Love Dogs & Love Running? Me too!
Updated: Jan 26, 2021
Running and dogs and two of my favorite things AND they go together really well in most cases. Training your dog to run with you can also give you that extra push to get out there and log miles. However, there are some things to be aware of to ensure that we are keeping our running buddies safe!
My top tips revolve mostly around medical concerns so we will hit those first, then move on to gear and training tips!
Is Running Right For Your Dog?
Running isn't for everyone, nor is it for every dog. How do you know if it is right for your dog? Checking with your vet is a good move.
Before getting started, consider your dog's age, build, and health.
Age brings with it some specific things to consider. The main concern about running with your young dog is growth plate and soft tissue damage. I know young dogs run on their own quite a lot; it is sustained running that we are worried about. When can you start? That time frame really varies by breed and size of dog! So, do ask your vet as it can range anywhere between 10 and 18 months!
On the other end of the spectrum, older dogs may have orthopedic problems that can slow them down or make running uncomfortable.
When considering your dog's build and your running goals, use a common sense approach. Dogs with short legs may not physically be able to keep up with you! If your dog is a snort-nosed, flat-faced breed (brachycephalic) like a bulldog or pug, running may simply be out of the question. They have narrowed nostrils and partially obstructed airways so breathing can be difficult with that type of exertion.
In addition to these concerns, cardiovascular and pulmonary health as well as weight should be considered. Knowing what your dog's current level of health is will help you (in partnership with your vet) determine the safest way to work in exercise.
Keeping Your Dog Healthy
Your dog has been cleared to run! YAY! Now you can set worry aside and enjoy awesome runs together! Not so fast... There are still quite a few things to consider so that we keep our running buddies safe and healthy!
Here are my top tips for keeping it safe:
Dogs should be warmed up and cooled down before and after runs (or any strenuous exercise) to avoid injury. Work at least 5 minutes in at each end. It is better for you too
Never exercise after a full meal. Also wait until your dog has cooled down and breathing has returned to normal before eating post run!
Hydrate often, in small amounts, especially when it is hot outside. Avoid large amounts of water for your dog both before and after runs
Use a 'Couch to 5K' program to condition your dog. Just like human athletes, dogs need to work up to running to avoid injury!
If your dog is stiff or sore the day after, scale back! It is likely too much, too soon. Give them a couple rest days and try a shorter, less intense run. If discomfort continues, talk to your vet.
Watch those pads! Weather extremes can be tough on your dog's pads. Too hot and they can burn, too cold and ice or snow can clump in the hair between (or the salt can irritate them). Check often and be mindful of conditions!
Watch your dog. Dogs do not tolerate heat and humidity as well as people do. If they are lagging behind, making frequent stops, or panting excessively it is past time for a break!
If you take your dog, be prepared to cut your run short or go at a slower pace. They are your first priority!
Runners and Their Gear!
I know runners love their gear! I also know how personal gear decisions can be. The big things to be aware of is your running form (holding a leash can really mess things up) and chaffing for your dog (especially with a harness).
Waist leashes or leashes that go across your body are a good bet if you have taught your dog not to pull (if not, what are you waiting for? ). I don't have a favorite brand and tend to not like a lot of bells and whistles.... but you do you!
When it comes right down to it, be intentional about gear! Make sure it works for you and your dog. For example, if you run trails and tend to fall a lot, look into a harness.
I would strongly encourage you to help your dog nail loose-leash walking before you start training them to run with you.
A dog that pulls on the leash is frustrating when walking, but at faster speeds, it is an accident waiting to happen.
Keeping your dog on one side of you will be important when you start running together. It does not matter which side, but if they weave from side-to-side, they can really trip you up.
Starting off with a Couch to 5K program will help your dog be in tune with your speed changes as well as prepare them muscularly and endurance-wise. I highly recommend it!
If you run trails, especially if they are single track, be patient with your dog as they learn how to move with you. Use your leash to guide them around any obstacles. It won't be long before you all are acing it together!
That Is A Lot to Think About
Yeah it is, but most of it is common sense. Make sure that you are both safe and having fun throughout the learning process and that covers most of it.
You can do this! If you need help, I am here for you XX