How To Start Running With Your Dog: 5 Practical Training Tips

Miles with a pooch beat miles run alone, any day.

Having a running buddy or training partner can make your workouts more enjoyable. Still, not everyone has easy access to a running group or a training partner who has the same schedule or is of the same fitness level.

If you are a dog owner, running with your dog could be a great solution.

You not only have an eager running buddy for companionship, but you also help exercise your dog, which can improve the physical and mental health of your pooch just as running benefits your own physical and psychological health.

That said, not all dog breeds are compatible with long-distance running, and you also need to train your dog to run alongside you without tripping you or pulling.

Moreover, even if your dog is running short distances, there are significant safety considerations with dog running, such as protecting your dog’s feet from hot pavement or glass, preventing overheating, and ensuring that your dog is physically healthy before you start training with your dog.

In this guide to running with your dog, we spoke with two veterinarians to get advice about how to train your dog to run, the best dog breeds for long-distance running partners, essential dog running gear, and tips for how to run with your dog safely.

how to run with your dog

What Are the Best Running Dogs?

Before you start figuring out how to train your dog to run with you, it’s critical to consider whether your dog is able to run with you. Not all dog breeds are “designed” to handle distance running or shouldn’t run in certain weather.

For example, giant breeds and huskies may overheat in the summer, older dogs may have a higher injury risk, and small terriers may not have legs designed for long runs.

Dr. Kathryn Dench, MA VetMB, MRCVS, the Chief Veterinary Advisor at Paw Origins, says the ideal canine running partner exhibits several key characteristics: stamina, a suitable physical build for long-distance running, and a temperament that enjoys running and being active. 

“A physical build that supports running, such as lean muscles, a strong but not overly bulky frame, and good joint health, ensures the dog can handle the physical stress of running.

Lastly, a dog that naturally enjoys running and being active will be more motivated and less likely to get distracted or want to stop prematurely,” she explains.

She says that Labrador Retrievers, Vizslas, German Shorthaired Pointers, and Border Collies are among the best dogs for running. 

“These breeds are not only physically capable but also mentally prepared for the challenges of long-distance running,” explains Dr. Dench.

“They have the endurance, physical build, and mental focus required for running alongside their human partners over significant distances.”

how to run with your dog

Dr. Dench says that bulldogs, pugs, and Dachshunds are not suited for long-distance running due to their physical limitations.

“Bulldogs and Pugs struggle with breathing due to their brachycephalic nature, while Dachshunds are prone to back issues because of their long spines and short legs, making the physical impact of running potentially harmful,” explains Dr. Dench.

These are just a few examples of the worst dog breeds for running, but there are other things to consider about whether your dog will be a good running partner.

“Dogs that are generally not compatible as running partners often share characteristics such as short legs, long bodies, flat faces (brachycephalic breeds), or any pre-existing health conditions like heart problems or arthritis,” notes Dr. Dench.

“These physical traits and health issues can make running not just challenging but potentially dangerous, leading to overheating, breathing difficulties, or exacerbating existing conditions.”

You also have to consider the disposition of the dog.

As a runner myself and a dog lover, I’ve always wanted my dog to run with me.

However, ever since we adopted her 14 years ago, she has shown little interest in running on a leash. In fact, she used to sit down in the road if I tried to run with her but as soon as I would slow down to a walking pace, she would happily walk and frolic at my side.

She wasn’t much better at trail running either. 

I would allow her to go off leash and run with less restriction, but as soon as she saw that I wasn’t going to be stopping soon, she would trail behind and then sit in the middle of the trail until I turned around and looked at her. 

Then, she would wait until I ran back to her before jumping and playing as if saying: “I’m not going to run with you, Mom!”

The lesson I learned was that my dog was not going to be a running companion. Don’t worry, we still love her to pieces, but she has never changed her opinion about wanting to run with me.

Running with your dog.

Can You Go Running With Your Dog?

Even if you have one of the best dog breeds for running, the most important, non-negotiable first step before taking your dog running with you is to get a vet checkup for your dog and discuss running.

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 running ability.

Your dog may be predisposed to certain health conditions based on his or her breed, age, or health status, which may limit their ability to safely run with you.

