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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I haven't gotten into running, but I have attempted to and have brought my dog along on those attempts. He's a half Jack Russell/half Italian greyhound, so he's a runner.

I have a walking bag that attaches to his leash that is great for holding bags, both new and used. It also has extra pockets to hold treats, and it was only $5 or so. I think all dog owners should have one because it makes clean up much easier and more convenient than just a jacket pocket. Report
I walk my dog, he would run as far and as fast as I would want to go, but he's a dachshund and would overtire on a long run. When we come home from our walk, we run from 2 houses down to our front door, and its enough for him. Report
I have a Daschund, We do short sprints ! Report
I have never been able to run due to weak ankles, but I just got a new cattle dog in January and we are walking together when we can. I like the blog and information that it has in it. Report
I am an obese old lady and it's hard for me to run, but I do trot off and on when I walk my little tiny dogs. They love it and we move together pretty well. Walk a little, trot a little!!! When I started at SparkPeople I thought I'd be thin enough in a year or so to run again without hurting myself, but I was wrong. I do enjoy a little trotting though :) Report
I have a manchurian chihuahua, she is only 3.9 #s, I was at 250#s when I started walking with her, I could maybe make it a block or two.. 11 months later I'm 162#s and Isabella Rosa and I jog about 4 to 5 miles (she can go about 8 blocks and then I pick her up) .. I carry her a lot because she is so tiny. I just purchased a puppy backpack for her so now she can go running with me and when she gets tired I can put her in that instead of carrying her...it has a portable water bowl i can use.. She really gets upset when I leave her home since I'm gone all day at work, so I'm glad I found the backpack a great compromise and she is happier going out with me.. Report
I have a Black Lab/Shepherd mix that I rescued last August partly to have a walking buddy, and she's the best! The shelter THINKS she is about 3-1/2, and she is a dream walking on leash--except she does like to stop and smell! She and I have been out almost every day for the past 8 months-she loves walks so much, I can't tell her we're staying home unless it's pouring! We don't run much, usually walk and jog., She is the most calm dog ever, and ignores most other dogs we run into, but last fall, she was attacked by a German Shepherd while we were walking by. The owner was there, but the dog paid no attention to her commands. My dog's skin was not broken, but she was limping for over a week, so I am very wary of unleashed dogs--even if the owner is with them. Report
Thank you for #4 and #10 . . . two of my big pet peeves with people that run with their dogs. Please be respectful of others! Report
Pay attentiont to the pads of your dogs paws. Surfaces can be too cold, too hot, too abrasive, etc. We wear shoes to protect our feet. Their paws, toes, and tonails need care as well. Report
Our one dog will seriously walk with me at my pace, not stopping to sniff and squat, but I can't take the other one, too, because it's more like a walk, stop, sniff, squat, repeat, if my goal is to do a serious walk. If we're going on a stroll, then I take them both so they both get some exercise. Report
My friend tried this with her dog. The problem was her dog wanted to stop and check out markings. So they would be happily running along, then suddenly the dog would come to a complete halt, jerking her onto her backside. She decided that Fido could run at the Dog Park and she would take her runs alone. Report
I love walking and running with my dogs. I have a Bluetick Coonhound who will run for short spurts with me but overall she really isn't a runner. Now, my Mountain Cur would go all day if I let him. We use our prong collars since my dogs are pullers given the opportunity. When it gets warm we go really early in the morning. We usually do this 5 to 6 times a week. Well... when we aren't currently drowning in water. Report
I have been running with my Golden Retriever/Yellow Lab mix since she was a puppy (concurrently with doing a Couch to 5k program). I told my vet my intentions, and she approved, with the caveat that I stop running as soon as she begins to lag behind, so that I didn't strain her joints. It worked out great for me and Kerri (my dog). She to this day will pull on her leash, even with a gentle leader (which still does enough to save our shoulders from injury- which was why we got one in the first place). However, when I go for runs that can be as long as 7 km now, she settles down into a trot right away. Because she is so big (she is of the big and leggy variety of Lab) she can pant the whole time I'm running, because its just not a fast pace for her, though she still gets a work out -she LOVES running with me! The only thing I have to watch out for is in fall, since she loves to bite at leaves as they blow by. Also, she wears a mini dog backpack, and carries her own baggies of droppings till the next garbage-can, since I can't stand to carry it running. (Don't worry, nothing else goes in there!) Report
The leash is absolutely imperative! I run with my dog all the time, and we come across other dogs, usually on leashes, but often not as well trained or controlled as my dog. He gets anxious around other dogs, and when we're waiting at a stop light and the other dog owner isn't keeping his or her dog away from mine, I worry that my dog might growl or nip out of fear. Just because your dog is friendly and wants to play doesn't mean mine wants to meet him! Report
My Muddy (a big rotty/hound/shepherd mix) use to love going to jogs with me. Now that he is 12 we go for short walks around the block before I go on my jogs because he loves his walks but can't go very far anymore. Report
My poor puppy is getting old but he loves his walks so I run and do my cool down walk with him. Report
My dog is the only running partner I have! She's a mix of german/australian shepherd and blue heeler, AWESOME running partner! We've been doing it for a little over a year now and definitely started off slow, but we are progressing nicely :D Report
My golden retriever and I just started running together, we're doing a couch 2 5k so we're starting off slowly. glad to read these tips, I'll be extra careful with him when the weather starts getting warmer! Report
I love to run and have had trouble training my dogs not to pull on the leash. On the recomendation of a dog trainer I purchsed a Gentle Leader collar to use in training my 8 month old Austailian Shepherd.. What a diffreence this has made! Now running with my dog is actually fun. I wish I would have know about this sooner. Report
I take my boy for walks which we both enjoy very much!

