Author: Charlotte Dog Runner

At What Age Can Dogs Start Running?

Dogs love to run. Puppies begin running with a cute little bunny hop action. Do you know the one? It is guaranteed to make you smile. They want to run before their bodies are developmentally able. So when should dogs begin structured running? As with most things with dogs, the answers can vary based on several things like size and breed.

Generally speaking, dogs can begin structured running around age one. Smaller dogs and breeds without histories of joint issues, may be able to start a couple of months earlier. The bones and joints of larger breed dogs mature more slowly than those of smaller breeds. Running too soon may hurt the physical development of a dog and lead to greater risk of injury and illness in later years.

So how do you get all that puppy energy out if he isn’t old enough to run? Lots of walks, playtime, and mental stimulation. This is the time to establish good leash manners slowly exposing him to new sights, sounds, smells, and textures he will encounter on a structured run…like other dogs and bicycles.

Visit your vet to make sure your dog is healthy and ready to begin a structured running program.

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Running Cool

Water break!94º (Feels like 97º)

Maybe if you were sitting in the shade with a cool glass of lemonade.  If you happened to be running outdoors, the “feels like” temperature was closer to 104º.  And, if you happened to also be pushing a jog stroller with a 45 lb weight (a.k.a your child) while trying to keep up with a very energetic dog, the “feels like” temperature bumped up to 114º.

Even in the middle of the summer, dogs benefit from running.  Here are a few tips to keep your dog running healthy and happy as the temperature rise.

  • Adjust your schedule to run early in the morning or late at night when it is cooler.  Exercise more often for shorter amounts of time.
  • Slow your pace and take rest breaks.  Implement run/walk intervals that allow time for rest during walk breaks.
  • Provide fresh water before, during, and after runs.
  • Choose a shaded route with grass for your dog’s paws.  Remember that you are wearing shoes and your dog is not!
  • Don’t shave your dog.  A dog’s coat prevents overheating and sunburn.  It may sound miserable to us to run around in a fur coat but that layer of fur keeps the heat out and the sun off sensitive skin.
  • Know the signs of heat stroke in dogs.

Even in the summer months, dogs need vigorous exercise each day to remain healthy and happy.  Running provides cardiovascular benefits, maintains muscle tone, and assists in weight management.  It also helps alleviate anxiety which can be elevated during summer months when normal routines tend to change.

Just as heat affects humans differently, it affects dogs differently.  A dog’s tolerance to heat varies based on their size, breed, health and other factors.  Always check with your veterinarian regarding your dog’s exercise routines and needs.

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Dog First Aid Tips

Dog First AidFor several years, I lived a couple of blocks away from the Charlotte Panthers’ football stadium.  It didn’t take me long to realize that walking Annie Girl after a football game would be more like agility training!  Tailgaters may make great football fans but they are not great basketball players.  They seldom managed to get their trash into those little round things called trash cans.  Which meant walks were spent avoiding chicken bones and broken glass, among other things.

Dog owners work hard to make their homes a safe, dog-friendly place.  But sometimes, accidents happen.  A pill slips from your hand.  A spider bites in the backyard.  Neighbors have parties.

That is why April is Pet First Aid Awareness Month and why I’m sharing these six common pet emergency tips from the American Red Cross.

  • To determine if your cat or dog is dehydrated, pull up on the skin between the shoulder blades. It should spring right back; if it stays tented this is a sign of dehydration.
  • Signs of pet poisoning include bleeding externally or internally, dilated pupils, drooling or foaming at the mouth, seizures or other abnormal mental state or behavior.
  • If your pet has a seizure, make sure it is in a safe place, but do not restrain the animal. Keep your hands away from its mouth as your pet may not know who you are during a seizure and could bite you.
  • Signs of heat stroke or heat exhaustion include collapse; body temperature of 104 degrees F or above; bloody diarrhea or vomiting; wobbliness; excessive panting or difficulty breathing; increase heart rate; mucous membranes very red; and increased salivation.
  • Pets bitten by other animals need vet attention to prevent the wound (even if minor) from becoming infected and to check for internal wounds. Never break up a dogfight yourself because you could be bitten.
  • If your pet is bleeding, apply direct pressure using gauze over the bleeding site. If blood soaks through, apply more gauze (do not removed soaked gauze) until you can reach a veterinary hospital.

Did you know the American Red Cross has a Pet First Aid App?  It is a great in-your-hand and on-the-go-with-you resource.

