him getting too hot and heat stressed. If oppressive weather conditions are common in your area and, if feasible, consider getting a dog-specific treadmill alongside your treadmill or consider sharing your treadmill. See our article here on training your dog to use a treadmill.
Build Muscle and Strength
Keep in touch with the vet to see if your dog requires any dietary supplements to aid his fitness training, as hip and joint supplements may be necessary with this breed. Get him checked for fleas and ticks if you live in a tick prone area. Your dog will be giving 100% effort to the half marathon, and if he overexerts himself, he could become sick. If your German Shepherd appears tired or lacking in energy, take him home to rest.
When you finish your long-distance runs, allow him to walk slowly home to help him cool down. Since dogs can't utilize foam rollers themselves, give your furry friend a gentle full-body massage when he has cooled off. This will help with lactic acid buildup and help him not be super achy and sore the remainder of the day. This would also be an excellent time to apply balm to his paw pads, as they can become irritated and dry as the miles pile up.
How Far can you Expect a German Shepherd to run when Training for a Half Marathon?
As the weeks go by, your German Shepherd will be building endurance and speed along with you. He should by now be running along next to you, and most likely, you will have trained him to run on a particular side of you; preferably, your left side is best. As runners should run against traffic, you put yourself between traffic and your dog. He should know by now that he is not to walk directly in front of you.
Keep your training most days to around 3 miles a day, with a longer run of 6 miles once a week. As time goes on, build the 6 miles up to ten miles, but do it gradually. (We highly recommend the Hal Higdon half marathon training plans) A half marathon is 13.1 miles, so you and your German Shepherd will be ready if you increase your training run to 13 miles once a week and start doing this about one month before race day. This is fine for the dog, as he will get plenty of rest in between, and a German Shepherd can build stamina and endurance.
As an athlete, your German Shepherd will require a highly nutritious meal plan. It is your job to give him the best food with the half marathon in mind. Although the Good Vibe GSD highly recommends the B.A.R.F. diet, we understand the apprehension surrounding giving your furry best friend raw meats. Not sure what the B.A.R.F. diet is? Read our article here.
You can offer any cooked meat such as beef, chicken, pork, and duck along with cooked brown rice or rolled oats. It is vital that there are no bones within your cooked meat. A cooked bone can splinter and become fatal to your dog.
Dogs also benefit from adding fresh vegetables. Cooked sweet potato is a good choice.
Depending on your financial situation and time constraints, a quality dog kibble may be the best choice for you. See our article here on our 10 favorite quality dog kibble foods.
Start by feeding your German Shepherd about three cups of good quality kibble per day. As he is training for the half marathon, give him the kibble in the morning and a proper meal of meat and vegetables at night. Give your dog plenty of fresh water. It should be available to him all the time. As with people, a dehydrated dog is an inefficient runner and prone to injuries and light-headedness.
Supplements required for Long Distance Running
Along with a well-balanced diet, your dog may need some supplements to keep him in optimal health. Consult your vet, but common supplements needed are:
P.A.W. Osteo joint health by Blackmores
Vitamins A, B6, B12,
Fish Oil Omega- 3
Glucosamine and joint supplements
Half Marathon Day
The day before the race, make sure that your dog is relaxed, bathed, and brushed. If you're an elite runner and are aiming for a win, there will be photos, and you want your beloved dog to look his best. Hopefully, you will look your best too!
Have a high-protein meal prepared for him to eat after the race. You can give him a small carbohydrate-based meal 90-120 minutes before race time. He will be ready and ravenous post-race, so have his food close by while you enjoy your post-race banana!
A half marathon training program is fitting for your German Shepherd, as the breed displays a willingness to learn and eagerness to do something. Training for the half marathon will have honed all his skills, and by now, he will be notably obedient. The week after the race, get the vet to check your GSDs joints to ensure that he doesn't have any stress fractures or sporting injuries. Then allow your dog to rest for a week or two before you start training for the next marathon. He will enjoy running, and for you, it is good to have a companion with you on the day. Many dogs do half marathons, and it is a great community event for all.
Welcome to the Pack!
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