I'd love to run with him, but Shih Tzu's don't have a whole lot of running stamina, and those little legs can only go so fast! :) Report
Everybody PLEASE be careful running with your dog. I lost my Lab 4 years ago to heat stroke.
It was a cool spring evening with ambient air temperature around 60 degrees. He was 4 and used to running with me all the time. It was an unexpected and extremely sad situation. He was the best running partner anybody could ask for. So, from personal experience, take extreme care and caution when running with your pet. Read and understand the sings and symptoms of overheating in dogs, they are subtle and often overlooked. Make sure the are well hydrated, if they show the least little signs of anything unusual get them out of the heat and cooled down.
I do my walking with a Golden Retriever/Yellow Lab who is 2 years old. Both of us need to walk. Buddy is in decent shape, not overweight, but he doesn not have any endurance. He is ready to quit about the same time as me. I want to walk more than 10 minutes a day. Report
I have a mix. My dog is part Husky, Yellow Lab, German Sheperd. He has a very beautiful muscular body. He reminds us of a deer when he runs. Since we rescued him in the fall I do my best to get him out every day for a walk. I had started running with him in intervals. However I got sick and could not run so we had to return to walking. I am hoping to get running again with him for me, him and my daughter so he can run with her when she starts training again for Cross Country. Report
Rudy has been a member of our household for one year now. I've had more exercise than at any other time in my adult life because he insists on going for walks. It has been good for us both. Report
Really great and helpful blog. Thanks for the link to the information on Runner's World about different breeds running abilities. I have a whippet and laughed at key traits listed: "A medium-size, lean build, and a mental aptitude for running," That describes my Abbi just perfectly. She has 2 speeds-Super sonic and asleep! Report
I have a Pom and a Papillion - they love to walk with me. The older rescue chihuahua always seems eager to start, but he has a gimpy knee. Yesterday, he surprised me by walking the entire 4.25 miles(and that was a long walk) - he usually starts pulling & cringing and I pick him up and put him inside my hoodie jacket for about half of the 1.5 mile walks. He seems to like walking the last block or so on the home stretch - he prances with the others then! Oh, and I have a waist belt that their leashes are attached to, and they're all in harnesses so I can do a quick loft if needed. I really hate it when bicyclists ride up behind us on the sidewalk - no "behind you" or even "lookout!" - it makes the dogs all spazz - and the bikers act irritated that we're in their way. Jeesh! Report
Great article, all very good points! I am always afraid to read the comments and hear what people are doing to their dogs (like putting them in the back of a pickup, where they jump out and "go under the back tires". That's why you don't put them in the back of a pickup...) There are a lot of things that can go wrong and hurt your dog, so I appreciate these thoughtful tips to keep both the dogs and the runners safe. Report
I love this article and run with my dog. I have just started and he is doing well with it. He is a Lab, Shepherd, Husky mix so he has the best of all breeds. The one recommendation I have would be to tie the leash around your waist. You can also buy a belt that you attach your leash to. The shorter the leash the easier it is to break them in to stay right beside you. At first I have to let him sniff around a bit or else he tends to pull a lot. With having the leash tied around your waist it makes for a tougher workout. You have to use more of your body to control the run. Hope this comment helps someone!!! Report
My labra-dog loves to run. Runner's World said he'd be good for short brisk runs (10k or less) and long slow runs... The furthest he's gone with me is 4 miles b/c it was our first run together for a long time and I didn't want to run him too long b/c he had a broken hip on one side and cracked pelvis on the other side when he was 6 months (I thought a hip and pelvis were the same thing, but that's what our vet told us) when he jumped out of the back of the pickup and went under the rear tires and I worry about hip pain/arthritis.