If you have any concerns about your dog’s health, please call your veterinarian immediately

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Annie Girl’s Memory Quilt

Annie Girl's Memory Quilt

After looking at Annie Girl’s toys and bedding sit in a corner in my bedroom for almost two months, I realized I would never be able to part with them. I also knew I didn’t want to put them in a box that would be shoved into a closet and most likely not opened for years (we all have those boxes in our closets, right?).

A crazy idea popped into my head one night.  Let me preface this by saying I have absolutely no sewing ability at all.  Seriously, sewing buttons pushing me to my limit.  I always have a roll of the no-sew hem tape on hand!  So when the idea to use her toys to make a quilt popped into my head, I started to panic a little.  I loved the idea but had no idea if it was possible yet the more I thought about it, the more I knew it was exactly what I needed and wanted to do.  So in those close to midnight hours, you know the hours when you should be asleep but your mind is racing way too fast, I began making a list of what I would need to do to accomplish this task.  Step one – research sewing machines.  Step two – research sewing classes.  Thankfully the light of day bought clarity and I did what most of us do these days when we need something or someone.  We post on Facebook!  All I asked was for the name of someone who makes quilts.  After all, if this really was a crazy impossible idea, it was better to only have a few people laugh at me, right?  Well a friend quickly responded with the name, Custom Sewing by Jill.

I met Jill with a huge bag full of Annie Girl’s favorite toys, the bedding from her beds, and her collars and leashes.  I knew immediately that Jill was the perfect person to make this quilt.  I know this quilt was made with as much love as it represents.  Sometimes crazy ideas turn into beautiful family heirlooms.Anne's Quilt by Jill 2


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5 Winter Activities For Dogs

The temperatures are dropping fast outside.  Even though most dogs enjoy being outside in cold weather, winter creates limitations to the amount of time you and your dog can spend exercising outdoors.  Use these indoor activities to keep your dog healthy and happy when weather limits your time together outside.

  1. Sniff and Smell — Set up four to six opaque containers (bowls work well) upside-down next to each other.  Without your dog seeing you, hide a treat under one of the containers.  Encourage him/her to smell the containers and find the one with the treat.  Toys work in place of treats as well.  Let the dog smell the toy before you hide it to get its scent.  Reward him/her with a quick throw and fetch of the toy when found.
  2. Hide and Seek — Show your dog a favorite toy and allow him/her time to sniff and get its scent.  Hide the item then tell your dog “find it.”  You may need to provide some help until he/she gets used to the game.  Hide the item in a different room to increase the challenge.  Make finding it a big deal!
  3. Obstacle Course — Set up two sturdy items with legs, like kitchen chairs, next to a soft item, like a pillow.  Teach your dog to crawl under and around the sturdy object and jump over the soft object.  Once he/she knows how to do each command (under, around, over) you can ask him/her to do different combinations.  Other obstacle ideas are a box to crawl through, a hula hoop to jump through, and cones to navigate around.  Make sure to reward your dog with lots of praise!
  4. Go Shopping — From big box to local, there are many retail and pet stores that allow well-behaved dogs.  Take your time wandering up and down each aisle so your dog can use several senses and increase his/her mental activity.
  5. Spa Day — Create a spa day at home, go to a local do-it-yourself place, or use a full-service dog groomer to treat your dog to a bath, brushing, and nail trim.
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Paw Prints and Angels

Mickey Anne Maddox Phillips (Annie Girl)

October 13, 2001 – December 17, 2014

Paw prints


Annie Girl is now running with the angels however her paw prints will forever be right beside mine, and on my heart.  She will always be a part of everything I do because she is a part of everything I am.

She taught me how to love unconditionally.  She taught me how to be a wife and a mom.  You see Annie Girl was the first one who really needed me.  There was no back up plan.  She was relying solely on me to feed her, walk her, love her, take care of her, meet her every need.  And to do it all expecting nothing in return, other than maybe a snuggle!  Looking back, I know God gave her to me so I would be ready when he bought my husband into my life.  I would be ready to love him not because I wanted to be loved but because I wanted to love him.  I would be ready to be a mom.  I would be ready to give 110% of myself, even when exhausted and overwhelmed.

She taught me to run.  And to enjoy it!  To sprint at times and to slow down at other times to explore the world around us.  Her pace was a perfect balance.  Sprint…explore…sprint…explore…sprint…snuggle!

