As a lifelong runner, I’ve competed on a variety of teams, joined running clubs for workouts, and gone on countless social runs with friends throughout the years. While all provided pleasant company, none compare to my best running buddy: My 5-year-old vizsla, Welly.
It’s difficult to even begin to list the many advantages of having a dog as a running partner, but I’ll try. Motivation is a big one. On those days when I need an extra push to get out the door, Welly is it. While I might be OK with throwing in the towel and taking the day off, I know she needs the exercise. I often remind myself that dogs give far more than they demand. And so out the door we go.
Working from home, I have a fairly unusual schedule and often prefer to run midday. This is an impossibility for many adults (and potential running partners) in the traditional working world. Welly, however, is ready to hit the road just about any time.
In addition to her flexibility on timing, Welly also generally doesn’t care what type of run we do. She’s game for a 3-mile easy jog as much as for a 5-mile tempo. Plus she never judges me on days I’m dogging (pun intended) a run or choose to cut it short.
Nowhere will you find a more enthusiastic running partner. Humans are prone to moodiness, lack of motivation, and other worldly afflictions to which dogs are largely immune. On the days when I’m dragging mentally and physically, a glance down at Welly trotting happily by my side is a sure way to lift my spirits.
Tips for Running With Your Dog – Preparation is key
The skeleton of most dog breeds is fully grown after approximately 1 year. That’s when you can start taking your (healthy) dog out for regular runs. Just like for us humans, it’s all about preparation and training. During the first year, your dog should get used to walking and running by your side. Jog for a few hundred meters when out for a walk from time to time. As soon as your dog stays by your side, you can start increasing the running distance step by step.
Tips for Running With Your Dog – Warm-up or dry runs
If you take your beloved dog out for a run, your responsibility increases too. Only a well-trained and socialized dog will result in a relaxed run for other road users. Not only do you and your dog have to keep calm, but it needs to be used to the leash, accept guidance by its owner, react to his or her commands and withstand stimuli presented by other dogs.
Therefore running with a dog requires thorough preparation. Despite being dynamic, the activity needs calmness and structure. “The dog must remain calm while running and oriented towards its owner,” says Manuel. His pro tip: You need to practice this in a static environment first to make it work in a dynamic environment.
Your dog’s ability to follow certain commands is vital for a relaxed run-walk. Immediate reaction to commands, stopping and learning to move within a specific radius around its owner are the most important ones.
Tips for Running With Your Dog – Kids love rituals – dogs do too
You’re grabbing your jacket to head outdoors and your dog is going crazy? We all know that. Repeating the same routine every time before a run helps your dog keep calm. Plus, you need to keep calm yourself as well. Preparation routines or rituals can include: putting on the harness, leashing your dog, having it sit next to you and wait for your go – and then go.
Special running harnesses show your dog that you’re about to go for a run and it knows what to expect. Chest harnesses are ideal for running dogs. Even if retractable leashes are pretty popular, they’re not great when it comes to running. Choose a 2 to 3 meter long leash – with reflecting parts and maybe also a shock absorber instead. If you’d rather run with free hands, you could get a belly strap or cross-body leashes. Note: leashes which are attached to your legs are not recommended for runners.
Tips for Running With Your Dog – Keep etiquette in mind
Most dog owners are good about carrying poop bags with them, but let this serve as your reminder. Also, not everyone will be as crazy about your dog as you are, so be sure to be smart about keeping your dog close to you in heavily populated areas. Laws often require you to use a 6-foot or shorter leash. If you’re in an area where your pooch can run free, consider things like traffic and wildlife in the area to keep your dog safe. Since we live in the city, Welly is pretty much always attached to me during our runs. We make a habit of stopping at a local park and throwing the ball for her off-leash to really let her run. I discovered that while she loves joining me, she can find our moderately paced distance runs to be a bit of a snooze fest, so some unstructured sprinting keeps her happy.
Tips for Running With Your Dog – Be mindful
Running with a dog requires a lot of dedication from both owner and dog. Many distractions are waiting for you: people, kids, other dogs, other animals, cars, bikes… Therefore focus on your dog and set your own pace or distance goals aside. Especially in the beginning your four-legged friends needs all your attention.
Does your dog like it, follow you or lag behind? According to dog pro Manuel, it is essential to closely observe your dog and make sure you don’t put your own runner’s enthusiasm above your dog’s needs.
Tips for Running With Your Dog – Temperature check: Ice, Ice Baby or Sun Is Shining?
Do you want to head out for a run despite rather low temperatures? Jogging along with your dog is safe as long as the temperature ranges somewhere between -10 and +15°C or 15 and 60°F. For higher temperatures make sure you run in the shade, for example in the woods. Also early morning or late evening runs are an option during hot summer months. Never head out for a run in blazing sunshine – your dog might suffer from a heat stroke! Remember, dogs cope far worse with heat than we do due to the reduced number of sweat glands.
Tips for Running With Your Dog – Running route? Paw-friendly please!
This one’s easy: the more cushioned the ground, the better. Forest soil, meadows or sand (the latter being a great training ground for both humans and dogs!) are ideal. Dog paws are highly sensitive and can get sore on hot apshalt in summer.
Tips for Running With Your Dog – More active = more food?
As a general rule, you don’t have to adjust your dogs menu if you’re taking it out for a run two to three times a week. As long as it’s getting high-quality food anyway. There’s no need to increase the protein content either – between 21% and 24% is great. As always, the best way to know is to observe your dog: if it’s clearly more hungry or losing weight, you can slightly increase the food rations.
Providing enough liquids before and after, and maybe even during a run is vital. Cool water is the best choice. If you’re lucky enough to run along a small river, your dog will be more than thankful to jump in, especially if you have a Retriever!
Tips for Running With Your Dog – Also dogs can have sore muscles
Yep, even dogs can suffer from sore muscles. A dog’s muscle metabolism is actually not very different from ours. How do you notice that your four-legged friend is sore? It might have difficulties getting up and display less “flowing” movements. Just like amongst humans, sore muscles in dogs usually show after two days.
In this case, give your friend a break. Do you really want to avoid talking your dog for a run while it’s suffering from pain? This might lead to negative associations (running = pain). To avoid sore muscles from the start, make sure your dog gets used to the activity gradually.
Tips for Running With Your Dog – Get a waist leash and harness
Gripping a leash can throw off your gait. That’s why a hands-free waist leash, preferably with a bungee attachment, is a key accessory. Additionally, because Welly pulls sometimes, I’ve found that a harness is a great tool, both to give me better control and to protect her from injuring her neck via her collar.
Tips for Running With Your Dog – Start slow
My husband and I waited to start running with Welly until she was a year old. Prior to that I’d run on my own and then take her for a walk. The timing varies depending on the breed, so be sure to check with your veterinarian and be smart about running them before they are fully-grown.
Tips for Running With Your Dog – Have patience
In the beginning, dogs are often more interested in sniffing and marking every five feet than they are in running at a steady pace. Expect some zigzagging and stopping and starting from the get-go. I used gentle encouragement and carried dog treats in the beginning to get Welly to consistently run by my side.
Tips for Running With Your Dog – Speaking of mileage, take a conservative approach in this department
While I’ve known plenty of runners who successfully do longer runs with their dogs, I’ve always erred on the side of caution, running between 3-6 miles with Welly most days of the week. When I’m going further, I usually drop her off at home and put in a few solo miles.