The longer I run, the more I realize there’s just more to learn about running. One of the areas, I have long been curious about is running with your dog.
I’ve seen friends start running a puppy long distances and wondered if that was ok…
No, it turns out that is super not ok!
Which is why I am so happy to have experts in dog training and handling to help all of us do this right. Getting a dog for a running partner still remains one of my long term goals (we just need the cats to agree).
In the mean time, I’ll be fully prepped with these tips on learning how to run with your dog!
Is It Ok to Take Your Dog for a Run?
Now that you’ve got your running dog, how do you train them to run with you?!
Dogs make wonderful running buddies. The regular exercise will keep them healthy throughout their lives and more than fulfill their exercise needs.
But before you slap on that leash and tie your shoes, take a look at these tips to make sure that you and your dog work as a team to keep the running fun for everyone.
There are a few things you want to keep in mind:
- Age (how much growing is left)
- Breed (how much energy they have, how hot they get)
- Training Level (how well do they listen, how skittish are they)
- Endurance (remember dogs need to build up, just like you)
Vet Check: When Can Your Dog Start Running?
Before your dog starts to join you on your runs, consult your veterinarian to ensure that she is physically capable of handling running.
This is especially important if your dog is under 18 months old.
Puppies should not do forced running until their growth plates and bones have finished developing, otherwise their long term physical health could be compromised.
That doesn’t mean don’t let your young dog play, have fun, and run around. It just means maybe no leashing up and dragging him down the sidewalk for miles and miles.
Puppy brain is real and there are few things worse than getting a mile out and having a dog who can’t focus well enough to run the mile back. Think back to your four-month-old puppy, how far could he go without getting distracted? That doesn’t get better with running, it just happens with more momentum.
Don’t fret though there are a many things you can work on before a year to improve the bond with your dog and make running together the best experience for you both.
How Many Miles Can a Dog Run?
Obviously this is going to depend greatly on the dog’s breed, their training and the temperature. Know that for many long haired dogs, summer running is going to require shorter jaunts.
While some breeds certainly lend more to running than others, many dogs make perfectly suitable running partners. What to consider when selecting a running dog:
- the distance you run
- the type of running you enjoy
- your weekly mileage
How many miles can you run with your dog? It’s going to depend on the breed, but also the individual dog…just like humans. Pay attention to them and ensure they’re getting plenty of rest and recovery.
Dogs with Great Endurance
If you’re a marathoner or run ultras, then consider high energy breeds built for endurance like:
- Border Collies
- Australian Shepherds
- Cattle Dogs and Huskies
- German Shorthaired Pointers
But keep in mind a dog bred to go 20 miles generally won’t be happy with 2-3 days a week running.
Don’t let a dog with short legs make you think they won’t make a good running buddy! Those who prefer small dogs and whose maximum distance is around six miles, might love these pooches:
- Jack Russel Terriers
- Brittany Springer Spaniels
Short Distance Dogs
Maybe you just want your pup to join you for a couple of miles. That’s a perfect way for you to warm up or cool down and they run out some energy in short bursts!
- German Shepard
- Greyhounds (for those of you who like sprints!)
Dogs that are Not Good to Run With
Just because you love them and want them to run, doesn’t mean they’re built for it. Especially little dogs with short muzzles for breathing.
- French Bulldogs
- Pit bulls
Tips for Training Your Dog to Run
Dogs need to build up to speed and distance just like their humans.
Take your dog through a similar training plan as you went through when you first started running. A couch to 5k program (and lots of training treats) is perfect for your dog.
1. Learn to Walk Before You Run
When Aimee got Sam she had no idea how to train a dog, which is actually step one of learning to run together.
Obedience/Family Dog class was exactly what they needed.
- For Sam and Aimee that meant going to a positive reinforcement (clicker training) class.
- Dog’s love to learn and it gave us, as a team, a foundation.
- They learned how to walk on a loose leash (a key for running on leash), sit, stay, down.
- All of this in the presence of other dogs, people, and distractions.
You can generally start classes like this with young dogs as young as 14 weeks.
2. Have a Training Program For Your Dog
Once you have some of those basics down, remember that your dog needs a routine and a training plan just like you. While a professional dog trainer might be focused on the commands we list below, you need to think like a coach!
- Yup, your pup needs a little warm up before runs.
- You want to start out with short easy runs.
- Slowly increase distance over months, not days.
- Consider using something like Couch to 5K training plan with your pup.
- Remember they need rest days (or active recovery days too).
The problem is your dog wants to make you happy, so often they’ll simply keep on running though it’s gotten too hard for them or could make them sick.
