Article at a Glance
- Running with your dog can be a fun way to bond with your pet and stay in shape
- Before you run with your dog, there are some things you need to keep in mind to keep them happy and healthy
Table of Contents
- Walk Before Your Run
- Consider Your Dog’s Health
- Know Your Dog’s Age and Breed
- Teach Your Dog Some Speed Cues
- Check the Weather
- Protect Your Pup’s Paws
- Start Slow
- Check in With Your Dog
- Time to Hit the Ground Running
Just like humans need exercise to lead healthy lives, so too do dogs. While it’s great to walk your dog to give it exercise, running with your dog can take your pet’s exercise routine to a new level. Running can improve your dog’s cardiovascular health and mental focus, and it can make for one happy pooch. But, before you take your dog for a job, there are some things you need to consider.
Read on to learn about the top things you need to consider before running with your dog.
1. Walk Before You Run
Before your dog can master running, it first needs to master walking. If your dog is constantly pulling at its leas, getting distracted, or moving at an uneven pace, it’s not going to make a very good running partner. Plus, running with a dog that pulls on its leash can be dangerous. If you don’t master walking before running, you could end up with some scraped knees, or much worse.
Even if you can let your dog off its lead, you still need to be confident that you can control your dog with a recall and trust it to stay close to you. Once you can comfortably walk with your dog on a loose leash (so the leash hangs by you in a J shape), then you can move on to running.
2. Consider Your Dog’s Health
Before you hit the ground running (pun intended), make sure your dog’s in good shape. You need to be extra careful about running with a dog that’s overweight, elderly, or suffers from serious health conditions.
Here are some medical conditions that may make running with your dog risky:
- Brachycephalism: This is a pathological condition that affects short-nosed dogs and can lead to respiratory distress. Flat-faced dogs such as bulldogs, boxers, and pugs are most likely to suffer from this condition.
- Collapsing trachea: This is a condition characterized by the incomplete formation of cartilage rings, resulting in a flattened trachea. Terriers and other small breeds are most likely to suffer from this condition. If your dog has a cough that sounds like a goose honk, there’s a good chance it suffers from a collapsing trachea.
- Laryngeal Paralysis: This condition is most common in older dogs. It causes dysfunction in the larynx, resulting in a reduced ability to breathe deeply. Dogs that suffer from this condition often have a roaring sound to their breathing.
- Hip Dysplasia: When dogs suffer from hip dysplasia, the ball and socket in their hips don’t fit together properly. Instead, they rub and grind together instead of sliding smoothly.
- Osteochondrosis: This condition commonly occurs in large, immature, and giant-breed dogs. Osteochondrosis refers to the abnormal development of the cartilage at the end of a bone in the joint. While the condition commonly forms in the shoulders, it also occurs in the hips, elbows, and knees.
Dogs that suffer from arthritis may also struggle to run. You should speak to your vet to see if your dog is in good enough health to run.
3. Know Your Dog’s Breed and Age
Some dog breeds can run longer distances than others. For example, bulldogs and pugs can only sprint for short distances. Also, keep in mind that running is typically not safe for puppies. Most dog breeds need to wait until they're 1.5 years old before they can begin running. Even within breeds, each dog has their own personality, and some will take to running better than others.
Research your dog’s breed, consider their temperament, and take them to the vet for a physical before you head out.
4. Teach Your Dog Some Speed Cues
Teaching your dog some running cues can help you easily transition from walking pace to running pace. Make sure you choose a different cue for running than you do for walking. For example, your cue could be “let’s move,” “get running,” or “move it.” The more information you can give your dog to let them know it’s time to pick up the pace, the better. To teach your dog the new running cue, try interspersing short bursts of running or jogging with normal walking.
Give your dog the cue right before you increase your speed, and then give your dog a small reward when they hurry to catch up. It’s also a good idea to have a cue to slow your dog down. You can simply say “slow down.”
5. Check the Weather
Sometimes, it’s simply too hot or too cold outside to run with your dog. Before you head out with your dog in hot weather, check with your vet to understand your dog’s risk of heatstroke. You can also get specific recommendations from your vet regarding safe running temperatures for your dog. When it’s hot out, your dog is at an increased risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke. To prevent heat stroke or heat exhaustion, bring plenty of water, run early in the morning or at night, and shorten the length of your runs.
Because many dog breeds aren’t afraid to push themselves beyond the point of exhaustion, they won’t always signal when they’re tired and ready to stop. Therefore, it’s up to you to be vigilant and aware of when your dog has had enough. Also, keep in mind that asphalt temperatures are much hotter than the temperature in the air. If you put your hand on the asphalt and can’t hold it there for more than five seconds because of the heat, then it’s too hot for your dog to run outside.
If there’s snow and ice on the ground, be cautious about running with your dog, as you don’t want them to slip and fall. Also, just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean your dog can’t suffer from dehydration. Remember to bring plenty of water, no matter what the temperature.
5. Protect Your Pup’s Paws
Regardless of the temperature, you need to make sure your dog’s paws are protected when running. We recommend fitting your pup with some dog booties when running in extreme temperatures. During the summer, dog booties can protect your pup’s paws from the heat of the asphalt. In the winter, booties can help prevent your dog from falling on the ice. After returning from a run, you should always inspect your dog’s paw pads for blistering, bleeding, or tears.
If you notice any issues with your dog’s paws, give them some time off some running so they can heal. Also, make sure you keep your dog’s nails in good condition. Your dog’s nails should be short and well-maintained, as long nails can cause your dog pain when running. Your dog’s nails should be short enough so they don’t touch the ground when your dog is standing.
6. Start Slow
When humans start running, they need to build their mileage over time. The same is true for dogs. We recommend starting with one minute of running followed by two minutes of walking for a total of one mile. As time progresses, you can add on more running time and cut down on walking time while also increasing your mileage. However, make sure to only increase your mileage by no more than 10 to 20 percent every two weeks.
For example, if you run a total of 10 miles per week with your dog and want to increase your mileage, you should spend about two weeks building up to 12 miles.
7. Check In With Your Dog
As fun as it can be to run with your dog, you want to make sure your dog enjoys running as much as you do. Here are some important questions to ask yourself:
- Does my dog seem to enjoy running? (Do they show resistance when going out for a run, they may not be suited for this type of exercise.)
- Is your dog eating and sleeping normally?
- Does their overall health seem fine?
If you answered no to any of these questions, it’s time to slow things down and return to walking.
Time to Hit the Ground Running!
By keeping the above considerations in mind, running with your dog should be a wonderful experience for both of you. Pretty soon, your dog will be your new favorite running buddy.
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