Running with a dog always looks like such fun to me as I pass people on the Colorado trails, but so far I have yet to convince David that our kitties will appreciate another furry friend. BUTTTTT I’m not one to give up, so I reached out to a couple of friends who love to run their pups for some great advice!
Which are the Best Breeds for Running?
If you’re at the very beginning like Amanda and still considering a dog as a running partner, it might be wise to think about bit about breed.
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.
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. 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, then Jack Russel Terriers, Brittany Springer Spaniels, or Poodles might fit the bill.
What You Need to Know Running with a New Dog
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.
Now, before you slap on that leash and tie your shoes, take a look at my tips below to make sure that you and your dog work as a team to keep the running fun for everyone.
Talk to Your Vet: Waiting to the Right Age to Start
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 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.
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.
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.
A C25K program (try this one) 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.
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?
Hands-free running is 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.
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.
Long Runs and Trails
Long runs mean that you’ll need to carry water for your dog, a bowl, poop bags, and treats. You’ll want a belt so you can be your dog’s personal mule. Our set up for runs of 10 or more miles looks something like this:
The Ruffwear Trai Runner System and Kurgo K9 Excursion Running Belt with Spring Back Leash are both great options when you need to carry more items. 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.
Essential Running Commands
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.
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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