Looking for a fun new holiday tradition to share with your dog? The Turkey Trot—running/walking a 5K race—has become an increasingly popular way to spend part of Thanksgiving and now it has officially gone to the dogs! My Newfoundland and I did our first Turkey Trot during Thanksgiving of 2020 and had so much fun that I knew I wanted to make it an annual tradition. The AKC Turkey Trot is a great opportunity to do so while supporting great canine causes.
AKC Turkey Trot
Traditional 5K Turkey Trots involve running and/or walking the entire 5K (3.1 miles) in one go, but the AKC Turkey Trot allows dogs and handlers to set their own schedule for meeting their Turkey Trot goal from now until November 30th. This makes it significantly more accessible to dogs and people of different ages and physical abilities for whom it might not be possible to run or walk a 5K all at one time.
Make A Plan
Consider how physically active you and your dog already are, and what is likely to feel the most fun and comfortable for both of you. If you’re feeling up for trying to do the whole 5K on Thanksgiving morning, think about what other plans or commitments you have on your schedule that day. Be sure to give you and your dog enough time to comfortably complete the Turkey Trot, including time for resting, water breaks, and, of course, opportunities for your dog to sniff and potty while you’re out.
If you’re planning to spread your Turkey Trot out over several days or weeks, plan for how far you want to go each day and how you will track your distance—either on your phone, a map, or through a GPS tracking device if your dog wears one on their collar.
It’s completely fine to walk the entire Turkey Trot, but if you and your dog are planning to do some running, it’s a good idea to do some training in advance. This can help prevent your dog from pulling or tripping you and also teach them ways to modulate their speed on cue to keep pace with you.
Supplies to Bring for Your Dog
When heading out on your Turkey Trot—regardless of whether you’re doing it all in one day or if you’ll be accumulating distance over several days—you’ll want to be sure to have supplies to keep your dog safe and comfortable. These include:
- Collapsible water bottle for your dog
- Water for your dog
- Dog treats
- A 6-foot leash that’s comfortable for you to hold or a cross-body leash so you can have your hands free for most of the run/walk
- Comfortable harness
- Collar lights, or reflective gear if you’ll be out early in the morning or in the evening so that cars will be able to see you and your dog.
Don’t Go Cold Turkey
If you’re thinking of doing a Turkey Trot with your dog, it’s important not to go “cold turkey” by trying to go from being sedentary to running a 5K overnight. If you want to do the AKC Turkey Trot, start increasing your dog’s exercise now to slowly build up their endurance for walking and/or running. This will help promote muscle development and prevent injury from doing too much too soon. If at any point on the Turkey Trot, or during your prep, your dog seems tired, sore, or uncomfortable, you should stop, take a break, or even head home and give it a try another day. Your dog’s safety and comfort are more important than finishing the Turkey Trot on the schedule that you planned.
Remember, the point of the Turkey Trot is to support a good cause and have fun with your dog. Your dog will “win” regardless of whether you run the whole 5K on Thanksgiving or if you take days, or even weeks, to walk the distance. Go at a pace that is comfortable for you and your dog. We all have different levels of physical fitness and this event is welcoming to everyone and every dog. The Turkey Trot isn’t a race—it’s a self-paced event designed to encourage you to have some fun getting fresh air and exercise with your dog.
Before increasing your dog’s exercise, or if your dog seems sore during or after exercising, it’s always a good idea to connect with your vet. If you want to do the 5K Turkey Trot all at once, especially if your dog hasn’t been especially active recently, you may want to talk with your vet to determine if that’s going to be appropriate. Similarly, with puppies whose joints are still developing, talk with your vet about the appropriate amounts of high-impact (like running on concrete) exercise, and how many walking sessions you should break the 5K into for your puppy’s orthopedic development and health.
Make It a Tradition
A fun way to incorporate the activity into your existing plans and make the Turkey Trot a new tradition is to get up on Thanksgiving and either head out to do the entire 5K (this is what I plan to do with my dog) or have organized your distance so you can do the last leg of the Trot together that morning. Then, come home and let your dog wear their Turkey Trot 5K medal while you watch the National Dog Show together.