Dog owners are a passionate bunch. There are very few aspects of life that can’t be improved by bringing your dog along. Runners are a passionate bunch, too, who want to share their favorite way to exercise with anyone and everyone who is willing. If you are a runner who also owns a dog, you have likely at some point looked at your dog and thought, “Man, I would like to run with you.” In this article, we’ll cover exactly that.
We’ll teach you how to take an otherwise healthy dog that doesn’t really like to go for walks and turn that dog into a runner. You’ll need a training program for your pup just like you have one for yourself, but you can make it happen.
Before you begin
As Maria says in The Sound of Music, we’ll start at the very beginning. Before you dash out the door with your dog, you need to check a couple things.
First, is your dog even a breed that can handle long-distance runs? A German Shepherd is probably a great running dog, but a Chihuahua likely is not. If you want to look up dog running articles about breeds, feel free, but they will be unhelpful if you have a mutt.
In that case, use your best judgment. Does the dog look like a running dog? If it does, then it’s probably fine for longer distances no matter what the breed is. If not, maybe hold off. Not all humans are great at running, and neither are all dogs.
Just like humans should visit their doctor before starting a running routine, pets need to visit their vet. For young dogs in particular, it’s important to know if the bones have developed enough. You don’t want to impede the growth of your dog by starting to run too soon.
Typically, puppies should be ready to run after they turn one year old. But some dogs can run a month or two sooner, while others need that extra time for extra growth.
You’ll also want to make sure that your dog is up-to-date on all their vaccinations and medications. No one wants their dog to get sick after a run.
Training your dog to run
It takes time for humans to know how to run well, and it’s the same for dogs. Don’t assume that your pooch is ready to do what you’ve been doing for six months on day one. Even if your dog runs around your yard chasing balls or fetching sticks, sustained distance running is a different thing. Make sure that you take the time to train your dog.
It might feel more freeing to run without the leash, but don’t do it. If you’re running in populated areas, you need to be able to control your dog. And even if you aren’t, you’re responsible for your pup. Even if the dog normally behaves at home, that doesn’t mean they will outside.
Before you even introduce running, you need to make sure that your dog can walk on a leash without pulling. If Fido is still pulling, you need to address that first. Make sure that your dog listens to your commands.
Next, you’ll need to train your dog to wear a harness, as it’s likely that he or she hasn’t been wearing one around the house. While you can use just a collar, a harness is better because it gives you more control and keeps your dog safer and less prone to injury.
Once you’ve gotten the leash training down, you’re ready to start giving your dog new verbal commands for running. Make sure that your pup has a verbal cue to start running. You should dictate this, not the dog, as well as a verbal command if your dog gets distracted.
Just like you teach a dog how to behave with “sit” and “lie down” and “heel,” you need to teach Fido how to behave when running. It will make your runs much more enjoyable when you both know what to expect.
Finally, just as you slowly build up the miles after a big race or an injury, your dog needs the same schedule to build up their fitness and endurance. Don’t start with 5 miles. Start with ¼ mile and work up from there.
Plus, it’s more rewarding for your dog. Even if they don’t have a real concept of time, I think the dog would understand that they are doing better and better, and would probably have some sense of pride.
Tips for running with your dog
Now that we’ve gotten the prerequisites out of the way, let’s discuss some tips for running with your dog that will make it a great experience 9 times out of 10! (There’s always that one time…dog owners, am I right?)
Be careful choosing the days you take your dog out for a run. In most places in the United States, spring and fall are going to be the best seasons to run with your dog. Summer is too hot, and winter is too cold.
Dogs can experience heat stroke just as humans can, so if you decide to go outside when it’s hot in the summer, pay close attention to your dog’s well-being. You might even want to adopt the rule of some owners of no running with the dog if it’s over 70 degrees.
Similarly, in winter, even though your dog has fur, it might not be enough. Make sure that your dog is plenty warm, and you’ll probably want to get them a coat just to ensure that Fido is warm.
Asphalt is the preferred surface for many training for a road races, but that’s going to hurt your pooch after a while. Consider getting booties for your dog to protect their paws, and try to find soft surfaces like grass, trails, or a beach to run on.
While it’s important for humans to stay hydrated, you know when you don’t have enough fluid and can stop. Your canine companion can’t talk and tell you if he or she needs more, so err on the side of too much hydration.
Pack a collapsible bowl as well, unless you’ve trained your dog to drink as you pour water from a bottle. That might be something you want to cover under training to get your dog ready because then you’ll have fewer things that you need to bring.
Picking up poop is nobody’s favorite job, but it has to be done. Don’t be that person who leaves the doo-doo there or who leaves a poop bag on the side of the trail/sidewalk planning to pick it up later.
Try running loop trails and/or trails that have trash cans along the way so that you can get rid of the treasures as quickly as possible without inconveniencing anyone else.
Injuries (During and Post-run)
Finally, you need to keep an eye on your pooch during your run and after the run. Be sure that you’re staying aware to anything that is abnormal. Is your dog slowing down more than usual? Do they seem to be limping?
Be ready to end your run early if needed. Stop if you see signs that your dog is fatigued. It’s not worth it to hurt your dog to get your workout in.
And don’t forget to check your dog’s pads for scratches and tears after your run so that you can get them fixed right away. You don’t want to inflame an already injured area by unknowingly running with your dog the next day.
In the end, dog’s are a man’s best friend, and you can do a lot of things with them from snuggling with them on the couch to playing catch with them in the yard. And yes, you can run with them if you follow the rules, tips, and etiquette that we mentioned above!