If you are a dedicated runner, or even a casual runner, you’ve probably thought about running with your dog. It sounds simple in theory; however, it’s important to do some basic training with your dog first. Here’s how to train your dog to run with you:
1. Evaluate Your Dog
The most important thing to do before even running is to evaluate your dog’s health and fitness level. Labrador Retrievers, Australian Shepherds, or Huskies are some of the best dog breeds that make great running partners. Other dogs, especially smaller breeds, probably lack the physical stamina required.
It’s also important that your dog is at the right age before you begin running with them. Puppies grow at different rates and each dog needs time to finish growing. This allows bones and muscles to develop properly. Exercising too much or doing high-impact activities too early can damage bones and joints that are still developing.
Also, be cautious with senior dogs. Older dogs tend to tire out faster and may have weaker joints or arthritis, so it’s important to go slower with them or stick to brisk walks. If you have any questions at all about your dog’s health and running, be sure to ask your veterinarian.
2. Invest in Proper Equipment
Safety is very important for not just your dog, but for you as well. Using the proper running gear will keep both you and your dog safe on your runs. If you live in an area where off-leash running is illegal or if your dog isn’t trained to run off-leash, it’s important to choose a collar and leash that keeps your dog safe while running.
It might be helpful to try leash training to help your dog acclimate. If your dog seems uncomfortable, consider trying a harness instead. Harnesses spread out pressure so your dog won’t feel pressure from tugging.
Be sure to take water with you as well. It’s important for you and your dog to stay hydrated, which is why bringing plenty of water is a useful tip for exercising with your dog. Excessive panting can be a sign of dehydration and overheating so be sure to take water breaks. And don’t forget poop bags. Be sure to pick up after your dog as it’s common courtesy and in some places, the law.
3. Start With Shorter Runs or Brisk Walks
To introduce your dog to running with you, begin with brisk walks or shorter runs. This allows you to work out the kinks and get you both in the habit of exercising. If you don’t already have a walking routine in place, beginning with brisk walks allows your dog to adjust to the habit. It’s also important to do this because it can reduce injuries for your dog.
Be sure to keep an eye on your dog and look for signs of bruising and limping, as well as trouble lying down or getting up. These can be signs your dog is getting too much exercise, are good indicators your dog was pushed too far, and that they need to take it slower. Once your dog seems acclimated, you can begin jogging and trying longer distances incrementally.
4. Introduce Cues
When your dog is comfortable with running, it’s time to introduce cues. Basic commands, such as “stop”, “slow down”, or “let’s go”, are important for your dog to understand and follow. These are an easy way for you to communicate with your dog while running.
It’s also important to teach them cues that change their pace. A cue, such as “let’s go” or “move it”, can communicate to your dog that they need to pick up the pace. Adding in a cue, such as “slow down” or “whoa”, is a good way to get them to slow down or stop.
5. Work on Endurance
Even if your dog is energetic or considered one of the most active dog breeds, it’s important to build up their endurance. This is especially important if you plan on going on longer runs. Like humans, dogs need to build up their strength and endurance slowly to avoid injuries.
You can build endurance by gradually adding some time to each run. Do this slowly over a few weeks until you’ve reached the desired length of time that you want to run with your dog. Your dog’s endurance will have been built up and will be ready to go on longer runs with you.
These are just a few tips on how to train your dog to run with you. From there, you can advance to biking with your dog or other activities. Having an exercise buddy is a great way to stick to a routine and it’s great for your dog, too! If you want to take your running routine to the next level, try hiking with your dog and introducing trail running for even more of a challenge.