10 Tips for Running with Your Dog

By , SparkPeople Blogger
As a runner it's nice to have a partner to run with, regardless if that partner runs on two legs or four legs. A dog can make a great running partner, not only can they help keep us motivated to run, but they can also provide us with a sense of security and companionship especially for those of us who must run in remote areas.

But before you get too eager to put a leash on your four-legged friend, there are a few tips to consider prior to taking your first step out the door with your running buddy.

1. Get medical clearance from your dog's vet

Just like we need to get medical clearance for exercise, same is true for our pets. This is especially necessary if your pet has led a fairly sedentary lifestyle. While your dog may spend hours running around the backyard, it is not quite the same as running five, three or even one mile. 

2. Know which breeds are best for running

Knowing which breeds are best suited for running can help determine if Fido is going to make a great running partner or best left hanging out in the backyard. There are certain breeds where running may actually be detrimental to your dog's well-being. Some breeds, such as the Border Collie are more prone to hip dysplasia issues which can be aggravated from running while other breeds, such as the Pug and Bulldog are more prone to respiratory and overheating issues. Runner's World has compiled a list of dog breeds and the distance each breed can safely run. But remember your dog's vet is the best source of advice as to whether your best friend can run or not.

3. Consider the age of your dog

Having a puppy full of energy may seem like the ideal time to train her to run with you, but remember your puppy is still growing. Her bones are still developing. This does not mean she can't ever run with you, but please check with your vet as to the distance and intensity of runs that would be most suitable for your growing puppy.

Older dogs can run, depending on the breed and disposition of your dog, just make sure that you have discussed your concerns with your vet before taking Fluffy out for her first run.

4. Make sure your dog is on a leash

In my six years as a runner one of the most intimidating experiences is to come across a dog that is not leashed. While you as his owner may be quite comfortable with voice command in controlling your dog, I, as a runner, have no clue how well controlled your dog is. A few years ago I had a Jack Russell Terrier come running at me nipping at my lower leg, thankfully the dog's owner could grab him before any damage was done. My most recent scare came just a few days ago when a German Shepherd who was trained to attack came barreling at me (the owner's description, not mine)--to hear the fear in the owner's voice literally had me stop dead in my tracks until the owner gained control over his dog.

5. Consider the running surface

We are fortunate to be able to put on a pair of running shoes and head out the door. We don't have to worry too much about the road temperature or debris, but for your dog this is a big factor.  Concrete and debris on the road are big hazards for your dog, especially in the heat of summer when the running surface is very hot.

If your dog starts to limp, you will want to stop immediately to check his paws for any foreign body that may have embedded in your dog's paw. Also, if you are running in winter where snow and ice are commonplace, after your run be sure to wash your pet's paws as salt and other chemicals used on the roads can be very toxic to dogs, especially if they are prone to licking.

6. Be aware of the signs and symptoms of overheating

Dogs do not sweat like we do. They dissipate the heat via panting and through their paws so make sure you bring plenty of water for him or at least have access to water. My local running trail actually offers pet water stations which allows owner and pet to rehydrate at the same time. Also you may want to change your running surface from a hot road to a cooler trail when temps heat up.

If you find you dog is excessively panting, slowing down and not acting like he normally does, you need to cool him off as soon as possible. Just like heat stroke can be fatal to humans, hyperthermia can be fatal to your beloved pet. Many dog experts state that if the ambient air temperature is 80 degrees or warmer, or if there is excessive humidity, it is best to leave your dog at home. The risk at this point for heat stroke far exceeds the benefit for exercise.

Here is a link to helping keep your pet cool during the hot summer months.

7. Ease your dog into running

Just like many of us did not go from the couch to running 3 miles straight, same is true for your trusty companion. Running is very taxing on the human body and same is true for your dog. While it may seem natural for your dog to want to run with you, after all they love to please us, you must be aware that it takes time to build up the stamina to run the distances you are accustomed to running. So you may want to start with some walks to allow time for your dog to adapt to the routine of going out with you.

8. Know your dog's temperament

If your dog has been exposed to other people and other dogs, most dogs will do fine in a running environment. However if your dog has not been socialized, you may want to rethink where and when you will run with him. Remember not everyone is eager to come across a dog even on a leash especially if the breed has a history of being intimidating. While you may know that your German Shepherd or Pit Bull is a sweetheart, I as a runner have no clue.

