Running With A Dog – Total Guide

If you are a runner, or aspire to put on those trainers and head for the hills, chances are you’ve thought about doing it with your buddy. It seems silly to go off into the outdoors for exercise without your hound, right? 

There are a few things you need to think about before attempting this activity. You want to keep yourself, and your dog, safe. After all, there’s no reason why running with your dog shouldn’t be healthy, safe and fantastic fun for you both.

Is It Good To Run With My Dog?

It’s definitely OK to run with your dog. Lots of dogs absolutely love running with their owner, while others are happier, and better off, left at home. Just like humans, some hounds would much rather go for a good walk, where they can go at their own pace, comfort level and capability.

dachshund

Even dogs who love running may not do well over a really long distance. It’s up to you to get your hound run-ready, then monitor them to make sure they’re not struggling.

It’s also a good idea to get your hound checked over by a vet prior to any planned high impact activity like running. They’ll be able to make sure there are no hidden health problems, such as cardiovascular or joint issues.

Which Dogs Shouldn’t Go Running?

Brachycephalic Dogs

These are dogs with short, wide heads, and flat faces. They suffer respiratory problems and may wheeze, snort and snore whether they’re asleep or not. Some of the brachycephalic breeds are, Bulldog, Boxer, Pekingese, Pug, Bull Mastiff and Shih Tzu.

Of course these breeds like to be out and about, and playing, but they shouldn’t be trying to keep up with us on a long run. They need time to stop, slow down and go at their own pace.

Old Dogs

Active, older dogs with no health issues are probably fine on a short run. Keep in mind though, that dogs are stoic and they just want to please us. They may do far more than they’re comfortable with, or their fitness allows, just to keep up. 

retriever lying down

Young Dogs and Puppies

Puppies, like any babies, tire very quickly. They also need time to develop their bones and muscles. The ends of some bones have softer tissue in young dogs. These are called ‘growth plates’ and allow proper growth and development of long bones. Doing too much high impact exercise can cause injuries to these areas.

If you have a puppy you want to exercise, find out about the ‘5-minute rule. This is an easy way to remember how much exercise a puppy can have every day. 

  • 1 month old –    5 minutes, once or twice a day
  • 2 months old –    10 minutes, once or twice a day
  • 5 months old – 25 minutes, once or twice a day, and so on.

Overweight Dogs

It might be easy to think that getting out for long runs will help your hound lose weight, but without a proper conditioning regime, your dog will struggle. Start off gently, with a few minutes of fast walking every day, and pay attention to their diet as well. There are lots of excellent foods to help dogs lose weight. You may need to cut their portions down, but exercise is definitely good for them. Just work up to running, much the same as an unfit human would need to.

dog in autumn trees

Dogs With Health or Joint Problems

Elderly dogs, and many breeds of any age have a propensity for certain health issues. Things like luxating patellas, arthritis, hip dysplasia, or cardiovascular problems can all affect dogs, sometimes without you being aware of it. If running with your dog is going to be a new activity, have your vet check them over to make sure all is well.

Low Energy, or Tiny Breeds

Some dogs just aren’t built for running long distances. Shorter jogs may be ideal for breeds like Basset Hounds or Yorkshire Terriers. Short legged breeds such as Dachshunds will struggle. If you’re not sure, check with your vet.

When Can You Start Running With A Dog?

Generally, a dog’s musculoskeletal system is fully developed by about one year of age. This means that the bones have matured, the tendons and ligaments are secure and the muscles are ready for some exercise training. Even so, you will need to start off slowly, with a good, consistent preparation regime. Just like humans, dogs need to work up to long runs. 

dog running

How To Train A Dog To Run With You

Right! You have a healthy, adult dog who can’t wait to go running with you. If you are a seasoned runner, remember you had to start off slowly. So does your dog. There are two aspects to getting your dog ready for running with you. The first is, getting your dog to walk and run alongside you, without pulling or darting to the sides. The second thing, training your hound to get used to running longer and longer distances.

What Equipment Do I need to Run With My Dog?

