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Running With Your Dog: 9 Essential Tips in a No-Nonsense Guide | Pupford

June 19th, 2023

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Running with your dog can be a very effective way to improve the health and happiness of your pup and you, the human!

While jogging can be relatively straightforward, adding a dog to the mix will change how you approach this activity.

I’ve been running with my dogs on an almost daily basis for the past few years and want to pass along 9 essential tips that will make running with your dog much easier and more enjoyable.

Here is what we will cover:

  1. Assess your dog’s running capabilities
  2. Don’t start too young
  3. Essential training behaviors and skills
  4. Get the right gear (this can make all the difference)
  5. Start slow
  6. Pay attention to your dog’s signs of being tired
  7. Be aware of pace and distance
  8. Weather & terrain are important factors
  9. Keep it fun and use it as a time to bond

Let’s dive into it! ⬇️

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MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE RUNNING WITH MY DOGS

two dogs running

I have two Labrador Retrievers and they have been my running mates since they were old enough to safely run with me.

We’ve run all over Utah, New York City, and California on a wide variety of landscapes and terrains. I made plenty of mistakes in the early stages, and hope that his article will help you avoid my mistakes!

I typically run anywhere from 3-6 miles per session about 3-6 times per week with them. While this may sound high, it took a lot of progression and practice to safely get to those numbers (more on that later). My pups even recently helped me train for the New York City Marathon and were integral to my success!

While we mostly do our runs while they can be off-leash, I have logged hundreds of miles with them attached to my waist (more on that later as well).

All that to say, I have a high level of experience running with dogs! So, let’s dive into all the ways to make jogging with your dog a successful experience.

Quick note: I am only going to discuss casual running/jogging and not Canicross. I have no experience with Canicross, but many people (and their dogs) love it!

Take a quick 1-question survey below ⏬

#1- ASSESS YOUR DOG’S RUNNING CAPABILITIES

consult your vet and assess your dog’s health before running with them

First things first, not all dogs are good running companions.

It’s very important to objectively look at your dog’s health, age, and capabilities when determining if they will be a good running mate.

Here are some factors to consider when deciding to run with your dog:

  • What are your dog’s typical energy levels?
  • How does your dog handle long walks or hikes?
  • How old is your dog (more on that later)?
  • Does your dog have any health conditions that could be worsened by jogging (hip/joint issues, breathing problems, etc.)?
  • Is your dog’s breed predisposed to health problems (especially brachycephalic breeds)?
  • What is your local climate like (more on that later)?
  • Can you keep up with your dog’s pace (more on that later as well)?

These are just a few of the questions to ask before you decide to go out on runs with your pup.

It is also VERY important to consult your vet.

They will be able to work collectively with you to determine if your pup would benefit from running with you or not!

#2- DON’T START TOO YOUNG

you shouldn’t jog with too young of a puppy

This point is so important it gets its own section…

You should not start running consistently with too young of a dog.

Young puppies’ joints and bones are growing and changing. The truth is running can be tough on your pup's joints!

While you should consult your vet to determine for your specific dog, you generally don’t want to start jogging with your pup until they are at least a year old. And for larger breeds, you’ll want to wait even longer, closer to 18 months.

To be frank, this is one of the mistakes I made with my dog Sunny. I started running with her at likely too young of an age and it potentially led to some of her hip issues (determining one cause is nearly impossible).

While her hip issues are manageable now, it is still a decision I wish I would have made differently.

Again, talk to your vet!

#3- ESSENTIAL TRAINING BEHAVIORS AND SKILLS

Dealing with a high-energy pup can lead you to look for ANY solution to get that energy out. And while running can seem like a great option, know that having some foundational training will make the experience much more enjoyable for you and your pup!

Before you take your pup out for a jog, I’d recommend they have some basic understanding of the following behaviors:

  • Leash walking
  • Stay
  • Recall (especially if you want to do off-leash running)
  • Impulse control (especially with other animals/humans)
  • Leave it & look at me

Those are just a few but know that your specific running situation will dictate the need for other behaviors and skills.

someone training their dog to improve their behavior

I will mention too that impulse control is surprisingly vital to successfully running with your dog. If your dog is lunging, yanking, and trying to chase everything they see, your run won’t be fun!

If your pup needs help with impulse control, check out 21 Impulse Control Games here!

Another note is that if you plan on running with your dog on a leash, it may make their pulling/leash behavior worse!

#4- GET THE RIGHT DOG RUNNING GEAR (THIS CAN MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE)

What really took running with my dogs from mediocre to something I look forward to was getting the right gear!

Of course, every dog and person is different, but the following items have made a huge difference and other human-dog-combos I’ve met.