Having a dog who is quite territorial with his environment and even you as an owner, may be more frustrating to you as a runner as you may find yourself keeping your dog in line versus running.

If your dog has never been socialized, you may want to consider taking her to obedient classes which many local pet stores and shelters offer for a nominal fee. If you are unable to locate a class, check with your vet, he/she may be able to help you locate a class.

9. Make sure your pet is up-to-date on his vaccination

A few weeks ago a friend of mine was running when a stray dog came out of nowhere and bit her on the leg. While this dog was not running with his owner, because the dog was not wearing a collar nor were his vaccinations current, she had to endure a long 10 day wait to see if the dog showed signs of rabies. Should you be running with your dog and he finds himself in an altercation with another dog or another runner, having verification of his vaccinations can bring peace of mind to all parties involved.

10.  Be courteous and clean up after your pet

Having participated in races where dogs were permitted, nothing is more aggravating to me as a runner than to be running along and stepping in a mess that I have to clean off my running shoes before getting into my car to go home. While it may seem like an inconvenience to carry a bag or two with you to pick up your pet's mess, it really is the courteous thing to do. Also know that many municipalities are now fining dog owners for not picking up after their pet. Taking a few seconds to keep our environment clean makes running enjoyable for everyone.

These are just a few tips that may help determine if your pet is ready to hit the running trail with you. However, I want to stress that you need to get clearance from your dog's vet to see if he/she is healthy enough to run. Studies are showing that pet obesity is on the rise, so just like we need time to ease into exercise, we do not want to rush the process in taking Buddy from the couch to running without the proper guidance and time frame to do so.

Do you run/walk with your dog? What are some measures you take to keep him/her safe?

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MUSICNUT 7/1/2021
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
REDROBIN47 6/21/2021
I don't run anymore because of knees but this sounds like a good way to exercise both of you Report
MAREE1953 12/14/2020
Lots of good memories of walking with dogs who have now crossed the rainbow bridge. Report
JWINKSLLC 11/18/2020
I have had dogs that were born to run with me, and some that don't like that kind of pace. After nine dogs I can say one thing, they all like being on a leash! We put certain shoes on and our dogs know they are going for a walk! Ecstasy ensues!
CECELW 11/18/2020
interesting Report
CD24069739 11/18/2020
Thank you Report
MNABOY 11/18/2020
Thanks! Report
Thanks! Report
ROSSYFLOSSY 11/18/2020
All great ideas. Report
MAREE1953 11/18/2020
Great for dog lovers! Report
CHERYLHURT 8/17/2020
Great Report
Good points Report
One thing to consider is getting your next dog from a reputable breeder that does genetic testing on the parents. And before you claim mutts are genetically superior, know that I've personally seen many heinz 57s that are dysplastic.

Also there are booties for dogs in any weather. Mention your dog being utd on shots as well as flea and tick meds and heartworm if you are in an area that is affected.

A good hands free leash with shock absorbers can really help as well.

Tons of places that sells stuff that can make your adventures amazing! Report
I am not a runner but my dog is my constant walking buddy. Also, I use tough dog shoes when we go walking out of the neighborhood. It took a bit for her to get used to them but living in the constant summer of Florida, it has saved her from bees hiding in the clover or rough rocks. Long lasting and worth a $30 investment! Report
I like the one about keeping your dog on a leach, I carry a long stick to keep them off of me! Report
Good advice Report
Good advice Report
lol be taking my puppy with me for a walk Report
I miss my puppy. :-( Report
Excellent article. Thanks for the information. Report
My dog and I either run or walking on a daily bases to keep us both fit because we compete in dog agility. It is a great way for both of us to stay healthy. Report
"Many dog experts state that if the ambient air temperature is 80 degrees or warmer, or if there is excessive humidity, it is best to leave your dog at home. The risk at this point for heat stroke far exceeds the benefit for exercise."

