If you’re looking to get into shape and give your dog plenty of exercise at the same time, then what better thing to do than go running with your dog?
There’s no denying that the vast majority of dog breeds love to run, and it can certainly be an excellent way for both you and your dog to get plenty of extra exercise during the week.
However, there are a few key things you’ll need to consider when you’re planning to run with your dog, and in this guide, we’re going to highlight everything you need to know. With this in mind, let’s take a closer look.
How Far Should I Run With My Dog?
One of the first questions people usually have when they’re planning to run with their dog is how much distance you should cover and how much time you can spend running in a single session.
Of course, once your dog has trained extensively, you can certainly go a fair distance with them, but in the early days, it’s best to build things up gradually and only run for short 10-minute bursts at a maximum.
However, you can easily add 5 to 10 minutes of additional time each week, while keeping a close eye on how your dog is taking to the new activity. If your dog is starting to seem slow, lethargic and struggling to keep up, then it’ll be time for a break, and you’ll perhaps need to reconsider the distance you’re running.
But if you take your time and do not rush things, you’ll soon find that your dog can keep up with your pace for the duration of your run.
In many ways, training a dog to run isn’t too different to training a person, so if you take things slow and steady you’ll soon find that your dog can keep up with your pace. But just as the average person shouldn’t attempt a grueling 10k on their very first run, it’s best to not place a huge demand on your dog from day one.
How Can I Keep My Dog Safe While Running?
First of all, it’s a good idea to take things slowly when you’re first starting any kind of running activity, and this applies to both humans and dogs.
In general, it’s best to start with short runs and gain a better understanding of your dog’s limits before you increase the length and duration, so you can learn how your dog copes with these new physical demands.
Something else to pay attention to will be how warm your dog is getting, because your dog can easily begin to overheat while running for extended periods of time, particularly in warm weather climates.
The key warning signs to look for will be slow and sluggish behavior combined with excessive panting. Of course, either of these signs can alert you to your dog’s fatigue level, so they don’t both need to be present in order for you to take things slower.
If you suspect your dog is getting tired, then it becomes even more important to make time for frequent breaks to ensure they’re not getting too tired or overheated. Of course, you also need to give them plenty of opportunities to drink as well.
Look After Their Paws
But once your dog’s cardio abilities have caught up (or even surpassed) your own, you’ll still need to keep a close eye on the condition of their paws to make sure they aren’t becoming sensitive over time.
Just as you’d expect, paw care is vital for a running dog, especially because they won’t have the benefit of wearing expensive running shoes to protect their feet.
Obviously, you need to be mindful of where you run, so it’s always smart to keep a look out for broken glass or anything on the sidewalk that can be hazardous to your dog’s paws.
Additionally, hot asphalt or concrete can be dangerous in those warm summer months, and it’s also important to watch out for any sort of salt that’s been placed to prevent ice from forming in winter, as these salts are often treated with chemicals that aren’t good for your dog’s health, and the gritty salt can be quite damaging to your dog’s paws all by itself.
If your dog starts limping or licking their pads for any reason, then you may want to put the running on hold for a while, as these are tell-tale signs that your dog’s paws are beginning to hurt and they need some rest and recuperation before they head out for a run again. Furthermore, this could be a sign that they’ve hurt their pads, so it’s wise to inspect them before continuing.
What Kind Of Leash Do I Need?
If you’re just starting out when it comes running., then the best thing to do is to use a relatively short handheld leash that’ll allow both you and your dog to become familiar with what you’re doing and how it’s going to work. Of course, a shorter leash also helps you to stay in control of your dog without risking the possibility of your dog dashing off when they discover an interesting distraction.
However, once you’ve become more experienced with running together, it’s wise to invest in a hands-free leash that’ll give you more comfort when you’re running, while still keeping your dog within a safe range. These leashes usually attach to your waist, and they’re generally the leash of choice for any experienced runner who wants to bring the dog along for the fun.
What Other Supplies Should I Buy?
Just like humans, dogs quickly become dehydrated when they are performing lots of physical activity, so in the same you’d bring a water bottle with you while you’re enjoying a run, it’s wise to bring a collapsible travel water bowl with you that allows you to give your dog a drink whenever they need it.
