If you own a dog, you likely know that dogs love being outside and being active. Dogs, like people, need exercise to be healthy and happy. Dogs’ love of exercise and the outdoors makes them ideal running partners. If you already run with your dog or want to start running with your canine best friend, read on for some useful tips on how to run with your dog.
I regularly run with Charlie on top of our daily walks, weekend hikes, and his normal crazy puggle behavior (as I write this, he’s running around the house chasing a yogurt container). Charlie loves being outdoors and getting exercise, and I appreciate how calm and well-behaved he is after he’s enjoyed a good run or hike.
I started running with Charlie when he was about eight or nine months old. When we run together, we run anywhere from 3-6 miles. Charlie is a small dog (right between 20-25 pounds) so I keep his mileage fairly low; bigger dogs such as labs and German shepherds can run much farther.
The following tips help Charlie and I stay safe, healthy, and happy when we run together. Use these tips when you run with your four-legged friend!
9 Tips for How to Run with Your Dog
1. Comfortably secure the dog.
Charlie has a tendency to pull on his leash, so we have him wear a harness for walking and running. The harness distributes the tension of the leash across his torso, rather than pulling at his neck and causing trouble for his breathing. Additionally, he cannot slip out of the harness in the same way he can with a collar. He is also less likely pull as hard with the harness on him. Use a four to six foot long leash to keep your dog close to you. You don’t want your dog to jump on other runners, as friendly and excited dogs will tend to do.
2. Keep a good grip on the leash or go hands-free.
Whether or not your dog pulls like Charlie, you want to keep a good grip on his or her leash when out running. I wrap the handle around your wrist and then grab on to the leash for extra reinforcement. This also prevents too tight of a grip on the handle, which can throw off your balance and running form. Runners with bigger dogs can use a hands-free leash that wraps around the waist to provide them with a better base of stability to handle the dog during the run.
I use a hands-free leash even with Charlie, who’s a 22-pound puggle. It offers great control and makes the run easier and safer for both of us. This Tuff Mutt leash is adjustable, durable, and comfortable!
3. Switch between your hands if you hold the leash.
Too much stress on one side of the body over the other can cause imbalances over time that can in turn damage your running form or cause injuries. Since holding onto the leash and guiding your body places more stress on one side of your body than the other, switch which hand you use to hold the leash. You can use a different hand for each run or pause in the middle of your run to carefully move the leash from one hand to another.
4. Let your pooch set the pace (within reason).
Pick a pace that is comfortable for both you and your dog. Your dog has shorter legs than you, which may mean he needs a slower pace for the distance you two are covering. You don’t want to push your dog to maintain a speed he can’t keep up with. If your dog wants to run fast, then settle into a comfortably hard pace so he doesn’t get bored or pull you too hard. Don’t let them go at an all-out sprint – your dog will probably feel exhausted before you even finish the first mile.
5. Run together on your easy days.
Speed work and long run days are not the ideal days to run with your dog. Dogs like to start and stop a lot when out running—they may smell something that catches their attention or stop for frequent bathroom breaks. If you are trying to run 5 mile repeats at your 5K pace, then stopping in the middle of each repeat so your puppy can use the bathroom will not reap the right physiological benefits of the workout. Additionally, most dogs do not have the patience or physical capacity to run for two hours, especially if you have a smaller dog. Go on your easy runs together: it will be a more enjoyable experience for both you and your dog.
6. Run a distance appropriate to your dog’s abilities.
Most dogs aren’t training for a marathon, so don’t take them out on long endurance runs. For many dogs, 3-8 miles provides an excellent workout. When your dog is just starting to running, stick to runs of 30 minutes or less or use run-walk intervals to introduce them to running. Once your dogs builds her endurance or strength, you can increase the duration or frequency of her runs. Dogs are just like people when it comes to running: training should progress gradually to stay injury-free and healthy.
7. Bring lots of bags.
If you’re a runner, then you know how sometimes running can stimulate your digestive system and make you need to use the bathroom. Vigorous cardio exercise has the same effect on dogs, only more quickly because of their smaller size. Always carry bags for disposing of your dog’s number twos. Cleaning up after your dog is courteous to other runners and your neighbors.
8. Monitor your dog for signs of discomfort.
When you’re out running with your dog, especially if your pup is new to the sport, frequently assess your dog’s attitude and movements for signs of discomfort. Dogs don’t register overexertion in the same way we do, so he may keep running even when he begins to feel sick. Listen to your dog’s breathing for signs of panting, watch for changes in his gait or how he holds his tail, keep an eye on his paws, and stop if he shows any signs of overexertion or illness. If you are running with a short-nosed breed such as a pug or bulldog, pay close attention to their breathing, as these breeds can experience shortness of breath or reverse sneezing.
9. Make sure your dog refuels after a run.
When I come in from a run, I drink water and eat a healthy breakfast to help my body recover. Do the same for your dog: make sure they have food in their bowl and lots of fresh water. Don’t give your dog huge portions, though, as they could overeat and become sick. If you plan to run with your dog for longer than 45 minutes, bring water for them and be sure to give it to them midway through the run, especially if you are running on a hot or humid day.
Of course, these tips come primarily from two years of experience of running with a medium-sized dog. If you are running with a larger or smaller dog, you should adapt to ensure the health, happiness, and safety of your pet.
What tips would you add to this list?
Do you run with your dog?
What type of dog do you have?