Here’s a quick list of must-have gear when running with your dog:

  • Hands-free dog running leash (or at least a bungee style leash)
  • Dog harness (with a back clip)
  • Dog booties/shoes
  • Durable water bowl
  • Poop bags

Let’s break down each below. 👇

HANDS-FREE DOG RUNNING LEASH

While this style of running may slightly look similar to Canicross, I think generally running with a hands-free dog leash is the best way to jog with your pup!

When I first started running with my dogs, I got SO sick of having to hold the leash in my hands. I always felt slightly out of balance depending on which hand was holding the leash (keep in mind I have TWO Labs with me, they can pull some real weight if they want to).

After lots of trial and error and research, I finally found the leash I’ve been using almost daily for a few years now.

dogs walking on a double bungee leash with a waistband for running with dogs

That picture above shows the view from my perspective. Here’s another image to showcase what the double leash looks like when in use.

double dog leash for running with waist band

You can check out the leash here. (PS- This is a good option for just one dog.)

There are a few reasons I’ve loved this leash and have used it for over 3 years!

  • The bungee-style leashes help reduce any stress when pulling happens, both for me and my pups
  • The waistband is easily adjustable
  • The double-connector has a 360-degree swivel which vastly reduces tangling
  • The clasps are strong and durable

Being able to have my hands free made my runs SO much easier, comfortable, and enjoyable! Plus, I found that having my pups connected to my waist helped them stay centered in front of me (where I like them when we run together).

Here’s a video of it in use on a walk so you can get the idea!

DOG HARNESS

a harness that’s great for running with your dog

Another vital piece of successfully running with your pup is making sure they have a proper harness.

While you can run with just a collar, I never liked the experience. I always was worried my dogs were gonna get tangled on something, slip out of their collars, or hurt their necks. Truthfully, I like harnesses compared to collars at all times, not just during runs!

While there are specific dog harnesses for running, I’ve had great success with the Freedom No-Pull Harness during our runs. It isn’t restrictive, gives them enough ability to fully do their running motion, and has 2 contact points (front and back).

When I run with my dogs, I always have the leash connected to the back clip of their harnesses. I’ve found that running with it on the front clip just makes them uncomfortable and their running motion awkward!

DOG BOOTIES/SHOES

While I truthfully rarely put shoes or booties on my pups, some people swear by them! Also, when it is extremely hot, they can be vital for your dog’s safety.

Just be sure to get some dog shoes that fit snuggly on your pup’s foot.

WATER BOWL & POOP BAGS

We can’t talk about running with dogs without talking about bringing a water bowl (and water if there isn’t any on your running path)!

There are loads of different options for portable dog bowls, but when it comes to running I’ve only found one that holds up over time.

I clip this portable soft bowl on my dog’s harness and she carries it on our runs, it’s perfect! Here it is in action.

dog wearing a portable bowl on her harness while out on a run

While we offer the more sturdy collapsible bowls here at Pupford, I don’t like them as much for running because of the added weight (whether I’m carrying it or my dog is). But, they can be a great option if you don’t mind that.

And to state the obvious, make sure your dog is getting enough water while on runs!

And last but not least, bring poop bags on every run!! Do NOT be the person who leaves their dog’s poop and ruins it for everyone else. Seriously!

I love these poop bags because they’re actually thick and sturdy, which is vital for my dogs who seemingly always take horse-sized poops. 💩 Plus, they’re biodegradable.

And for a pro tip, tie one or two through your dog’s harness so you have one less thing to carry or worry about on your run!

#5- START SLOW, VERY SLOW

it is important to start slow when beginning to run with your dog

Just like you wouldn’t start learning to ski on a double black diamond, you shouldn’t expect too much of your pup when first starting to go jogging with them.

It’s important to start with very small increments at slow speeds.

I’d actually recommend incorporating short bursts of running while out on walks. Try jogging a couple hundred yards and see how your pup responds.

Could they keep up?

Did they seem to enjoy it?

How did your leash and harness setup work?

Even once you’re sure your dog will be comfortable and can handle running with you, start with small distances at a relatively slow pace (whatever that means for you and your dog).

#6- PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR DOG’S SIGNS OF BEING TIRED WHILE JOGGING

While I won’t dive deep into dog body language in this article, be sure that you can learn to read your dog’s basic body language cues and signs.

This is another reason that starting slow is important. Your first few runs with your dog should be an opportunity to better learn and keep an eye on your dog’s tired signs.

sometimes excessive panting can be a sign of an overtired dog especially while running

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are some ways dogs show they are tired:

  • Excessive panting
  • Pulling to the side when they normally don’t
  • Searching for shade
  • A decrease in running speed
  • Whining or barking (in certain situations)

Again, those are just some. I personally know when my dogs are tired because they end up on my side during runs and not out in front of me.

It’s important to stop frequently to give your pup enough water and time to rest when out running!

#7- BE AWARE OF PACE AND DISTANCE

This section is EXTREMELY important.

