How Do I Go Running With My Dog?
Your dog makes the best exercise partner 🐶
If you’re a big runner (and a dog parent), you might want to take your pup with you when you jog so you can spend some extra time with him.
But before you do, you’ll need to know how to run with your dog safely so he can have a fun time, too.
The Dodo spoke to Dr. Crista Coppola, PhD, a certified dog behaviorist at Senior Tail Waggers, and Julie Burgess, a certified dog trainer for Senior Tail Waggers, to get tips for running with your dog.
Can I run with my dog?
Running with your dog can be a really fun way to give him some exercise, but keep in mind that not all dogs will be great runners. Some dogs who are older or have health problems might not be able to run.
Certain medical conditions can make it harder for dogs to run, including:
Talk to your vet if your dog has one of these conditions (or another health condition) that could make it hard for him to exercise.
Puppies aren’t great running partners because their joints and bones are still soft and growing, making them prone to injury. Giving your puppy too much exercise before his growth plates are completely closed could damage them, which can lead to lasting joint problems. His soft bones can also break more easily than an adult dog’s fully formed bones.
Your vet can let you know when your puppy’s done growing. Most dogs reach their full size by around 18 months, but large and giant breeds can keep growing until they’re around 2 years old.
You may not want to take your senior dog running, either. Dogs tend to slow down as they get older, plus many senior pups develop issues like arthritis that can prevent them from strenuous exercise.
Some types of dogs aren’t great runners. Dogs with short noses (aka brachycephalic dogs), such as pugs and bulldogs, have trouble breathing and can get hot really quickly. If you have one of these dogs, it’s not a good idea to take him running with you.
How far can a dog run?
When you’re running with your dog, you might not be able to go as far as you would alone. You should start off going short distances and see how your pup does.
“Assess your dog's ability to run as far as you can and make adjustments,” Burgess told The Dodo.
Never force your dog to keep going if he’s slowing down or doesn’t want to go any further. He could get hurt or develop negative associations with running (which means he might not want to go with you next time).
If you’re a long-distance runner and want to take your pup on a 5K with you, it can be possible as long as your dog’s healthy, active and likes to run. You can try a training program like this 5K dog training plan. Over 6 weeks, you’ll train your dog to gradually run all 3.1 miles with you.
What you need to run with your dog
You’ll need some gear to run with your pup:
How to teach your dog to run with you
If you’ve never taken your pup running before, you may need to show him how to do it so he doesn’t stop every few feet to sniff things or try to chase after squirrels. Follow these steps to teach your dog to run:
- Start with indoor training sessions, and keep the sessions short — only around three to five minutes to start, Burgess said.
- Give your dog positive associations by giving him lots of treats from the very beginning.
- Put your dog’s leash on and give him a treat.
- According to Burgess, “Ensure you can walk with your dog quickly first. Jog a few steps, drop a treat, praise. Repeat until your dog understands that your movement equals treats.”
- Begin slowly increasing the distance and the amount of time that you and your dog run while watching how your dog handles it so you don’t push him too far. “Add distance slowly, and intermittently drop treats,” Burgess said. “Continue to add more distance while adding more time [and] delivering treats.”
Remember, your pup probably won’t be able to run a 5K with you overnight, so be patient.
“Practice makes perfect, and in no time, you'll have a running companion,” Burgess said.
Tips for running with your dog
Once your dog is a running pro, here are some tips for how to safely take him on a run with you.
Avoid hot weather
When running with your dog, you should only go running in mild weather, since dogs can easily get overheated in temperatures around 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re running in the summer, bring lots of water, keep your runs short and look out for signs that your pup’s getting too hot.
Get running gear
Find a harness that fits your dog properly and is comfortable for him.
“When buying a harness, you want to look for a harness that fits your dog without causing rubbing or chafing,” Dr. Coppola told The Dodo. “You also want it to fit well enough so that he is not able to get out of it. Ideally, a running harness should allow your dog to have plenty of freedom of movement while still fitting securely.”
A hands-free leash can also be useful so you don’t have to hold onto your dog and you can use your arms while running.
“The kind I recommend has a bungee-type leash that allows for some shock absorbing without abrupt pressure placed on your dog,” Dr. Coppola said.
Go at your dog’s pace
Keep in mind that your dog’s legs are much shorter than yours, so you might need to slow down a bit when you’re with him. You also shouldn’t force your dog to go faster than he wants to go. And when you’re first starting out running with your dog, you’ll need to start slowly to get him used to running before you can get to a comfortable speed with him.
Remember to take regular breaks while running with your dog, especially if you’re running in warmer weather. And make sure to give your pup water to let him rest and cool off.
And know the signs that your dog is too tired to keep running, like excessive panting, stopping a lot or lagging behind.
Plan rest days
Don’t make your pup run every day. Just like you may get worn out from running all the time, your dog will, too. Plus, running on hard surfaces can make his joints hurt, so he’ll need time to recover. Schedule rest days in between your exercise days to give your dog a break.
Your dog can be a great running partner, and running with your pup is a fun way for both of you to get exercise. If you follow these safety tips and steps to teach your dog to run, you’ll have an exercise buddy in no time.
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