Running with your dog is a fantastic way to keep both of you in shape, and many dogs love it. Are you a new jogger or is it a part of your fitness routine? Either way, bringing along your dog is a great bonding experience. My black lab mix Thor grins from ear to ear when he is jogging alongside me! But not so fast… there are a few things to consider before lacing up your sneakers and heading out on your first run with fido.
Is running right for your dog?
Some dogs are better suited to jogging than others. Consider the breed, age, general health, and fitness level of your dog. Are you looking to improve your dog’s level of fitness? First, ask yourself if your dog is in good enough shape to start running now. If the answer is no, you may need to help them reach some fitness milestones first. Always consult your vet. This step is especially important if your dog is overweight or has any health conditions. Of course, you wouldn’t imagine a senior chihuahua enjoying himself very much! But, an athletic husky might have the time of her life.
Personality is also a factor in determining if your dog will be a runner. Ask yourself the following questions. Is your dog playful and generally have an energetic personality? Do you see your pup enjoying exercise? Is it easy to motivate them to be active? Does jogging with your dog seem like fun for both of you? If you can answer yes with confidence, go for it!
Once you have established that your dog is ready to run, make sure they have mastered the basics. Good on leash behavior (no pulling!) is required. Reliable response to essential commands like “stay” “drop it” or “let’s go” are a must. Make sure your dog is comfortable walking beside you either with a loose leash or off-leash. I have taught my dog Thor “stay with me” to tell him that I expect him to be beside me instead of ahead.
Do a little endurance training to prepare your pup. Like when you got started running, your dog will need to start small with short distances. From there, you can build your way up to a longer run. You can start by adding a couple of minutes of running into your next walk. Over time, add longer stretches and build up to your desired length of time. Rewards and praise are key here!
Readiness is about your mental outlook too. It’s all about a positive mindset and a good attitude. Remember, running with your dog is not about crushing your personal workout goals. It’s not about making record times. Your furry friend may never be able to go your usual distance or speed, and that’s okay. Keep the focus on his or her success. All progress is good progress when your pet is learning a new skill!
Day of preparation
Like us, some days our dogs are more tired than others. It’s so important to check that your dog’s energy levels are high before heading out for the run. Let’s say last night your dog broke into the garbage can and binged (like my family-friends dachshund is apt to do). If today your dog is dealing with an upset stomach, then today is not the day! Even if you notice your dog is a bit more sleepy than usual or doesn’t seem enthusiastic, take a rain check.
I also like to consider how I will get to the running location. When Thor and I will walk or take public transit, it’s important to make sure that it doesn’t take too long to get to the trail. I don’t want to be tiring him out before we even get going! Whenever possible, I consider driving to be the best option since I can leave additional water in the car (and trust me, he will want it!). I also like to leave a metal or plastic bowl of water in the freezer overnight. That way, he can have a cool treat when we come back to the car or when we get home. Another nice-to-have is a bandana dipped in cool water, Thor loves this tied around his neck on a warm day!
For safety, check your local weather forecast to make sure it is not too hot or too cold outside. Although they are mammals, dogs don’t sweat the same way we do. They rely on panting to cool themselves. They cannot adjust to rapid temperature changes. Here are two handy charts for determining temperature safety:
Map out your running route, and if possible choose grass or a trail over the sidewalk or roads. It will be kinder on your pup’s paws and ankles. If you intend to run with your dog off-leash, ensure their recall is on point. You will also want to check that your chosen trail or park allows off-leash dogs. If this is a goal you are working towards, practice off-leash skills when walking first. When you are confident that your dog has mastered these skills, build off-leash time into your run. Thor’s recall is okay but there is room for improvement, so I keep him on the leash at all times while jogging.
Part of preparation is ensuring you have all the right equipment, in good working condition. The same way you would prepare for any walk, you need to bring some doggy poop bags, and a good leash. Consider a hands-free leash for jogging with your dog: it will be so much easier! You can also loop a regular leash around your hips if it is on the longer side. In my experience, a shorter (about four feet) hands-free leash is perfect for running with your dog. I especially like the ones that have a bit of stretch to them.
You will need water for two, and a way to carry that water. If you like using a hydration backpack for your runs, this may work but don’t forget a collapsible bowl. Thor doesn’t like collapsible bowls. So a better option for us is a soft water flask. There are smaller ones that I can fit in a pouch or pocket or clip onto the waist belt of my hands-free leash. A pouch or belt is also good to have when it comes to carrying your poop bags. Always make sure you bring enough water for your dog and don’t be surprised if they drink yours too! I would recommend carrying double the amount of water you estimate will be necessary. If possible, leave some extra water in your vehicle.
How to run with your dog
If you have followed the listed steps above, you are ready to hit the trail! Start slow with a little warm up, and tell your dog “let’s go!” when you are ready to run. Your dog’s energy may surprise you. If you have been working on building endurance, you should be able to estimate when to give breaks. Always read your dog’s cues. If they seem to tire faster than you anticipated, you might need to take it a little slower. Watch for excessive panting, slowing down, or attempts to lie down. Take breaks when you see any of this behavior.
Most importantly: shower your dog with love and praise! Running with you is a huge accomplishment! You want to show your dog that you are so proud of them and that running with you is something to look forward to. But, take it easy on the treats. You probably don’t want to snack when you are running (the thought makes me queasy…), and neither does your pup. Wait until they have cooled and calmed down after the run is over to reward with treats.
After your run
Anytime you are active in nature, always check your dog for ticks and scratches. Consider a preventative tick medication. Ticks live in long grasses and your dog may be at risk if they run off-leash. If you find any ticks, be sure to remove them immediately. Visit the vet as soon as possible if you suspect your dog may have a tick bite, or if you are unsure how to remove ticks. It may be bath time if you were jogging with your dog through any dirt or mud.
Once your dog is clean, cool, and calmed down, it’s time for a treat. Give them one of their favorite foods or a high reward toy to show them that running with you is special.
Running with a dog is not for everyone or every dog. Before you head out, ensure that running is an appropriate activity for your dog. Consider the level of fitness, personality, and behaviors. You can work up to running with some endurance training. Be sure to get the all-clear from the vet if your dog has any health concerns. Follow these tips for running with dogs. Always check that you are well equipped and that the weather looks good. A positive mental attitude, carrying water, and taking breaks are all essential. Reward your dog for a job well done. Don’t forget to have fun and be safe!
Hi, I’m Natalie! I’m a dog owner and I do my best to live an active lifestyle. About 4 years ago I adopted my dog Thor. Since then, he has learned to jog, camp, and even canoe. I’m here to help you to make your pupper a part of your active lifestyle too!