A light, sports type harness and leash is the safest way to run with a dog. Collars are not a good idea. They can cause injuries to the dog if they, or you, have to stop suddenly. Use a sturdy leash, and a reflective dog coat if you’re planning to run in low light. You’ll need to consider carrying water and a collapsible bowl for your hound. And don’t forget poop bags.

Training Your Dog To Walk Or Run Beside You

Your hound needs to learn to ignore distractions such as other dogs, traffic things to sniff. Go to a park or a quiet street and walk along, occasionally breaking into a jog for a few meters. Get them used to being at one side of you, staying next to you and keeping the same pace as you. This may take days, weeks or months. Some dogs will adapt very quickly. Be patient.

Panting spaniel

Getting Your Dog Fit For Running With You

It helps to think of your hound as a kid who wants to go running with you. You’re the responsible adult who needs to think about health and safety. Start off really relaxed, a few fast walks with little bursts of jogging. Build up distance and intensity slowly. Always watch your dog for signs of them struggling. 

Give them some days off. You might feel the need to run every day, but they will definitely enjoy some time off. Walking and playing are great ways to keep them active on rest days. 

Keeping Your Dog Safe On Runs

Running is a cheap and easy activity that can be done almost anywhere. Some surfaces such as concrete, or gravel and stones can be hard on joints and paw pads. Vegetation and grass surfaces are much easier, but you need to be aware of  hidden hazards such as glass, or holes.

Don’t take your hound for a long, forced run just after they’ve eaten. Also don’t feed them as soon as you get home. Wait an hour either side. It’s uncomfortable to run with a full stomach, but the main issue is stomach bloat, which can be catastrophic. That’s when the stomach fills with air, and if it’s already full of food it can cause the gut to twist. This is potentially fatal.

Your dog’s paw pads are sensitive. Don’t run them on hot asphalt. Pavements and beaches can become scorching during hot weather. Put the back of your hand on the sand or the pavement to feel the heat. If you’re not sure, leave the dog at home. 

labrador swimming

Hot weather should prompt you to leave the hound in a shady spot at home, anyway. Dogs wear thick coats, sometimes a double coat, and they don’t disperse body heat like us. They can suffer heat stroke and exhaustion very quickly.

Similarly, if you live in cold areas, freezing temperatures may not be a good environment for a pet dog to run in. If there’s ice and salt on the pavements, make sure you wash your dog’s feet when you get home. Plunge each foot into a bucket of warm water. Get your fingers in and sweep away all the dirt and salt from the nails and between the toes and pads.

Always stop for rests so your hound can toilet, and drink some water (not too much though, remember the stomach bloat). Dogs love running, but they adore sniffing around, too. Take a break and enjoy the view.

How Far Can Dogs Run? 

A healthy dog can run up to 5 miles, but of course there are hounds who can go up to 20 miles on trails. Some breeds may only be able to run for a few hundred yards before they’ve had enough. It’s up to you to gauge what is appropriate for your particular hound.

Forced running is when you have your dog attached to you by a leash, and they have to keep pace with you for the whole distance. This is more tiring for a dog and it’s important to keep an eye on them. Hounds who have been trained to run this way can cover long distances.

Off-leash running is easier for them. They can stop, sniff and toilet when they need to. They will run alongside you for a while, a distraction may slow them down, then they’ll speed up to catch you again. Open spaces, parks and trails are good for off-leash running.

white dog

Where Can I Run With My Dog?

Urban running can include roads and pavements, parks and green spaces. If you’re looking for some dog friendly countryside trails, every state has some fine places to explore with your hound.

What Are The Benefits Of Running With A Dog?

  • A joyful running buddy
  • Makes you want to go, even if you think you don’t
  • They distract you
  • You’re sharing the experience with your best mate
  • You don’t have to talk
  • Your dog will love it

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re a new runner, or a seasoned long-distance trailer, running with your dog should be a safe and enjoyable pastime. Both you, and your hound will benefit from the exercise, the time together and the shared exploration of the beautiful towns, cities and countryside.

A little bit of planning goes a long way toward making sure you have the best time, out running with your dog. Enjoy!

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