A beginner’s guide to running with your pup
Running with your dog is a great way for both you and your dog to get much needed exercise. But what’s the best approach to running with your furry four-legged friend and how do you do it safely? We sat down with Rhonda Anderson of Just Doggin’ It Adventures and Training to find out.
What dog breeds make the best running partners?
Not all dogs were meant to be runners, but these breeds certainly have the build, energy and endurance for it:
- Airedale Terrier
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- Australian Cattle dog (also known as Blue or Red Heeler)
- Australian Shepherd
- Belgian Shepherd
- Border Collie
- Brittany Spaniel
- English Setter
- German Pointer
- German Shepherd
- Jack Russel Terrier
- Labrador Retriever
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
- Siberian Husky
Wow! That is a long list that I’m sure only scratches the surface. Are there any breeds that shouldn’t be taken on runs?
No matter what the breed, it is strongly recommended that you think about your dog’s health and build first, and be sure to talk to your veterinarian.
If you have a flat “smooshy” faced breed such as the Pugs, Boston Terriers, English or French bulldogs, remember that these dogs are brachycephalic which means they have anatomical abnormalities to the upper airway that makes breathing difficult—especially when exercising. These breeds cannot tolerate too much exercise and they do not do well in the heat.
If I have a new puppy, when is it safe to start running with it? Why should I wait?
Puppies have lots of growing to do and you don’t want to rush it. Depending on the breed it may be recommended to wait until they are 18 months old, or up to 2 years of age for a large breed. Large breeds take longer for the growth plates to finish closing up, while small breeds are much quicker to finish growing. Running on hard surfaces is not good for puppy bones and joints. Again, please check in with your veterinarian and breeder to see what the recommended age is for your pup to start running.
How far can I run with my dog?
If you’ve found yourself with a running breed and/or your veterinarian has given the go ahead to start running with your dog, ease into it. Build up on the distance much like you would yourself. Progress at a safe pace and use a training plan that combines intervals of walking and jogging when you’re first starting out.
Monitor your pup as you go along. Watch for any signs of over exertion such as heavy panting, heavy drooling, and lethargy. (Remember! Once their body temperature rises, dogs can't sweat through their skin like we do to cool off. Dogs do sweat through their paw pads, but it's by panting that dogs circulate the necessary air through their bodies to cool down.)
So should I bring water for my dog?
Always bring water for your dog unless you are comfortable running in an area that you know has fresh water sources easily accessible for your dog to grab a sip or two. Make it a good habit to stop every 10–15 minutes so that your dog can have a quick drink. However, be careful they don’t over do it and drink too much water.
I strongly recommend having a pet first aid kit handy with you, too. Depending on the breed of dog (and the distance of running) you can look into getting a backpack fitted for your dog, so they can carry their own water bottle, first aid kit, and poop bags for those cleanups that are bound to happen.
Human runners can suffer from many common running injuries. Are there common injuries that dogs might suffer that we should look out for?
Always be sure to talk with your veterinarian first and keep up to date with checkups. Our running dogs can be more susceptible to cuts or burns to the paws depending on the terrain. Running on pavement is hard on their joints and should be avoided. Check paws regularly and use a paw wax if you suspect your dog might be more sensitive to paw injuries.
Dogs can also get sprains and strains. Most commonly in the knee and ankle joints. Sometimes this can even happen just from jumping and landing the wrong way or slipping and falling. If you notice your dog yelp or limping at all it’s a clear sign they’ve over done it and need to rest.
What safety tips would you suggest?
Practice good warm up exercises and DO NOT exercise your dogs in the heat. Dogs can over heat very quickly. Exercise with your dogs in the morning or evening—avoid midday runs during the summer months.
Don’t run your dogs on pavement for too long as it can be very hard on their joints. Check their paw pads regularly for cuts or burns on their pads. Again, paw wax (or Vaseline) can help prevent irritation from salts, sand, or gravel on the road or trail. Running on the grass, groomed trails, and dirt paths are easiest for our furry runners and much easier on their joints.
Always pay attention to leash bylaws, public areas, other people and their dogs. Check to see if the area you are running in allows dogs off leash.
Respect the environment and be prepared to clean up after your dogs too!
Are there certain commands I should practice with my dog before starting to run with it?
All dogs should learn basic obedience skills, good recall, and especially good leash manners before heading out for a run.
Our dogs need to be walking nicely on leash before moving forward into a slow jog or a run. This teaches our dogs to pay attention to us and focus on our pace, where we are at all times, and not what’s going on around them.
Good recall skills are also a must, especially if you come across other people or wildlife. You want your dog coming back immediately, no matter what the distraction.
Once mastered with the good leash and recall skills, you can start testing your dog for the distance off leash (if it is an area that allows dogs off leash). Otherwise, keep your dog on leash. I like using a six-foot leash. This allows a comfortable distance between me and my dog while walking or running.
This is great information! To recap, I'm going to make sure my breed is suited for running, ask my veterinarian if my dog is a good candidate for running, make sure I have a way to carry water and emergency supplies, and ease my dog into it just like I would ease myself. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us!