So... no running with a dog in Houston? LOL Report
Good advice Report
My four mutts do not need clearance from a doctor. They've been my walking companions since puppies, unleashed in the mountain. Report
Thanks for a great article. I love having my dog around when I exercise. Report
Thanks to Nancy Howard for the clear and sensitive way she has written about exercising with a dog. We had a lovely mixed breed we loved to exercise with, until she became elderly. We always had her on a leash, not because she was poorly behaved or aggressive (just the opposite!) but out of consideration for others! Many people have had bad experiences with dogs--why frighten them with an off-leash dog? We found it very frustrating to have our dog on a leash, and to encounter badly behaved off-leash dogs. We had more than a few terrifying moments with small fluffies who who came after our dog in full attack mode. Just because a dog is small does not mean he or she cannot harm a larger dog who is on leash, or is not capable of inflicting a bite on a runner or walker who is minding her own business. I got attacked by two small, fluffy dogs last week, and one of them ripped my pants and broke the skin on my calf. So frustrating. No matter how wonderful a dog is to its family members, strangers can be attacked. Thanks for this article! I hope the information in it will avoid many unfortunate situations for dogs, their owners and other people! Report
Our dog that died in march loved to go for walks too. She was half basset hound and half beagle. She loved to snoop and smell or sniff stuff too and she was a very friendly dog. We always had her on a leash. Report
I hope everyone really has their dog checked out by a vet! Way too many people out there dragging poor dogs along with them, looks awful and the dog owner ignores the dog. Report
Good suggestion, however, you need a well behaved dog for this to work! Report
Thanks for the suggestions. Report
thank you for the article Report
I take my German Pinscher with my daughter and me. I cannot run, but when my daughter comes with me, she will usually run him down the block.

I feel so much better when he is with us because of safety. He is only 25 pounds, but once when a large dog, the size of a lab, attacked us; he quickly went between the other dog and my daughter, acting like a shield.

I just have to say one thing. Be respectful. Many people in my neighborhood walk their dogs around my house and they are usually pretty good, but I wasn't happy when one dog left a big pile in front of my mailbox. I also use a leash. My dog is small, but nobody knows him like I do and I want others to feel just as comfortable as I am. Report
Did you know that dogs are not meant to run with you. Multi-tasking by exercising them at the same time is not a good thing as most people sweat and dogs do not - once you hit an endorphin high are you really aware if your dog is panting and needs to stop - probably not. Or if you go to far are you prepared for a rest period so they can go home. Many larger otherwise active breeds (labs, retrievers, even running dogs - many are sprinters and not distance runners and they do need exercise just not with you. This becomes even truer when people bike with their dogs - don't get me started. Vigorous walking OK - as a young Dog Taos could do about 5 miles with me - on a leash and yes, walking but we made great time. This lasted only 3 years - then it was a big drop 3.5 and now with neuro problems walking is hard for him too. Report
I take my shih Tzu for walks on trails all the time. He waits all day long to be asked for the do you want to go for a WALK?? Heck yeah he says as he runs to the door with his leash! I live with poop bags in all my pants. Ever find yourself having to pull coins out of your pocket but first out comes an used poop bag?? Lol But seriously though..my dog is always on a leash. It irritates me to round a corner on the trail to find an owner whose dog or dogs are running at me. I have no idea if they are friendly or not! Then the owner will say something like we'll I thought I could just let them run. Like its their personal trail! Report
I have two dogs, and I do take them out for short jogs with me. My male dog can be a little unpredictable around other dogs, so I have my pair linked together with a buddy leash so they kind of restrain each other. Also, when I get to yards where I know there is a dog that might set Benny off I always slow down to a walk and pull them right up next to me. Report
I logged many miles with my Rottweiler, especially when I was training for a marathon a few years ago. If it was cold, she was happy to run as far as I was going, even on 15-18 mile runs. We both had to build up to that distance, but she was a real trooper. Report
I will walk/jog/run with my boyfriend's Dorkie (Dachshund Yorkie mix). He is 7 years old and gets super excited as soon as he sees the leash and harness come out. He pulls really hard on the leash when I first take him out, making it difficult to even lock the door with him pulling. Our first round we always end up running, then we start to slow to jog/walk for the second round around the block, and then we just walk the rest of our rounds around the neighborhood. I try to get him to walk on the grass, but he doesn't seem to like it unless he is going to use the restroom. Report
Our dog is an excellent walker. He loves his walks and has had no problems w other dogs or people for that matter. He doesn't get spooked by the garbage truck or other loud vehicles. It's a real treat taking a walk with him Report
I have a 3 year old dachs-ador (lab/dachsund) and a 10 year old Shih tzu. They both enjoy a 2-mile fast walk with me... now that I have a stroller for the Shih tzu! (I bought a cheap umbrella stroller ($15) and modified the seat so he wouldn't fall out. He just lays down and lets the wind blow through his ears.) Added bonus: the stroller gives me a place to hang my cell phone, water bottle and doggie bag. Report
I have a 3-year old German Shepherd/Huskie mix. He loves running, but apparently the shepherd part in him means that he also enjoys play-biting my calves to try to get me to run faster or in the direction he prefers. When I want to go for a jog, I have to take his toy with us to keep his teeth otherwise occupied or at least grab a stick that he can carry.
Also, when we go jogging after dark, I got him reflective gear with a reflective leash and an LED collar. There are more and more bikers near my home and unfortunately they usually do not use any bike lights and seem to prefer to ride on sidewalks instead of on the bike paths that are 2-3 metres to the side. Even though there are street lights everywhere, it's better to be safe than sorry. I already had one accident when a biker drove almost straight into my dog's leash, he was texting at the time (though why would someone ride a bike after dark and not use bike lights and veer off the bike path because of texting and still insist that it was somehow my fault I have no idea, fortunately nothing serious happened other than a brief shouting match and a few bruises). Report
Great write!! So informative and helpful!! Thanks so much!! Report
My dog knows and follows all necessary off-leash commands perfectly but I still put his leash on when I see people coming just for their comfort. Our largest problem comes from dogs without fences (invisible or real) that do not respect their property border and come running after us. I've walked many strange dogs home using my dog's leash. One time my dog was bitten, though. Let's worry less about dogs walking with their owner under total verbal control and more about controlling the wild ones in our own front yard. Report
I just started taking my dogs for walks about a month ago (I've got a large yard so I've never really *needed* to take them for walks), and I've created a monster! In a good way, but...