She wiped away many tears and celebrated many joyous moments.  She had a great happy dance we did on Friday afternoons.  She is in my bridal portraits!  She loved the beach, the greenway, and Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  She carefully navigated floors covered in legos, cars, and blocks with admirable skill.  She never cried over spilled milk, or anything else…just happily consumed it!  She was a patient and loving big sister.  The moments between her and our son are my most treasured.  She was my ever-present shadow, rarely more than a foot away.  She kept a lot of secrets…thankfully!  She was always gentle and loving.  Always.

One of Annie Girls favorite things to do was snuggle which we usually did while watching a good chick flick.  We spent the majority of her last week cuddled together watching Christmas movies.  I am so thankful for that special time with her.  In the quite moments of the nights when the rest of the house was asleep, I was able to hold her, comfort her, and say goodbye.

I won’t admit to the number of times we watched “The Prince and Me” over the years but I’m sure that looking down from heaven she can finish this quote after hearing only the first few words.

“Today marks a profound and bittersweet milestone for all of us, as we bear witness to both an end and a beginning. And while we must continue on, we must also be grateful to have been blessed with someone who has so ably guided us to where we are today. When there has been so much love and happiness for someone, it is natural to be reluctant to close such a wonderful chapter in our lives, for moving forward is rarely accomplished without considerable grief and sadness. And while our sorrow may be profound, the clouds will clear, and the sun will shine on us again. And in that warm, bright light we will find ourselves facing a glorious future. A future of exciting challenges and infinite possibilities, in which the horizon will stretch out before us, trimmed in the heavenly glow of the sunrise of our tomorrow.”

These words have been bouncing around in my head the last couple of weeks.  While the hole in my heart and my life is unbearable right now, I know there will come a time when my heart grows bigger and allows room for another furry friend.  I am confident it will be someone God and Annie Girl pick out just for us, to pick up where she left off raising her family.


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Fitness Session Overview

Are your curious about what a fitness session looks like?  Here is an overview.

Upon arrival, your dog is greeted with an enthusiastic hug and lots of love!  After gathering our things, leash, water, waste bags, etc., we head out!  Before we begin the session, we take care of the necessities by allowing time for a potty break, water, and some sniffing and exploring.  We also use this time to review basic training commands.  We then begin our thirty minute fitness session.  Each fitness session consists of a warm up, a work-out, and a cool down.

The work-out will vary by dog and by day.  Some of our work-out activities are:

  • Dog Bed to 5k Programs
  • Game Day – Fetch, Chase, Hide and Seek
  • Agility training

Through out the workout, training is reinforced and water is offered.  Your dog’s health is constantly monitored and the workout is adjusted as needed.  Back at home, your dog is treated to a gentle massage and comforting farewell, usually as they drift off for a nap!

Sounds great, right?  Our thirty minute fitness sessions are truly thirty minutes of fitness time.  We are actually with your dog for longer, usually 45 minutes to an hour.  Owners receive a detailed note, email and/or pictures of the days activities.  Most importantly, they return home to a happy, relaxed dog.

Fitness Sessions occur rain or shine.  Most dogs love to run in the rain, however some absolutely detest the rain.  No problem.  We will adapt the workout to the weather and space available.

Still have questions?  See our Frequently Asked Questions page or even better, give us a call at 704.607.1221!

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We “Paws” on Veteran’s Day

We previously shared some of the benefits of dog ownership.  We also shared some of the amazing ways that dogs can assist humans.   According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA), “The human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both. This includes, but is not limited to, emotional, psychological, and physical interactions of people, animals, and the environment.”

On Tuesday, November 11th, we will honor our Veterans, human and canine.  This year, for the first time, the New York City Veteran’s Day Parade will honor six human/canine service duos.  These pairs served together in active duty and are still taking care of each other on a daily basis.

The U.S. Veteran’s Administration is limited in the benefits they provide related to service and therapy dogs.  They do not currently offer benefits for dogs who provide support for mental and emotional health, like PTSD.  There are however many private organizations that connect veterans and dogs.  Just a few are Paws for Purple Hearts, Canines for Veterans, Patriot Paws, Pets for Vets, Warrior Canine Connections, Warrior Service Dogs, and Canine Angels.

This short video describes a program Paws for Purple Hearts uses to treat soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

On Veteran’s Day, we “paws” to thank all who selflessly give and sacrifice to serve our country.

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Boo! “Howl-oween” Safety Tips For Dogs

Halloween Pet Safety TipsIs your dog ready for “Howl-oween”?  Here are a few tips to make sure Halloween is safe for your dog.

