With gyms closed and social distancing still in place, running is a great way to get your exercise in and enjoy the outdoors. You and your dog have probably gotten much closer during this time, though, and it’s hard to leave Fido behind! So why not start running with your dog? Dogs make the ultimate running partners because they love the outdoors and need exercise, too. If your furry companion is still a puppy or has never been on a run, learn how to start running with your dog with these tips.
How to Start Running with Your Dog
- Check to see your dog is a candidate to be a good running partner
- Walk before you run – practice on leash first
- Start slowly
- Take hydration and weather into consideration on running days
- Always warm up and cool down
Check your dog’s breed, age, and health
Not all dogs are genetically equipped with the ability to run long distances — and some not much at all. Brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds, like shih tzus, Frenchies, bulldogs, and pugs are not able to run long distances. Even though Greyhounds appear to be fit, they are only suited for sprinting.
A dog also must be physically mature enough to take up running. A puppy’s bones will not be developed enough to sustain running and are more susceptible to injury. Wait until your dog is between 18 months and two years old before attempting to hit the pavement with them.
Also, check with your veterinarian to ensure your dog is healthy enough to begin running. Your vet will be the best resource to inform you on your pooch’s health.
Practice loose-leash walking first
Just like you need to learn how to start running with your dog, your dog also needs to start learning to run with you. To become a successful running duo, make sure your dog knows to stay by your side. Your dog needs to be able to walk to heel before they start running with you.
If your companion sprints after neat distractions like sticks and squirrels, it will make running together difficult and potentially dangerous. Scraped hands and knees are just a few minor injuries that could occur if a leashed dog takes off with you in tow.
To ensure both your safety, a dog’s nose should be parallel with your knees while walking or running. This can best be accomplished with a leash that is four to six feet long. You should also pick a side of your body for your dog to be on – right or left, it doesn’t matter – and stick with it. Reward your dog with treats on the side of your body that you choose.
After some time, start incorporating verbal cues. “Let’s go” lets your dog know it is time to start moving, and a “hold up” can help them know to stop at intersections or when it’s time for a water break. Rewards reinforce these cues as your dog is learning.
Start off slowly
You wouldn’t want to wake up one morning to the news that you must run a marathon that day. The same goes for your dog. He or she needs time to build up to running long distances. Remember, you are not breaking any records while running with your dog.
Once your dog has mastered sticking by your side during a walk, you can begin to incorporate some slow jogging. After a good warm-up of walking, use a verbal cue to pick up the pace to a slow jog. Only jog for about 10 minutes. After a week or so, your dog will be ready to add more time to the jogging portion of your walks.
Gradually, you and your dog will add more time and speed to your jogs. During this time, you will also learn each other’s rhythms and become accustomed with one another as running partners. After several weeks, your dog should be ready for some longer distances.
Hydration and weather
Dogs do not sweat, so hydration is key to ensuring your dog’s safety during runs. Carry water in a hydration belt and take periodic breaks. Your pooch will appreciate you for quenching their thirst (and for the break, too).
Rain, snow, and extreme heat likely do not deter you from running, if you are dedicated to your craft. However, dogs cannot run in extreme weather conditions. Pay attention to how your dog is acting. If they seem exhausted from the heat, then they likely are. Also keep in mind where you run, as icy trails or scorching asphalt can injure your puppy’s paws severely.
The warm-up and cool-down
Even if your dog is able to run long distances with you, you still need to take care of your dog’s body. A warm-up and cool-down of several minutes are essential to make sure your dog does not stress joints and muscles. You can achieve this by playing for a few minutes before a run, going for a slower run before picking up speed, and slowing down to a walk as you get close to home.
After each run, your dog will be thirsty and hungry. Make sure your dog gets enough time to settle down after a run before eating or drinking a ton. This can cause stomach problems in certain breeds, and can lead to vomiting in many.
It is also important to check your dog’s paw pads after each run. Your dog may get scrapes and cuts on their pads, and those will need time to heal.
How to start running with your dog and stay hydrated
Now that you know how to start running with your dog, you’re ready to hit the pavement! The big thing to remember – stay hydrated! Don’t forget to take breaks to use the bathroom (bring doggy bags!) and to drink.
The Fitletic Journey Backpack Hydration System holds two liters of water, perfect for carrying enough water for you and your pooch. You can also explore Fitletic’s line of running gear, designed to keep you and your furry friend running safely, with everything you need.