Dogs make great running partners! If you haven’t run with your dog yet, you could be in for a treat! Dogs are great at keeping things fun and reminding you to stay in shape!
Who to start
Generally, most dogs are adaptable enough to be able run with you. Those that especially love it and tend to be good at long distances are Siberian Huskies, German Shepherds, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and Dalmations.
Dogs with shorter (Brachycephalic) noses should, unfortunately, be left back at home to congratulate you when you get back from your run. They are simply not anatomically built for long distance-running, as they will overheat faster than other dogs and will be unable to take in enough oxygen for strenuous exercises. These dogs include the Pug, English Bulldog, French Bulldog, Boston Terrier, Pekingese, Shih Tzu and the like.
When to start
If your dog is a puppy, it’s best to consult your veterinarian as to when it’s okay to start them running. As a rule of thumb, wait until they are around 18 months of age (1 year and 6 months). This will ensure their bones have stopped growing, meaning that you can run together safely.
Before starting to run with your dog, make sure he is in decent shape to start running. Your dog won’t go right from being a couch potato to doing a 5K and neither will you. If you’re not already walking him once a day for 30 + minutes, start doing that. Part of running is establishing a routine, and by getting your dog in shape with a 30 minute walk every day, you can later use this time for running!
Where to start
Leash Manners and Training
A great place to start is to make sure your dog has great leash manners. If your dog is pulling you every which way, no one is going to have a good time.
Progress to the point where your dog is comfortable walking next to you. As you work on your leash training, vary the pace of your walking so your dog gets used to staying by your side no matter the pace.
Add a couple commands
- Forward. If you want your dog to run in front of you without pulling, work on a command for this while you’re walking. Let the leash out and say “forward”, then encourage your dog forward. If he pulls, rein him in with a verbal correction (“eh!”). If this doesn’t work, turn around and try again. Repeat this until he understands that once he pulls he’ll get turned around.
- Sniff. To stop and let your dog go to the bathroom, walk to the side of the path and tell him “sniff”, letting the leash out so he can sniff around. If he sniffs, reward him with praise. If he goes to the bathroom, reward him with more praise.
- Whoa. If you have a really big dog that has the potential to pull your arm off, teaching Whoa isn’t a bad idea. Just like a horse, if you’re walking and want to slow to a stop, say “Whoa” before coming to a stop. Practice this enough and your dog will learn that when you say this, it means you’re stopping.
How far to go and your route
Start your dog off with a 10 minute-long run every other day. After a week, add another 10 minutes. Repeat this until you’ve reached your desired run distance/time. After you’ve reached the distance you want, do one more easier week, then start layering in the hard stuff like intervals. Building your mileage together is also a great way to bond.
For your route, pick something safe that is close to home. If you have a sidewalk, use it. Stay away from busy roads and roads with no shoulders. One of the best times to go is the morning, since there is less traffic to worry about and you’ll feel like a superhero for being up early!
Some helpful tools for planning
- Google Maps: If you’re not sure about distance, you can use Google Maps to put together a walking loop. Simply start the route at home (or click and hold somewhere on the map, then at the bottom click ‘Directions to’), and for the starting point, choose a location on the map. From there, you can click and drag parts of the route to trace the route you want to do.
- Map My Run: Use this app to map your run speed and distance. You can also use it to search in your area for good routes that other people have mapped out!
- AllTrails: To find a trail near you, use the AllTrails app and website. You can find out if the trail is dog-friendly as well as the steepness and distance.
If you have to drive somewhere to run with your dog, make sure to pack some water for both of you, a collapsible bowl, a towel or blanket that you don’t mind getting dirty, and a dog-specific first aid kit.
What to bring
Generally it’s a good idea to bring a comfortable, reflective harness for your dog, a hands-free leash, and some running lights if you’re going in the dark am. For a more in-depth look at the gear you’ll need, check out Essential Dog Running Gear.
Of course, don’t forget your poop bags too!
Make sure to have fun!
Chances are your dog is going to be stoked to run with you. Make sure to keep things fun and encouraging when you reach roadblocks – if you can’t make it through the whole run this time, try again the next day! Encourage and reward your dog for doing a good job and celebrate the milestones together.
If your dog knows how to high five, give him one after each run. You’re both awesome!
For a fun challenge, train together to do a fun doggy race, or, for something a bit more extreme, sign up for a Puppy Mudder – the Tough Mudder version of a dog obstacle course, or a Badass Dash, the dog version of the Warrior Dash obstacle course.