How to Start Running With Your Dog

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Author: Steph Coelho

Last Updated: January 31, 2023

Close your eyes and think of a happy, carefree dog. Chances are you’re picturing a pooch running, the wind blowing through its fur, drool dripping from its mouth. While humans might run for various reasons, dogs seem to do it out of pure joy — and to burn off their excited energy.

There’s even evidence that dogs experience runner’s high just like some humans do.

And while running with your furry friend can be the ultimate form of bonding, it’s essential to do it safely. Going too hard too fast can have consequences for you and your favorite furry bud. Like humans, dogs need time to get used to the rigors of training.

Here’s how to get started running with your dog.

When to start running with your dog

VCA Animal Hospital veterinarians explain that dogs don’t finish growing until between 7 to 20 months. Bringing Fido along too early can negatively impact growth plates and put dogs at risk for joint problems.

The age at which it’s okay to start running with your dog can vary based on breed and size. The American Kennel Club recommends checking with a vet before embarking (yes, pun intended) on a training program together. But generally, it can take about 1.5 years before a young dog is ready to withstand the constant impact of running.

Best dog breeds to run with

Your dog needs to exercise, but not all breeds are natural-born runners. While breeds like German Malinois are well suited for endurance activities, short-snout breeds, also known as brachycephalic dogs, may have trouble keeping up.

Small, lap-sized dogs like chihuahuas may be unable to keep up with their human family members.

And breeds like bulldogs, pugs, and Boston terriers are poor running companions because of their snub-nose build that prevents them from breathing efficiently.

You may be able to run with your smoosh-nosed or tiny pal, but it’s best to keep the duration short and frequently check on how they’re doing.

Some breeds you might think are perfect running companions, like greyhounds, often tire themselves out quickly because they’re bred to sprint for short distances, not go long distances. Others may be prone to hip dysplasia, which can become aggravated with exercise.

Here’s a quick list of breeds that make great running buddies:

  • Weimaraner
  • Dalmatian
  • German shorthaired pointer
  • English springer spaniel
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Retrievers
  • Siberian Huskies

Training your dog to run

The best way to approach training is to ensure you and your dog have the basics down. A good first step is to teach your pup essential commands like come, sit, down, stay, and leash manners. Dog training school is a great way to introduce your fur pal to these training basics.

One advantage of running as an exercise is that it requires little equipment. The same is true even if you run with Fido. The most essential element is a good quality running leash that won’t rip or cause injury should your dog stop suddenly or chase a squirrel. A hands-free or retractable leash allows you to maintain good running form while staying in control of your running partner.

Once your dog is well-versed in basic commands and old enough to withstand the impact of running, it’s time to start introducing them to training. If you’re already well into your own training plan, it’s a good idea to devise a separate training schedule for your dog. Plan on running part of your run with your fur bud, dropping them off at home, and getting back outside to finish your workout. And try starting your runs with a short walk. This serves as a warmup and allows your dog time to sniff all the delicious smells in the neighborhood.

And don’t forget to bring along poop bags!

How often to run with your dog

Here’s a sample training plan to get your started with running with your doggy:

Week 1 5 min run / 1 min walk x 3
Week 2 6 min run / 1 min walk x 3
Week 3 7 min run / 1 min walk x 3
Week 4 8 min run / 1 min walk x 3
Week 5 30 minute run

You can try running every day or take rest days between runs, depending on how you and your dog are feeling during the process.

Regardless of the breed, age, or running record, keep a close eye on your dog. Always pay attention to signs of discomfort or fatigue, and be prepared to slow down or stop. Take breaks when you need to. Your dog isn’t there to meet your training goals, but they are eager to please and won’t always be vocal about wanting to stop. Remember, you can always finish a run on your own later.

And when in doubt about your dog’s overall health or ability to run, talk to a veterinarian.

Safety when running with your dog

Running together can be an enjoyable experience for you and your dog. A few key safety issues to keep an eye out for include:

Overheating

Think you get hot when running on a steamy summer day? Your fur-covered training pal is probably even hotter. And since dogs can’t sweat like humans, they can quickly overheat and experience heat stroke.

Know the signs of overheating before they happen:

  • excessive panting
  • extreme drooling
  • heavy breathing
  • bright red gums

Hot weather can be brutal, but even if it’s cool out, it’s a good idea to bring along a water bottle or collapsible bowl just in case to prevent dehydration. Hydrate before you get thirsty, and keep offering water to your pup.

Other inclement weather

Cold weather is another potential hazard for your dog. If you live somewhere with freezing cold winters, consider paw protection, such as booties, for your dog to protect from things like frostbite or irritation due to road salt.

Running in the dark

When running in the dark, it’s crucial to ensure drivers can easily spot you and your dog. Reflective leashes, bright colors, and wearable flashing lights can help you stay seen on early morning or late night runs.

Other dangers

Running with a regular dog leash can pose a safety risk for you and your training friend. Instead of a traditional leash, opt for one specifically made for running to prevent tripping and falling. The Mighty Paw Running Leash is our best overall pick, thanks to its shock-absorbing design and reflective stitching.

Keep an eye on your dog’s paws, too. Scorching weather and icy conditions are both potential hazards for canine feet. If you’re trail running with your dog, consider inspecting their paw pads for debris and their body for ticks after your outing.

Similarly, proper training can help reduce the risk of injury while running with your dog. When a dog follows commands and is well-behaved on a leash, you’re both less likely to get tangled up together and end up hurt. Need help with training? Consider hiring a dog trainer.

FAQs

How many times a week should you run with your dog?

This depends on your dog. It might take some time to figure out your ideal frequency. Like humans, dogs might need to adjust their training plan on a whim due to bad weather and illness. Some dogs might adapt quicker than others, too. And rest days are a crucial part of getting stronger and fitter.

How far is it safe for a dog to run?

The maximum safe distance can vary according to breed and each individual dog.

The key is to keep a close eye on your dog when outside, whether you’re running or walking. Look for warning signs they’re overly tired or overheating, like excessive panting or slowing down.

Can a dog run a 5K?

Yes! With a proper build-up, you and your pup can run a 5K. If you want to sign up for an organized event, make sure the organizers allow dogs. Many events have strict rules about non-human participants. And keep in mind that a dog-friendly organized 5K isn’t the best time to race, so take it easy and let your dog set the pace.

How much running is too much for a dog?

Look for signs of fatigue and overheating. Another sign the distance is too much for your dog is if they’re slowing down significantly.

How do I train my dog to run without a leash?

Unless you live somewhere where off-leash dog running is allowed, it’s a good idea to train your dog to run with a leash. Following leash laws makes things safer for everyone.

What’s the best leash for running with my dog?

Our favorite leashes for running with a dog are made of high-quality material and feature bungee designs to minimize shock and prevent injury.