Dogs love to run! They are always eager to get out and run around, and they will never flake or sleep in on you like your running partner might.
Running is great for your dog’s physical and mental well-being. Running with your dogs also gives them something to do. Dogs who are cooped up in the house, or in the yard, all day with nothing but their own energy to keep them company will find something to do. (you know what I mean…)
ALL dogs need a job, and running with dogs is a healthy alternative to letting them demolish your shoes, sofa cushions, etc. Burning off all that extra energy also makes your dog easier to train. This is the number one complaint I get as a pet care provider — how to stop (train) unwanted behaviors in dogs.
Can’t seem to get your dogs to settle down enough to “lay down?” Try taking him out for a brisk jog and try again. Remember, a tired dog is a good dog.
So, how do you go about turning your dog into the perfect running partner? First, let’s talk breed. Dogs with “mushed” faces (i.e. pugs, bulldogs and Frenchies) should not participate in strenuous exercise due to possibly respiratory complications. Breeds often listed as the “best” running partners include labs, shepherds, huskies, sight hounds, collies, and mutts. However, regardless of breed, most dogs are willing and able to run with you if you train them correctly. Age is also a factor to consider. Puppies should not run because their muscles fail too quickly, and cause potential bone on bone issues. Be sure your dog is in good physical health before beginning any running routine. When in doubt, consult your veterinarian.
Next, let’s talk equipment for running with dogs. I prefer a wide flat collar, harness, or martingale collar with a four to six-foot leash. DO NOT use prong collars, choke chains, or any other type of training collar which could hurt your dog if he decides to go after a squirrel or other small animal. My personal favorite is a harness and 8-ft leash. I like a little flexibility to provide ‘space’ for a break.
Now for the training. Most people will say that you have to be able to walk before you can run your dog. This can be true in many cases. If your dog already has good leash manners while walking, great job! He will most likely transition into running well. Sometimes, however, I think dogs need to run before they can walk. Give your dog some time to burn off his crazies before slowing to a jog and teaching him to jog by your side. Carry treats if you need to, and reward him when he stays in the proper position. Eventually, you want him to begin running at your side and think of the outing as simply a faster walk. I run a LOT with dogs. I prefer to keep the dogs on my right side, providing a degree of separation when coming across other dogs and pedestrians.
Didn’t we all learn stay to stay to the right… I use this as a cue for my dogs to move over and away.
Think of your dog just as you would a human friend you are teaching to run. Start slow, you wouldn’t get off the couch and log in a 10k right off the bat. Dogs need to train before they can begin running long-distances. They also need recovery time, just like us. Start small — some sources say about a mile every other day — and gradually add more distance each week. Breed and physical condition are factors to consider when choosing a starting distance for running with dogs. The best advice, is WATCH YOUR DOG. Your dog will run himself literally to death to keep up with you.
Listen to his breathing, watch his tongue and ears. If he begins to lag, it is most likely time to stop and turn around. Make sure he gets plenty of water before, during, and after exercise, especially on hot days, since your dog can’t sweat to cool himself off. And be sure to monitor his feet. Raw pads are the number one running related injury in dogs. Lastly, be sure not to feed you pooch one hour before or after running. Like us, tummies can go into distress. With time and practice, your pooch will be able to ‘keep up’ and maybe even be the one to drag you off the couch!
My dog’s tail is a waggin and has that look in his eyes… time for us to run!