Running with your dog can provide nearly all of the same benefits of running with another person, save for the ability to carry on a two-way conversation (that’s not to say you can’t talk out loud to your canine running buddy!).
Running with your dog can be a bonding experience for the two of you, and as much as you will derive benefits such as having the accountability partner and safety afforded by your dog accompanying you on the run, you will also be giving your dog much-needed exercise for his or her health.
In this article, we will provide tips for how to run with your dog and important safety considerations for running with your dog.
We will cover:
- Can I Run With My Dog?
- How to Run With Your Dog
Let’s jump in!
Can I Run With My Dog?
Before you start figuring out how to run with your dog, it’s critical to consider whether your dog is up to running with you. Not all dog breeds are “designed” to handle distance running.
For example, very small dogs such as teacup poodles or Maltese dogs won’t be able to handle distance running.
Certain dog breeds also have characteristics that make distance running unsafe or at least not recommended.
For example, dachshunds have very long backs relative to the length of their short little legs. This breed of dog is prone to spine and hip issues, so they do not make the best running dogs, and running might be unhealthy and unsafe for your pup.
Furthermore, even if you have a dog with a pedigree in line with one of the best types of running dogs, such as a Vizsla or Australian Shepherd, your own individual dog may or may not be healthy enough to run.
The most important, non-negotiable first step before taking your dog running with you is to speak with your veterinarian about running with your dog.
When you speak with your dog’s veterinarian about running with your dog, it’s important to discuss your specific plans in terms of distance and pace so that you and your vet can have an informed discussion about your dog’s ability to run the distances you plan to cover.
Are you training for a 5k and only plan to run a couple of miles a few days a week? Are you a marathon runner looking for your dog to accompany you on most of your weekly mileage, including your long runs? Are you a trail runner who heads out for numerous hours at a time?
Or, are you looking for your dog to be less of your running partner, meaning that you don’t need the dog to fit into your training routine, but rather you want to add some runs with your pup to your week based on whatever amount of running is best for your dog?
Deciding how you foresee your dog serving as your running partner will help your dog’s vet determine the suitability of your dog to go running with you.
The reason that it is so important to speak with your veterinarian about running with your dog is that your dog may be predisposed to certain health conditions based on his or her breed, age, or health status that may limit their ability to run with you safely.
Questions to consider include:
- Does your dog have joint problems or arthritis?
- Do you have an older dog who already seems stiff and achy most of the time?
- Is your dog prone to hip dysplasia based on his or her breed or individual biomechanics?
- Does your dog have breathing difficulties or a flat snout that makes breathing rapidly and deeply difficult?
- Does your dog have other musculoskeletal issues or disc issues?
- Does your dog have a healthy heart and healthy kidneys?
- Are your dog’s legs long enough and built for the distances you want to run?
- Is your puppy old enough to start running with you?
These questions, among others, will help determine whether it is safe for your dog to hit the roads or trails with you.
Additionally, the vet can do a wellness check and make sure your dog is healthy enough to get started training with you.
Also, ask your vet about safety considerations in terms of running in the heat and cold, how much water to bring and how often to give your dog water breaks, how often your dog can run, and any necessary dietary changes to support training.
Although you should always check with your puppy’s veterinarians, according to the American Kennel Club, you should wait until your dog is 18 to 24 months old (1.5-2 years old) before you run with your dog.
Of course, puppies under the age of two can run and play and should be getting plenty of exercise; formal running on a leash for longer distances should be reserved until your dog is a bit older and has fully matured into his or her adult body.
How to Run With Your Dog
After you have determined that your dog is fit to go running with you, you are ready to get started training your dog to be a running dog.
Here are the most important steps for how to run with your dog:
#1: Get the Right Gear
Unless you live in a very safe area where you have access to relatively private trails and your dog is well-accustomed to being off the leaf yet still heeding your command, you will need to train your dog to run on the leash.
It can be challenging to go running while holding a leashed dog because your dog may pull or lag behind, and you need to swing your arms as you run, so this type of resistance can affect your running stride and increase the risk of falling.
For this reason, it is best to use a special dog running leash rather than run with your dog on a standard dog leash. Running leashes have a bungee mechanism, so there is extensibility in the leash, providing some give if your dog pulls or falls behind.
There are also hands-free dog running leashes that attach via a waist belt so that you can swing your arms like normal and your dog is still tethered to you. The hands-free dog running leashes also use the bungee mechanism to improve comfort and safety.
#2: Walk Before You Run
Once you have the right type of running leash for your dog, you will still likely need to train your dog to run with you on the leash.
You do not want your dog crossing in front or behind you as you run; rather, your dog needs to learn to stay to one side of your body so that you can run in parallel rather than risk getting tangled up and tripping on one another.
Although your dog might be fit and eager enough to start running with you right away, you will probably need to do some leash training before it is safe to run with your dog. Essentially, you will need to walk before you can run.
In addition to having your dog learn to stay on a designated side of your body, you also want to condition your dog to stay in stride with you.
If your dog gets too far ahead of you, he or she will pull you, and if your dog stops to sniff some exciting patch of grass, the resistance on the leash will pull back on your body as you try to run forward.
Ideally, you want your dog to be side-by-side with your body, with a loose J-shape in the leash, indicative of the slack.
When your dog starts to pull ahead of you, use a command like “Easy” or “Slow.”
Speak your commands with authority but with a positive tone in your voice. If your dog does not ease up and quickly falls back in stride, stop and make your dog sit before resuming your walk or run, depending on what stage you are at in your training.
If, on the other hand, your dog obeys and slows back down to come next to your side, immediately reward your dog with a treat and verbal praise.
Make sure to always give the treat on the side of the body where you want your dog to be running. This will further reinforce the desired position.
#3: Build Endurance
After your dog has mastered the ability to go running on the leash, the next step is training and conditioning the dog. This involves improving fitness and building endurance, just as when you began your own training program.
It will take time for your dog to get in shape, and this process should not be rushed.
Start by adding short intervals of jogging or running into your walks, taking your dog through the walk/run approach that is often recommended for beginner runners.
During each subsequent walk, increase the length of the running portions and decrease the frequency and length of the walking breaks, always making sure to pay attention to the physical responses of your dog.
Does he or she seem out of breath or uncomfortable? Are there any signs of limping or lagging behind? Your dog’s health always comes first over whatever workout you have planned, so be sure to stop and walk or end the workout altogether if your pup seems tired.
Over the course of several weeks, by gradually progressing your runs with your dog, your dog should be fit enough to run with you without stopping.
Now that you know how to run with your dog, what about the best types of running dogs? For a list of the best running dog breeds, check out our guide: The Best Running Dogs: 8 Best Breeds For Running Companions.