They get sore muscles and feel overworked just like we do. They’re just better at being happy anyways.
3. Reward Your Dog
A C25K program that alternates running and walking intervals is the perfect set up to do short periods of running where you can focus on rewarding your dog for good running behavior.
The idea is to give you and your dog short segments that set you up for success and then a moment of relaxation.
And these running periods increase in duration until suddenly you have a good runner for a mile and then two and then your dog will expect gorgeous sunrise 5 mile runs daily.
Did I mention bring lots of training treats? Run and reward is a big motivation for most dogs.
4. Leash Training Tips
If your dog walks nicely on leash, then you’re off to a good start.
However, running is more exciting to your dog than your usual neighborhood walk. Young dogs especially may behave in ways that hinder the running experience because they think you’re playing and not working.
For a truly enjoyable running career together, you’re going to have to teach your dog to run. Like any training, it will take time and patience to perfect.
Here are a few leash training tips:
- Don’t allow your dog to pull on walks, otherwise that will only translate to pulling on the trail.
- Use a shorter leash than you normally would for walking. I like 30” spring leashes with a traffic handle. It helps keep my dog by my side, gives her some slack if she stops to sniff something, and also enables me to grab her quickly if necessary.
- Use a cue phrase to let your dog know it’s time to run and not time to play. I say “let’s go running!”
- If you prefer to use a harness for your dog, use a specific one meant only for running. This will excite your dog and give them a visual cue that tells them you’re about to go run.
What Kind of Leash Should I Use for Running?
Hands-free leashes for running are the way to go if your dog cannot be off leash.
Having full range of motion of your hands allows you to run with a normal gait and maintain your balance better, especially if you run on trails. It’s also safer for you and your dog if say, Fido spots a squirrel off in the distance and bolts toward the distraction.
Whatever you do, please, please, PLEASE don’t use a retractable leash. Ever.
Not for running, hiking, or walking.
These widely used leashes are dangerous and do not allow handlers to control their dogs. The thin cord can cut or strangle other dogs and humans and the mechanism doesn’t allow for quick retraction when you need to make a split second decision.
Some great running leashes:
Ruffwear Slackline Leash – This is the leash we use for daily walks, hikes, shorter runs, everything. I love that I can adjust the length with a simple slide of the buckle and clip it around my waist if I need both hands. This is my perfect leash.
Both are comfortable, adjust to your size easily, and do not chafe when fitted properly. Each one includes a water bottle and holder on the belt.
The Ruffwear Quencher bowl folds into a tiny size that fits into my running belts, hydration pack, or sometimes even my shorts pocket if they’re large enough. It’s perfect for longer outings or running in hot weather.
5. Simple Running Commands for Your Dog
No matter how old your dog is or what you’re doing, it’s all training. Running offers an excellent opportunity to sharpen commands and keep their mind focused on you.
How do you train your dog to run without a leash?
It starts by doing all the right things with the leash and then ensuring they can follow some commands:
Left and Right
Teach your dog to move from your left side to the right and vice versa in order to facilitate passing other dogs. The goal is for your dog to just keep going and ignore the other dog.
When you need your dog to run alongside, say when passing other people on a sidewalk or on a busy trail, heel comes in handy when you need to be able to manage your dog easily.
This is a great command for trail runners or when you have to navigate crowded or narrow streets. Your dog should follow right behind you until you release her.
One of the first and most important commands dog owners should teach their dogs is “leave it.” It could be life saving. Dogs love to eat disgusting things like poop, rotten fish, and investigate moving creatures like snakes and bees. You’ll want to ensure a solid “leave it” to avoid any potential hazards.
If you run with your dog off leash on trails, then make sure they have excellent recall. Be courteous to other users and do not allow your dog to disturb their experience or approach their dog without permission.
You are now officially ready to get running with your dog. It doesn’t guarantee there won’t be a lot of stops and starts, but have fun and enjoy learning together.
6. Remember They’re Still a Dog
They might get distracted by a scent on the trail. They can’t tell you that the weather is too much. They might scare someone who doesn’t know your dog.
It’s important to continually work with your dog on commands and to also work on keeping them generally close by even when off leash. This protects both them and you!
- Prevent heat stroke by consistently stopping and encouraging them to drink. Excessive panting is a sign that they’ve been pushed too far, so don’t wait until then.
- Skip over winter paw pain by getting them booties. Weather conditions are entirely on you to make sure they’re protected.
What makes your dog the best running buddy?
Do you have any tips to add for those new to running with a dog?
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