At first he tugs and tugs, then he slows down, but still always has the leash pulled tight. I find my shoulder hurting before it's all said and done b/c I can't relax my arm when he's with me, so he doesn't go much. Report
I run with my American Bulldog. He is pretty good for a 5k but no more. If my husband and I go together...we need to stick together because our dogs doesn't like when we are not running the same pace. Report
My two shiba's love to run with me. They are on a leash till we get to the desert and then they run free while I run on the trail. It is probably a hilarious sight to observers to see these two dogs dragging me faster and faster to get to the desert! Report
great blog! Report
I would love to take my baby girl, a pit bull, for a run! However, she has other plans. Her plans include the couch and a pillow. For all that people that say these dogs are athletes in the dog world, with weight pull and agility, mine is a couch potato. Next dog, I'm only hoping that he/she wants to run. All that being said, it is the greatest thing to get kisses from Trisha as soon as I walk in the door after a solid run. :) Report
I would love to walk with my dog more but he his so strong that he takes me for a walk by the time I get home my knees, arms and hands are so sore from trying to control him that it takes me 2-3 days to get unsore. Have tried training but is listening to his own drummer. Report
Great info! I don't have a dog, but it always looks like so much fun to go running with one :)

I totally agree with your advice about leashing your dog - or at the least, having the dog VERY well controlled and responsive to voice commands. There is nothing that irks me more with running than getting chased down by a dog who is either unsupervised or where the owner isn't mindful of their behavior. Actually, sometimes it's downright scary! UGH!! Report
My golden retriver mix passed away just over a year ago, but she was my best exercise buddy. She didn't like running, but she was great on long hikes--even when it came to climbing moderately easy rock outcrops. She was just like me--no speed, but plenty of endurance, and we'd often camp out and hike 10 miles together. Now we have a cat--he likes to slalem my legs while I do yoga and walk under me like I'm a tunnel while I do my planks. I guess he's just a different sort of quality control. ;) Report
My 6yo Australian Shepherd Zoe is a great running partner. She is always ready to go and gets me moving on the days I don't want to exercise. How can I say no to her sweet face when she brings me socks "["! The vet ok~ed her to train for a 1/2 marathon and said she is in great shape.I am amazed at how many dogs just come running up to us w hen we are out. Report
I can't convince Sophie she's designed for long SLOW runs. She wants to run fast. A gentle leader leash helps me control her. I have no plans to chase squirrels during my runs, but without that Gentle Leader, that's exactly what we do! Report
I do not own any pets right at this time. All pets owners should have a copy of this. It would make it so much easier for all concerned. God Bless You and Have a Wonderful Week. Report
My dog Scooter loves running/walking the treadmill as long as I'm on the exercise bike next to her, she stays on the whole time I work out. The downfall is during the winter when we can't get outside and I use the treadmill, she sits by the door and whines or barks until I let her in to get on. I do use a leash on the treadmill so she is used to this when we are outside.

Scooter is a mixed breed, German Shorthair/Beagle and needs exercise for her energy level. Report
I have an Australian Kelpie who looooves to walk and run with me. She can really run like crazy, but when it's really hot I don't run her (thick coat).

