One great way to bond with your dog is by exercising together. Many dogs make eager running partners. Set your furry companion up for running success by following these 10 tips to get started.
1. Consider the Breed
While most healthy dogs love to run, some are more adept at the sport than others. Herding dogs, like the Border Collie or Australian Shepherd, were bred to work all day on farms, covering long distances each day. Hunting dogs, like Vizslas and Irish Setters, are swift and have great endurance.
Bred to run hundreds of miles in extreme weather, northern dogs such as the Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute make great winter running buddies. Retrievers are always ready for an adventure and happy to accompany their people.
Certain dog breeds, like Greyhounds or terriers, are generally better suited to shorter distances. You can still run with these breeds, but consider taking them on a quick, fast loop and then finishing the distance on your own.
Veterinarians do not recommend running with “flat” face breeds, such as Bulldogs, Pugs, or Boxers. These dogs can have breathing problems and trouble panting, which can cause them to overheat easily.
2. Factor Age
While you may be tempted to take your exuberant young puppy out on a long run to burn off some endless energy, a game of fetch in the backyard is the safer choice. A puppy’s underdeveloped bones and joints are more prone to injury than a dog with a mature musculoskeletal system.
Some breeds are fully developed between 6 and 9 months of age, while other, larger breeds, might be well over a year old before it’s safe to take them for a run with you. Check with your veterinarian to get an exact age recommendation for your dog.
3. Health Check
Regardless of breed or age, make sure your dog has a clean bill of health before starting to run with them. Make an appointment for your dog to have a physical exam with a veterinarian and communicate that you’d like to train your dog to run with you.
Your vet will check to make sure your dog is free from any medical conditions that would endanger them during a run.
4. Master Leash Walks
When you’ve determined that your pup is healthy and able to become your running buddy, start out slowly. Before doing any running, your dog needs to understand how to walk on a leash. If your dog pulls while walking, running with them won’t change that behavior— in fact, running with a dog that pulls is not fun and can be dangerous. Make sure your dog masters loose leash walkingbefore starting to train them to run alongside you.
5. Teach Running Commands
Teaching your dog special running cues helps them learn your expectations quicker. For example, I often run with my Rough Collie. She knows it’s time to run by the language I use with her.
When we’re about to leave I say, “Want to go for a run?” She can barely contain her excitement, but because of our loose leash training, she knows she must walk in the heel position until we get to the sidewalk. To start our jog I say, “Let’s run!” She knows, from this command, that I expect her to run next to me. If she starts to pull, I immediately stop.
Patience and consistency are key to teaching these running commands. Teach the commands by inserting brief jogging periods during your normal walks. Give the command and immediately increase your speed. Reward your dog as soon as they break into a trot to catch up and continue to reward them for running nicely alongside you.
6. Build Endurance
Just like humans, dogs need to build their strength and endurance over time. The best way to build your dog’s running endurance is by starting very slowly, even if you think they can handle more. Try running for one minute, then walking for two minutes until you reach a mile. Gradually decrease the amount of walking time and increase the running time until your dog can run the whole mile comfortably.
Even after your dog has built up their endurance, always incorporate a warmup and cool down into each session.
7. Check the Weather
Always consider the weather before deciding to take your dog out on a run. During the warm weather months, dogs are at an increased risk for heat related emergencies, such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke. They are also susceptible to burned paw pads from hot pavement. If the weather is going to be hot, play it safe with your dog by taking them on a run early in the morning.
8. Pay Attention
Paying attention to your dog while running is extremely important. Dogs can’t tell us how they feel, so it is up to you to make sure your dog enjoys the outing. Pausing for water breaks allows you to check in with your pup frequently. Stop running immediately if they exhibit any signs of distress, such as lethargy or excessive panting.
9. Get the Right Gear
While you don’t need to spend a lot of money on special dog running gear, a few items will make your outings more manageable.
- Hands free leash. These leashes are helpful because they keep you balanced.
- Running belt or vest to hold the following: bottled water, collapsible water bowl, poop bags
10. Have Fun
The most important tip for running with your dog is to have fun together! Be flexible with regards to your pace and distance, and vary your route so you and your dog can explore new places together. In return, you’ll have an enthusiastic and motivated running buddy by your side.