If you already go running frequently, know that your pace and distance will need to be adjusted when you add your dog to your run!

If you are brand new to running, then this process will be easier as both you and your pup find your ideal paces and running groove.

No matter your running goals, the early stages of running with your dog should be simple, slow, and short distances.

I also highly recommend your first few dog-in-tow running sessions happen in an area to which both you and your dog are already accustomed to being. You don’t want to be navigating new terrain or turns, your focus should be on your pup and how they’re handling the run.

Once you have some runs under your belt with your pup, you can slowly start to increase distance and pick up the pace as well.

Breed of course plays a big role in how far your dog can handle running. Some breeds (Vizslas, Pointers, Collies, etc.) have a higher threshold for long distances than others. While planning a 10-mile run with a Pomeranian just might not be feasible.

some dog breeds are better adapted for running than others

My pups have helped me train for half and full marathons but I always approached an increase in distance with care. And as a note here, sometimes the pureness of our dogs’ hearts can lead them to not want to let us know when they're tired…

So, it’s on us as humans to not overdo it with our pups!

And remember, every dog is different. So I won’t say that you can safely go “x” number of miles because I don’t know your dog.

My two Labradors are quite different, as an example.

Sunny has some hip issues and is generally a lower-energy personality.

Scout on the other hand would run all day long if presented with the opportunity.

I recently took Scout on a 12-mile run on a nice fall day. When we got home she wanted to play fetch. Her energy is seemingly endless!

All that to say, pay attention to your specific dog and their specific needs when it comes to running distance and pace. And if you plan on doing long runs with your dog, be sure to take plenty of breaks for rest and water.

#8- WEATHER & TERRAIN ARE IMPORTANT FACTORS

high heat and hot temperatures can make running with your dog not safe

Ask any seasoned runner and they’ll tell you that weather can be one of the most important factors in the quality of your run, for better or for worse.

The same goes for running with our dogs. And in reality, weather conditions are even more important when going for a jog with your pup!

If you’re feeling overly tired from heat or humidity on a run, think about your dog. Ya know, the one wearing a coat on their entire body…

While learning how to keep your dog cool is its own topic, ensure that you don’t go on runs when high heat may be a factor. Dehydration can happen quickly and can have serious side effects.

Additionally, be aware that if you aren’t using dog boots/shoes then hot pavement can become problematic for your dog!

I hope your main takeaway is to err on the side of caution when it comes to running with your dog in hot weather.

Another important factor to keep in mind is the terrain you’re running on with your dog.

Is it trails with a lot of rocks, branches, and foliage?

Is it concrete/pavement that can get hot and/or wear down your dog’s pads?

Is it soft grass that can reduce the strain on joints and muscles?

Is it icy or could it in some other way be dangerous to you and your dog?

Again, express caution when terrain may be extreme or challenging. Slow down, potentially decrease distance, and take more breaks to ensure your pup’s safety.

#9- KEEP IT FUN AND USE IT AS A TIME TO BOND

running with your dog can be a great way to bond with your pup

I saved the best for last… have fun on your runs!

Running almost daily with my two Labradors has been an extremely therapeutic and bonding time for all three of us. While they can’t verbally say it, it is clear that my pups love the experience of running and exploring with me.

It’s a super effective way to give your dog some exercise, spend quality time with him/her, and of course, explore the world around you in the process.

I’ve also found that running with my dogs has improved our communication. We’ve both learned to effectively communicate changes in direction and speed as we’ve embarked on runs together.

Plus, there is a strong sense of accomplishment when you finish a tough run with your pup.

Last week as I labored through one of the hottest NYC Marathons on record, envisioning my dogs running by my side somehow, in an odd way, helped me push through the toughest stretches.

RECAP OF RUNNING WITH YOUR DOG

running with your dog can provide many benefits to your life

Running with your dog can become an extremely enjoyable experience that helps promote healthy exercise habits, a stronger relationship, and overall mental health. And I truly believe those benefits will happen for you AND your pup!

Here’s a quick recap of 9 essential tips to keep in mind when you go running with your pup.

  1. Assess your dog’s running capabilities
  2. Don’t start too young
  3. Essential training behaviors and skills
  4. Get the right gear (this can make all the difference)
  5. Start slow
  6. Pay attention to your dog’s signs of being tired
  7. Be aware of pace and distance
  8. Weather & terrain are important factors
  9. Keep it fun and use it as a time to bond

Remember to keep it fun, pay attention to your pup’s body language, and make sure you have the right training and gear!

If you’re wanting to start running with your pup but are nervous about their behavior, be sure to sign up for our 100% free online dog training course, 30 Day Perfect Pup!

The free course, no credit card required, covers behaviors like leash walking (vital for quality jogs with your pup), jumping, and even the basics of impulse control.

Sign up for free here!

Do you run with your dog? Tell me about your experience in the comments below!

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