Running can be a great way to bond with your pup and get some exercise at the same time. It not only gives your dog an opportunity to expel his energy, but like humans, physical activity produces endorphins — the happy chemical — in dogs, and can help improve mood and mobility.
If you’re a runner and are thinking about bringing your pooch along for the fun, make sure you keep these five tips in mind.
5 Tips for Running With Your Dog
Make sure your pooch is up for the task
Some breeds make more appropriate running partners than others. It’s important to make sure it’s safe and recommended for your pup to run with you, so make sure you approve it with your vet before hitting the trails.
Whether or not your dog is a good running buddy can largely depend on breed. Breeds with short muzzles — also referred to as brachycephalic dogs — should only run short distances, so don’t expect to take a pug or bulldog on a 3-mile run. Breeds with short legs might have trouble keeping up with you, while larger dogs tend to be more prone to hip dysplasia. A few dog breeds that are known to be good running companions include huskies (especially in cold weather), weimaraners, dalmations, and German shorthaired pointers — but of course, it’s always important to check with your vet first.
In addition to breed, age is an important factor to take into consideration when deciding whether or not it’s safe to run with your dog. Puppies should not be running companions, as their bones are still growing. The AKC recommends waiting until most breeds are one-and-a-half years old to start running. On the other hand, running with a senior dog can be dangerous, because it can be too harsh on their joints and potentially worsen their condition.
To make sure both you and your pooch are comfortable running together, you should first feel confident loose-leash walking your dog. This means that your dog doesn’t pull on the leash or jerk suddenly. If you want to successfully and safely run together, your dog shouldn’t be phased by passing cars, squirrels, or other dogs and people.
As you start to get your dog comfortable with loose-leash walking, make sure that he’s able to stay on one side of you, not running too far in front of you or falling too far behind. When he keeps in line with the leash slack, reward him with treats or praise so he knows he’s doing the right thing.
Nail down commands early
It’s vital that your pup can easily follow commands if you want to go running together. Establish specific verbal or physical cues for stopping, starting, and picking up speed. To start practicing, you can switch between your normal jogging speed and a walking pace. Right before you want to slow down, you can stay, “slow,” or use a stopping hand signal. Do the same with a different phrase right before you’re ready to speed up so your dog knows what to expect.
Once you’ve mastered commands, you can slowly start working your way up to consistent jogging and building endurance.
Warm up and cool down
Even if you’ve been running with your dog for years, every time you set out, it’s important to give your dog a warm up period. Going too fast too soon can cause injury and strain on your pup’s muscles and joints. This also applies to cooling down. Give your dog a few minutes to ramp down speed before going back to a steady walk.
Ultimately, you should avoid abrupt starting or stopping without warning, as this could lead to injury to both you and your pooch and may scare your dog. This is a great time to use your commands!
Watch for signs of distress
If you notice your dog excessively panting or he’s beginning to lag behind, stop and make sure he’s okay. Find somewhere to rest and get him some water before continuing, and if he continues to look fatigued, it’s a sign that you should end the run.
Keep in mind that dogs cannot handle extreme heat and humidity as well as humans can, so make sure you’re not forcing your pup to exercise in these conditions.
In addition to easing your dog into a running routine and getting sign off from your vet, we recommend giving your dog a daily chew that is specifically formulated to help support healthy joint function. Pet Honesty’s PureMobility Chews promote mobility and cartilage development, while also enhancing bone and joint health.