Also, ask your vet about safety considerations in terms of avoiding heat stroke running in the heat, 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,1Gibeault, S., MSc, Apr 12, C. U., Apr 12, 2022 | 4 M. U., & Minutes, 2022 | 4. (n.d.). How to Train Your Dog to Run With You. American Kennel Club. Retrieved March 21, 2024, from https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/how-to-train-your-dog-to-run-with-you/#:~:text=Start%20by%20adding%20small%20stretches 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, but on leash running for longer distances should be saved until your dog is a bit older and has fully matured into their adult body to make sure the growth plates have closed.

how to run with your dog

What Are The Best Tips To Get Started Running With A Dog?

Dr. Bethany Hsia, DVM and co-founder of CodaPet, says that running with dogs can be a rewarding experience for both you and your dog.

However, she says it is important to follow a few tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience:

#1: Start Slowly

Just as we can’t jump into an aggressive training plan right away, it’s important to gradually build up your dog’s endurance to prevent injury. Start with short runs and gradually increase the distance and pace over time.

#2: Monitor the Dog’s Breathing

Pay attention to your dog’s breathing during the run. If the dog appears to be struggling or doing excessive panting, it’s important to slow down, walk, or stop.

#3: Stay Hydrated

Like humans, your canine running buddy needs to stay well hydrated while running.

Bring a water bottle and collapsible bowl and offer water to your dog regularly. I like the PupFlask Large Dog Water Bottle because it has a built-in bowl.

#4: Check the Paws

After the run, check your dog’s paws for cuts or injuries. If the dog appears to be in pain or discomfort, it’s important to seek veterinary attention.

Booties can help with hot pavement, areas where there might be broken glass, and snowy pavement if your dog is tolerant of them.

A good option is the RUFFWEAR Grip Trex Dog Boots. Note that you’ll need two sets because it only comes with a pair and dogs have four paws!

#5: Use a Harness

Dr. Hsia says a harness is recommended over a dog collar because the harness distributes pressure more evenly across the dog’s body and reduces the risk of injury. A harness also makes controlling your dog easier for your safety.

how to run with your dog

How to Go Running With A Dog

Although I’m certainly not a dog trainer, I used to get paid (!) to run with other people’s dogs as a “dog runner” instead of a dog walker.

Here are a few things I learned about training your dog to run with you:

  • Use a Running Leash: It is best to use a special dog running leash with a bungee so that there is some give if your dog pulls or falls behind. There are also hands-free dog running leashes that attach via a waist belt so you can still swing your arms normally.
  • Stay Consistent: Pick one designated side of your body for your dog and keep it consistent. Start with a short leash and gradually allow your dog to have more slack as he or she gets used to running alongside you.
  • Use Commands: 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. 
  • Use Rewards: When your dog obeys and slows back down to run by your side, immediately reward your dog with a treat and verbal praise. 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.
  • Trail Run: If possible, take your dog on trails. The trails are more forgiving on their paws, and you might be able to do off-leash running (if your dog is obedient), which is easier for both of you.
  • Bring poop bags! 
  • Keep Them Warm: Make sure your pup is warm enough for winter running. Lean dogs might need a coat or sweater.
how to run with your dog

How Much Running Can Dogs Do?

Like humans, dogs can get injured if they run too much, run on unsafe terrain, or don’t warm up properly.

Limping, stiffness, low energy, a lack of interest in running or playing are signs of overtraining or that your dog is running too much.

“Running is an excellent form of exercise for dogs that can improve their cardiovascular health, strengthen their muscles and joints, and reduce behavioral problems associated with boredom or anxiety,” suggests Dr. Hsia.

“However, there is a limit as to how much they can do depending on their age, size, breed, and overall health. Avoid overexerting your dog and always look for signs of fatigue or discomfort during the run.”

Dr. Dench says the amount of running a dog can handle varies widely based on breed, age, and health. 

“Generally, starting with shorter runs a few times a week is advisable, with rest days in between to allow for recovery,” says Dr. Dench. “Monitoring your dog’s response to increased activity will guide you in adjusting the frequency and length of runs.”

As with humans, dogs need time to build up their endurance and learn how to run with you.

“Regarding marathon training, it is possible with certain breeds and individual dogs, but it requires careful planning, veterinary oversight, and a gradual build-up to such intense activity,” advises Dr. Dench.

“It’s crucial to tailor the intensity and duration to your dog’s capabilities and never push them beyond what is safe and enjoyable.”

As Dr. Dench says, “Running with your dog can foster a deeper bond, promote health and happiness, and provide mutual enjoyment of the great outdoors.”

Looking for a Couch to 5K training plan to get started with your pooch? Check out this next guide:


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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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