Updated: January 18th, 2019
How to Get Your Dog Ready for Running: Five Steps to Preparing a Dog to Run!

There’s no better feeling than going for a nice relaxing run with your loving dog.

In fact, exercise with our canine friends not only benefits their health but also ours. It also helps to build a stronger bond with our dog and reduces stress.

But, is it wise to just pick up your dog’s leash and take your dog on a 5km run? No.

So, before you start running with your dog, let us help you get your four-legged companion ready for long distance running through fun exercises, training, and socialization .

Each of these tools will help build your dog’s fitness and socialization skills so they’re ready to go the distance – one paw at a time.

Leash Training

When you begin running, it is important that your dog is accustomed to being on a leash for their own safety, the safety of others and proper control.

Whilst there are multiple leash options for running with your dog (e.g. collar, harness and waist), developing proper leash etiquette is simple and should be done before you take your dog on any excursion.

Leash Training Tips:

running dog leash

Before leash training, your dog should know basic commands. Ensure that your dog knows these basic commands also ensures your pup is capable of listening to instructions. These commands include; sit, stay and no.

If your dog doesn’t understand basic commands, it’s likely they are too young to run or too dangerous to take out.

  1. Begin by walking with your dog on a leash for small periods of time
  2. Get your dog to walk with you a several times around the backyard during training sessions
  3. Walk for a few steps, and let your dog walk either beside or a couple of steps in front of you
  4. DO NOT allow your dog to walk behind you. IF this occurs, stop immediately
  5. For every few steps, pause. Your dog should pause with you. If this occurs, then use methods such as positive reinforcement to reward them for this good behavior. This can be through the use of treats or toys

Don’t forget to praise your dog for any good behavior. Do not praise them for any bad habits, but do not punish them either. Negative reinforcement has been debunked as a training method for dogs.

Don’t let your dog tug the leash or walk too quickly, you should walk together at an equal pace. If your dog walks too fast or pulls, stop immediately.

Don’t allow your dog to stop and smell everything. Your dog should listen to you, and there are other times where your dog is able to stop and smell the roses. However, this should not become a habit during runs.

Don’t alternate the side you walk your dog on. Pick a side and stick to it because this helps to improve leash control and routine.

Build Your Pup’s Fitness Level

Building your dog’s fitness before going on long runs is important so that your dog does not become over exerted straight away.

Tips For Building Up Your Puppy’s Fitness:

running lab

  • Always begin small, the golden rule is five minutes of exercise per month of your dog’s age. For example, a six-month-old dog should not run for longer than 30 minutes. Larger breeders, which take 24 months to mature, should not run during this time.
  • Walk your dog daily, you should really be doing this regardless or any plans to run, and this is part of a fit and active lifestyle for your dog.

Start with backyard fitness, which can occur through games of fetch. This will help to get your dog’s blood pumping. Start with 10-minute sessions, three times a weekly. If you notice your dog is exerting themselves earlier, stop. After each week, increase the session by 5 minutes.

After a couple of weeks of backyard fitness, try different paths during your walks. For example, try routes with different levels of hardness (i.e. uphill, downhill, straight etc) and various surface types. Swapping routes also keeps walks interesting for your dog and provides them with the correct mental stimulation they need.

How do you know when a dog is ready to run a certain distance?

To start with, you must be sure of your dog’s fitness levels and have completed a couple of weeks of yard training. Once your dog is regularly running with you (e.g. has completed a 3km run twice weekly), you will notice your dog’s body language during the run to better understand their stamina.

If their ears are flat and their eyes are becoming slightly bloodshot then you have exerted your dog too much. This will also be accompanied by a very fast and shallow pant. Dogs can pant over 300-hundred times per minute; if they are panting this fast during recovery, you have ran them too hard.

If, after stopping for a few minutes to re-hydrate your dog, your dog immediately decides to lie down, as opposed to scent nature, this too is a cue for over-exercise.

Socialize Your Dog

Puppy socialization is an essential requirement for any dog so that they are not fearful or anxious as an adult.

Socialization is the act of desensitizing your puppy to new and different environments, objects, people, animals and other canines; this is especially important for running you’re your dog.

During a long distant, or even a short distant run, your puppy may encounter many different environments, people, and animals. Therefore, it is important that they do not freak out, but instead are relaxed and at ease. Your dog should not meet anything new during a run which they haven’t already been socialized to.

Tips For Socializing Your Pup:

  • When your puppy is introduced to new beings or animals, try give your puppy some treats. This allows your pup’s mind to form a link between something positive and something new.
  • Take your dog to different environments i.e. dog parks, puppy classes, walks around the neighborhood, dog-friendly beaches and parks etc.
  • Introduce your pup to plenty of people constantly so they don’t feel the need to stop and scent during runs.
  • Allow your dog to walk on many different surfaces so they can get used to the feeling on their paws.
  • Begin puppy socialization as soon as possible (preferably as soon as they get home from the breeder or the shelter) and keep it constant.
  • In summary, running with your dog is a perfect activity to increase bonding time together.

    However, getting your dog to run long distances with you takes time and patience.

    It is important that your dog is first properly trained for their own safety, as well as the safety of others. Your dog needs to be at an adequate fitness level, have prior leash training, and be well socialized.

    Remember – baby steps, one paw at a time, and your pup will be the perfect running companion in no time.

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