Dogs love running, it’s a chance for them to stretch their legs, expend energy, and stimulate their senses in the great outdoors. Running with your dog has a multitude of benefits for both pet and owner, including physical and mental well-being. Just like us, when dogs can’t exercise or get outside, they get frustrated.
With the principles of intuitive fitness in mind, it’s more important than ever that we allow our individuality and exercise regime to work together. Two walks a day is fairly time consuming and doesn’t unlock as many physical benefits for ambitious fitness enthusiasts. Running with your dog is an activity that can unlock better health and more leisure time in your daily routine.
However, running with your dog isn’t something you should rush into. There will be a degree of training required and some safety considerations. Don’t let this deter you: I trained my yellow lab, Dudley, and we have a blast: his behaviour and focus (and mine too!) improve markedly, and he doesn’t even need headphones as he repeats his mantra: ignore the squirrels, ignore the cats, follow the leader, then you can take a nap!
We’ve collated 9 things to consider before you take your dog out for a jog to ensure enjoyment and safety. We’ve also reviewed a few of the best products for your new running partner!
1. First and foremost, consider your dogs breed and size.
Some dogs are natural runners while others are less suited to more strenuous activity. On the whole, larger dogs with proportionally longer legs will be happy to run with their owners. Some of the most popular breeds like Border Collies, Australian Shepherds and Labrador Retriever’s are perfectly suited to a good length run or jog.
Dogs with short noses such as Bulldogs, Pugs and Boxers are not suited to extended periods of exercise, equally dogs with proportionally shorter legs such as Daschunds or Corgis may struggle to keep pace and may be inclined to enjoy more of a leisurely stroll.
Most importantly, if you are in any doubt contact your vet for advice especially if your dog has had health problems in the past. Your vet will be best informed to make a sound judgement about your dog’s running capabilities.
2. Age is important
Dogs that are too young or too old won’t be able to accompany you on your runs. Younger dogs tire quickly and need plenty of sleep and older dogs can experience health issues if they over-exercise. Younger dogs also may lack the training to behave well on the lead, it’s important to allow your dog time to develop both the physical and mental demands of a run.
You can start from an early age in training your dog to walk to heel. This will give you a good platform to progress to running once your dog has developed enough fitness to enjoy a run. Suitable running ages will differ between breeds, don’t rush into it and contact your vet for a professional opinion before you head out on a run.
3. Don’t neglect the weather and don’t forget water
As you will be aware, dogs can overheat easily when temperatures go up. When considering a run with your dog, make sure it’s not too hot or humid and always remember to take water with you in case your dog needs a break to rehydrate.
Most importantly, you should observe your dog regularly on a run. Excessive panting or slowing down are indicators that they need a break and some water.
4. Paws before you play
Before and after you run give your dog’s paws a check for any cuts or scratches, also note that in the heat your dog’s paws will be susceptible to burns. As a general rule, don’t run when it’s too hot and endeavour to get out there early or late to avoid the hottest part of the day.
Make sure you also check for ticks after a run as you would after a walk, especially if you’ve been running across trails or through long grass. Check with your vet that your dog is up to date with their tick medication and contact them if you find out your dog has been bitten.
6. Hit the trails
Trails are a great place to take your dog for a run. They are easier on you and your dog’s joints and they provide a great natural environment with plenty of stimulation for your dog. Try to avoid running on tarmac especially in summer where it can absorb a lot of heat.
7. Warm up and start slow
As with any activity you should always warm up, and this is as important for you as it is for your dog. A warmup should involve gently raising the heart rate so that blood can be pumped round to the working muscles.
Dogs who suddenly increase their activity level are at higher risk of injury in the same way we would be. With that in mind, start off slow with walk/jog intervals. As you and your dog get more used to running together you can begin to increase to a steady pace.
8. Dog training on a leash
Don’t run before you can walk! Before you attempt to run with your dog on a leash make sure they can walk to heel without pulling on the lead. Treat good behaviour on the lead regularly and when your dog has mastered that, you can introduce some running.
Training your dog to run alongside you is a process but once you’ve mastered it, you’ll have the best running partner you could ask for. Be patient with your dog as some will pick it up more easily than others. Persistence pays off and before you know it you and your dog will be logging miles to the benefit of you both.
9. Take your time with the treats
After a good run with your well-behaved pet, inevitably you will want to reward them with some tasty treats. However, hold off for a little while as eating too soon after prolonged exercise can make your dog feel unwell.
When the run is over, give your dog some downtime outside to allow them to calm down and get their breath back.
Products to make your runs stress free
On top of mastering some basic commands, there are some key products that can make running with your dog much easier. A good dog leash and a portable water bowl ensure a safe and secure run for you and your dog.
Best dog leash
A hands-free dog lead is a fantastic asset for active dog owners. Freeing up your hands allows you to concentrate on your running form.
SparklyPets Hands-Free Dog Leash
Price: $19.95 +
This dog leash from SparklyPets has both hands-free and hands-on features so you can switch between running and walking with ease. Made from high-quality weather resistant nylon, the waistband is durable and ready to take on any weather conditions.
This leash also incorporates elasticated bungee material which is great for providing shock absorption. This is great a great feature for training, as if your dog pulls, the leash will help keep you steady. The bungee can also extend up to 68 inches which provides you and your dog with plenty of space to run alongside each other.
The reflective stitching on the adjustable waistband also helps keep you and your dog visible when the light fades. This means you can still go for a run if you’ve waited for temperatures to cool down in the evening.
Best portable water bowl
While having water on a run is a must for your dog, it’s not always easy to transport. Purpose designed dog water bottles are great, they are easy to carry and hold plenty of water to keep your dog hydrated wherever you are.
MalsiPree Dog Water Bottle
Price: $18.99 + post
This ergonomic dog water bottle makes keeping your dog hydrated while out and about incredibly easy. The bottle comes in two different 12 and 19 oz size options to cater for longer excursions and bigger dogs.
The water key allows you to release water into the dog bowl and when your dog has finished drinking you can use the quick release button to filter surplus water back into the bottle to ensure no water is wasted. This bottle is incredibly easy to use, the one-handed operation makes it perfect for running duos who are taking a quick pitstop.
You’ll also get value for money with this durable product which will keep your dog hydrated run after run. Crucially, it’s also leak proof so you can store it in a backpack and not worry.
Now you have all the knowledge and maybe some useful products to embark on a successful run with your new running buddy. Remember to keep an eye on your dog and enjoy the time you spend together as you exercise your body and mind.