Running has lots of benefits for both you and your dog. It increases both of your health, helps keeps your dog out of trouble by burning energy, and increases endorphins. Dogs are the perfect running partner because they are always ready to go, motivated, and most are born to run.
Before you head out with your dog for its first run around the block, here are a few things you should know
- How old should your dog be before you start running? Running too soon may lead to injuries (linked to the section below)
- Is your dog one of the best type of breeds for running? A golden retriever can easily tackle both brisk short runs and long slow distance, but what if you have a Parsons Russell Terrier? Or a Border Collie? Make sure you are running in the right conditions and for the right amount of time.
- What type of training does your dog need? If it took you a while to build up to be able to run 10k, why assuming your dog is going to be ready automatically?
- How far should you run? How long can your dog run?
- What surface is best for your dog? Trail, concrete, grass… any particular concern?
- Watch for your dog’s body behavior . Your new running partner is not going to be able to tell you “I am tired, I need some water”. You need to read its behaviour correctly in order not to hurt him/her.
One more important note take your dog to see the vet and make sure your they are up to date on their shots and ask if they are healthy enough to run.
How Old Should Your Dog Be?
Getting a puppy is fun, but they are usually too young to go on a run with you right away. Older, faithful dogs make a great family member, but if they are too old and they may have joint issues and cause your dog pain and injuries. So what is the right age for a dog to start running?
If your dog is younger than 18 months, stick to walking. When a dog runs too young they can damage bones and cartilage that may cause more dangerous health issues later on as they grow older. Furthermore, the growth plates need to be closed before you start running with your dog, which is usually around 18 months or older.
Once your dog hits 18 months, head to the vet to make sure they are healthy enough to start running.
What Breeds are Best for Running?
Not all dogs are built for running. Dogs with body styles that are in extreme proportions, such as short legs or a pushed in nose, are best left at home while you run. The best running partners are sporting breed, or herding breeds.
The top breeds for running long, steady runs are:
- Vizslas – going fast, running in heat, running on trails
- Parson (Jack) Russell Terriers
- Portuguese Water Dogs – trails with obstacles
- German Shorthaired Pointers – going fast, running on trails
- Weimaraners – going fast, running on trails
- Standard Poodles
- Belgian Shepherd
Top breeds for brisk, short runs are:
- Greyhounds – bred to run, like going fast
- English Setters
- Pharaoh Hounds
- Pit Bulls
- Belgian Sheepdogs
Best of both worlds:
- Golden Retrievers – brisk short runs or long, slow runs
- Australian Shepherds – trails with obstacles
For warmer climates consider these breeds:
- Fox Terriers
- Rhodesian Ridgeback – long steady runs
- Airedale Terrier
If you live in an especially cold climate, consider these breeds:
- Siberian Huskies – very athletic
- German Shepherds
- Border Collies – but stay out of the snow
- Swiss Mountain Dogs – short jog
What Training and Gear Does Your Dog Need?
Training is important, just because a dog is born to run doesn’t mean they know what to while running next to you or have proper running etiquette. There are a few things your dog needs to know before your first run to make it successful.
Your dog should know the basic commands because good manners are the foundation for a solid running companion. Other commands your dog should know include:
- “Heel” – slow down
- “Turn” – so they know when to turn
- “Jog,” “walk,” and “stop” – keeps from pulling on the leash
When you start running, let your dog know what you plan to do. For example, say “jog” then start jogging or “stop” before you come to a complete stop. This way, you give the verbal commands just before so your dog knows what is coming and it keeps from either of you pulling on the leash.
Your dog should be leash trained, for your dogs’ safety and the safety of others. There are a few different kinds of leashes to consider, such as the collar with the leash, special running harnesses for your dog, or a clip around the waist leash for you (which only should be used for well behaved dogs).
Stay away from retractable leashes because these teach the dog to run and there is not much control from your end. Furthermore, your dog should run next to you, not pull you and vice versa.
While you make sure you are hydrated on the run, you also need to make sure your dog stays hydrated. Many pet stores sell portable water bowls that can easily fold up small so they can fit in a pocket. So how do you know when to give your dog water? If you take a drink, make sure your dog takes a drink. Also, give them a drink before, during, and after the run.
Teach your dog to poop first. If you can teach your dog to poop on command, which can be done, your dog can go before the run. Otherwise, you need to have a poop plan while you are on the trail or running route. Such as, what are you going to do with it if there are no trash bins?
Too Much or Too Far?
Now that your dog is properly trained, let’s talk about how to run with your dog. Warm up slowly with because dogs need this just like humans do. In addition, dogs need to build up stamina just like humans. Don’t expect your dog to run five miles with you right away just because you can. A good idea is to start out with a ten minute run and see how it goes.
The first few times you take your dog out, alternate between walking and running. A good option is to find a 5k or 10k training plan and follow it with your dog. That way, you know they will not be overworked and their stamina will be built up slowly. Keep in mind to not increase the distance more than five percent each week for new dogs.
What Type of Surface is Best?
Dogs can run on various surfaces and you should change up the surfaces as well as duration of your runs. For example, if you run five miles run day, do a shorter run the next day. Furthermore, running on the same surface day after day can wear on your dog, just like it will wear on you.
No matter what surface you run on, you need to make sure your dog has the right paw protection and gear. Use paw protection on rough terrain and foot wax during the cold weather. Inspect your dog’s’ paws after each run to make sure nothing is embedded in them and if there are any cracks that need attention.
When it comes to weather, keep in mind your dog is susceptible to heatstroke or frostbite depending on where you live and what season it is. During the wintertime, run with your dog during the warmer hours of the day and don’t go out for long periods of time if it is below freezing. During the summer, you will need to take into consideration the humidity. Late evenings or early mornings are best when it is hot and humid. Before you head out, put your hand on the surface of the ground. If it is too hot for your hand, it is too hot for your dog.
In other terms of protection, your dog needs to have tick and flea repellent. Make sure you apply the protection as necessary. Reflective vests are also necessary to make your dog more visible during the evening and nighttime.
Learn Your Dog’s Body
Dogs show signs of exhaustion just like humans and it is important to know these signs in your dog. Some universal signs are when they start slowing down, lagging behind, and/or the tongue wagging around then you know it is time to stop. Know when your dog has enough to keep chances of injuries down.
After your runs, make sure to get plenty of rest and recovery. Your dog’s muscles will get sore just like yours. It is important to take rest days as well. As you go on running with your dog, you both will get into a routine and you will get to know your dog’s body better.
Do you run with your dog? Tell us more, share your tips!