  1. Do not leave candy unattended for several reasons.  Chocolate and candy with the artificial sweetener xylitol can be especially dangerous.  Small hard candies can get lodged in a dog’s throat.  Candy wrappers can cause bowel obstruction and have sharp edges that can scratch interior organs.  Any food not regularly in your dog’s diet may cause an upset stomach.
  2. Be sure your dog is wearing a collar with ID in case he/she slips in the midst of all the door opening and closing.
  3. While trick-or-treaters are sure to think your dog is adorable, with or without costume, it may be best if your dog is secured away from the door area.  In addition to activity around an open door creating an opportunity for your dog to escape, seeing the parade of costumes may stress or scare your dog.  Even the friendliest dog can quickly become overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, scents, and stresses of the evening.
  4. Make sure pet costumes fit properly and are pet safe.  Your dog should be able to move and breathe naturally in the costume.  Small and dangling accessories may be a choking hazard.
  5. If your dog is outside, be sure he or she is wearing a reflective collar to be easily spotted by motorists.
  6. Consider the safety of your decorations.   While pumpkins are not toxic to dogs, ingesting it in large quantities can cause stomach issues.  Electric cords should be out of reach.  Even a well-trained dog may resort to unusual behavior like chewing cords in a stressful situation.  Watch candles carefully.  They can be easily knocked over.  Other decorations may also be harmful as they may contain toxic glues, lead to stomach discomfort, or blockage issues if ingested.  It is best to keep all decorations safely out of reach.
  7. Make sure your dog gets plenty of vigorous exercise each day but especially around holidays and special events.  Exercise reduces stress and calms your dog.  For most dogs, walks and time in the backyard are not enough.  Most dogs need 30 minutes of sustained, vigorous activity a day (defined as getting the heart rate up and keeping it up).  Sufficient exercise will give your dog a chance to get rid of excess energy which often leads to anxiety and destructive behavior.


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Dogs Make People Happy

Dogs make people happyDogs make people happy get one today!  I love this drawing by one of my favorite young friends, Ansley.  Her heart is gigantic, especially when it comes to animals.

October is Adopt-a-Dog month.  There are many reasons why our shelters are filled with homeless pets.  Some are rescued from puppy mills, some are given up by owners who are no longer able to care for them, and some are found homeless.  You can help by adopting your next pet from your local shelter or rescue group.  There are many benefits of owning a dog.


  • Increase in Amount of Exercise – It is hard to say no to those big pleading eyes begging you for a walk.  Studies have shown that dog owners get more exercise than non-dog owners.  Dogs make wonderful workout partners.  The enthusiasm they have is contagious and they never offer excuses to postpone a workout until another day.
  • Physically Healthier – Owning a dog has been linked to lower blood pressure, better heart health and even stronger bones.  All of those walks outside provide a good dose of vitamin D in addition to exercising muscles.
  • Lower Stress Levels – Interacting with dogs has been shown to lower the production of cortisol and increase the production of serotonin, which translates into a calmer, less stressed individual.
  • More Active Social Life –  Having a dog means getting out and walking them and, for most people, talking about them.  Dogs are a natural ice breaker.  They are a common bond to help start conversations and create friendships.
  • Increased Productivity – Dogs lead people to take more breaks which has been shown to benefit productivity.  A recent Fast Company article suggest that breaks are needed every 52 minutes to optimize productivity.
  • Happier – Dog owners are less likely to suffer from depression. Research supports the mood enhancing benefits of interacting with dogs.  It has been shown to increase the amount of Oxytocin in the brain which has a calming, feel good effect on the body.  Dogs provide companionship and physical contact that boosts self-esteem.   They are also great listeners who don’t judge.  Everyone needs a friend like that!

Having a dog changes your life.  Dogs teach us about unconditional love and friendship.  They heal and protect.  They understand when no one else does.  They are great listeners and rarely talk back!  Yes, taking care of a dog can be hard at times.  Dogs require a lot of energy, patience, time, and, yes, they are a financial commitment.  The reward more than makes up for it though.  If you’re not sure if a dog is right for you, start by volunteering at a shelter.  This is a great way to learn how to care for a dog, get to know various breeds and personalities, and learn training tips.  Other volunteers and workers are great resources and can help you decide if you are really ready or not.  If this isn’t the right time to adopt, you can still get many of the benefits of dog ownership from volunteering at a shelter…maybe more.

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