Additionally, you may want to invest in a quality dog harness rather than attaching a leash to your dog’s collar, as this will give you better control over your dog as well as ensure they don’t incur any damage if you and your pooch suddenly part ways or come out of step, which can put unwanted force on your dog’s throat. Ultimately, using a harness is usually a much better choice for running purposes.
How Can I Train My Dog To Run With Me?
Running with your dog on a hands-free leash can require some degree of training to make sure you’re both on the same page. Before you head out for your actual run, it can be useful to try a few simple training exercises so your run goes smoothly.
One of the key things to do when you’re initially training your dog to run with you is to keep your dog on one side only, so they learn where to run safely without tangling you up.
To begin with, keep the leash around 5 to 6 feet away from you, and let your dog get used to your usual running stance.
Hopefully, your dog will be paying close attention to you, but if this isn’t yet the case, then using treats to reward them whenever they look at you is a smart thing to do, as this will quickly encourage them to pay attention to where you’re moving and how to naturally match your pace.
If your dog has a habit of pulling ahead of you while you’re practicing at a slower pace, then one way to counter this will be to immediately stop walking, so your dog learns that the fun disappears if they start to get too far ahead. Over time, your dog will naturally learn to follow your lead while running, especially when you incorporate the other training tips.
Another problem area can be turning, so this is a good thing to drill several times before you head out for any serious run. Training the U-turn maneuver is relatively simple and straightforward, and you’ll be able to teach it to your dog in no time at all.
In order to teach the technique, it’s best to walk forward at a slow and even pace, and then make a U-turn in the opposite direction, followed by heading back over the ground you’ve just covered. If your dog sticks with you, be sure to reward the desired behavior with a treat. If not, simply retry the method until your dog is in the habit of paying attention to you and following you through the turn.
In general, training your dog to keep their awareness on you when you’re running will go a long way towards avoiding any of the potential mishaps that can occur, such as getting tangled up with your dog, your dog running away from you, or your dog getting caught up by any other distraction that may come their way.
Over time, you’ll naturally get into a running rhythm where both you and your dog know what to expect from each other, but in the early days, a little patience and persistence will go a long way towards making things work smoothly.
Further Tips For Running With Your Dog
- Make sure your dog is ready to run with you, particularly if you’re planning to go long distances. While most dog breeds can handle the occasional run, certain working breeds tend to be the best for running, such as retrievers, terriers, and more. While several smaller breeds can also enjoy running, you won’t often see an overweight pug being a great runner, for example.
- Always check that the weather conditions are friendly and favorable for your dog. If the weather is too cold it may be best to give it a miss, and if the sun is particularly hot, then wait till it’s cooler before you take your dog out for a run.
- Pay attention to your dog when you’re running and learn the signals they give when they are getting tired, overheated, or overworked. It’s also wise to pay attention to when they may be thirsty as well, and it’s important to give more water breaks rather than less, for both you and your dog!
- Make sure you feed your dog adequately if you are running on a regular basis. Just as humans burn excess calories from a vigorous run, your dog will need enough calories and protein to stay strong and healthy if they are running with you often.
- Give your dog time to recover, particularly in the early days when they aren’t used to running. Your dog can easily suffer from muscle soreness after running, so it’s wise to give them a few days rest if they aren’t used to the activity.
- Be careful when running with a puppy, as a young dog’s bones and joints will not be fully formed so they could risk injury to their growth plates. If you’re unsure, it’s best to ask your vet for further advice, but you certainly do not want to undertake any serious running with a puppy within the first few years of their life. Furthermore, larger puppies will often need more time to time develop fully, so you shouldn’t start running with bigger dogs too soon either.
- If possible, choose to run on trails, because dirt tracks and trails will be much healthier for your dog to run on rather than making them paws suffer too much on concrete or asphalt. Of course, a trail also has far more entertaining sights, sounds, and smells for your dog to enjoy as well.
In summary, running with your dog is one of the most fun and enjoyable ways to spend time together, and you will soon discover that your dog loves running with you.
While it’s important to keep a few health considerations in mind, you will certainly enjoy running with dogs of any breed, and unless you are a serious fitness fanatic, it’s unlikely that you will ever outrun your dog as long as you give them time to adapt to the new physical demands on them.
For many people, training their dog to run with them can be an incredibly rewarding experience, and you’ll soon understand why dogs make the best running partners you could ever hope for. In fact, their on-tap enthusiasm can often give you some added motivation to stick to your own personal running goals, too!