Both dogs get excited when I pick up their leashes, but the little one, an 8 year old chihuahua, goes NUTZ as soon as he realizes we're going for a walk. Once they're leashed and we're out and about, they're both fine, but, man! The little guy gets so excited that I'm afraid he's gonna blow a gasket! ;-)

I'm also very careful about temperature - I figure that if I'm hot, they're hotter, since they're wearing fur coats and all. Sometimes that means waiting till evening for full-night before I take them out,but they don't care. They're just happy to be out and about, and their excitement makes me want to keep doing it. Report
I have a 12 year old Australian Cattle Dog and she loves running, but definitely NOT when it is hot. When she was a puppy, I went out of my way to call her over to me and then poke and prod at her. This is really helpful for when she get's thorns in her paws. I also supplement her the same way I supplement myself so when we run we both take fish oil and glucosamine. It makes a huge difference. If it's been rigorous and I have to rub my legs out, I also give her a puppy massage which of course she grunts and moans through and you should see the love her eyes! Because we are running offroad for the most part, I got her vaccinated for rattlesnake bites. The last safety precaution is pepper spray. I couldn't get myself into carrying if for my own protection but after my dog was attacked twice by other dogs I started carrying it so I could break up an altercation if it got really serious. Report
Great article. I take my dog (German Pin mutt) on walks, often off the leash. He had a great trainer who trained him to walk next to me and he does so dutifully, but he immediately gets leashed when I see other people so that they don't get nervous. He never poops on our walks, though I usually have him walking too fast to do anything.

That said, I live in an area with very few cars, people or animals to contend with. I also keep a close eye on my dog when I do walk to keep track of any changes. He has never left my side. My other dog-walking neighbors do the same. It is quite comforting. Report
Before and during walks with my dogs in the summer, I always lay the palm of my hand flat on the sidewalk or pavement. If it's uncomfortably hot to my hand, my dogs don't go. Report
I have cats. They don't care much about running. Report
I walk with my dog. I take water & a poop bag with me. Report
i have a 2 year old german shepherd, is it too far to run five miles with her six days a week? will it cause her to have hip problems? Report
Another reposted article from 2/8/2012 Report