Dangers for us, living in the city, is broken glass on the sidewalk. She's cut her pad once or twice on glass, so I'm always on the lookout for that. Other dogs she's friendly with, but it's easier for me to just cross the street so we don't get held up or distracted trying to meet new friends! If we're out walking at night, I wear a reflector/light on me. I need to get her one as well; she's black and hard to see sometimes.

Now I want to go home and hang out with my dog! Love her so much!! Report
I loved running with my dogs when I was a bit less fit. I go a bit fast for them now, the older one has arthritis in the hips and the younger has had surgery for a ruptured cruciate. I still love going on walks with them. I think it is important to mention that keeping them on leash is for their health as well as other runners. I have two big dogs and the number of small dogs that owners allow to run over to them amazes me. My dogs are well behaved but it only takes one bite from a big dog to sever a small dog's spinal cord or cause some nasty wounds. I think it is important to be aware of other people and dogs around you if they are going to go off leash and to be realistic in how well your voice control works. Even the best trained dog can still be naugthy from time to time! Report
I walk with my gr dane and shepherd mix on a leash they love to run but they are too fast for me so I leave that for my husband and they walk well with me in the mornings. Only problem is kids are so curious about the gr danes size I have to watch out they don't scare her as she will bark but is not agressive I always ask them to ck with their parents first then let the dogs smell them and walk up slowly. They usually cooperate. I prefer to take them to the dog park as they can run with other dogs and not worry about people that are fearful of their size. They can be a handful but are obedient Report
Don't own a dog as I dislike cleaning up after one and dealing with fleas. Do have three cats, but they don't like to run. Report
I decided to try going from walking the dogs to jogging / walking the dogs. They seemed to love it. My calves, not so much. Lots of soreness now at the front of my ankles. Spending some time this evening studying how many muscles are in the lower leg / foot, and reading about sprains. Definetly check with your doctor to get yourself cleared for the transition from walking to jogging too. Report
My Jack Russell loves it when I run intervals, but I haven't tried a continuous run yet, so I don't know how he will do. Sometimes he just isn't in a mood to run... then we walk instead. I don't mind. He walked 12.5 miles with me yesterday, so I know I am getting plenty of exercise and so is he! Report
I don't own a dog, but if I did this article would be of great use.

I personally think dogs should be on a leash when in public, it's scary to have a dog come running up to you (as has happened to me before) at full force, and not know if it wants to attack you or lick you.

My Boston Terrier, Roxy, is good for short runs mixed with walking. She can go about 3 miles at a very fast walk/run. We don't run when it is too hot out (80's and/or muggy). I have to be careful because at times she stops fast, then I have to stop fast. I ended up with plantar fasciitis a couple years ago because of the sudden stopping she did.
My son just got a pit bull pup (4 months old). She is perfect to run with. She is truly a runner's dream. She stays at my side a little bit behind me and runs my pace, even though she could run faster. I don't even feel like she is on the leash when we are running! I run her whenever I visit him and am slowly building up distance with her. I am currently training for a 10K, which, according to Runners World is the right distance for pit bulls. Report
Awe! My prissy, girly Chloe is a boston terrier who loves to walk and run but can not tolerate the heat or cold weather. I didn't think about that when we chose her. She is perfect breed for everything else. Hmmm, does this mean we need another friend to run with me? Just a little note : we live in the Fla Keys, The safe animal shelter takes their adoptable dogs to the old 7 mile bridge (which is perfect for running / walking and biking) every saturday. They allow you to walk or run with the dogs. It gives you an opportunity to get to know the dog and if you are compatable with them. My daughter and I have had so much fun with quite a few dogs and they get the opportunity to exercise and stay healty. Report
Scout, my 19 month old border collie cross kelpie is an excellent running partner!
We run off leash, sorry Nancy.
We run along creeks near our home and I am super aware of pedestrians, bike riders, etc and call him close when there is doubt.
The only problem dogs I have met, and only times I have had rough encounters myself has been with dogs ON leads.
I think owners must train their dogs gently and with focus on obedience and sociability.
I am shocked when I see people dragging their dogs along on leads, especially on bikes! It is so cruel and dangerous for all.
I would never bring my dog to a race, madness!
If we are in an unknown area, or in suburban streets or the city, Scout stays on lead, if we run at night I fit him with a flashlight so he is visible. We eased into longer distances over a year, this is important because puppies bones are growing fast and they can damage themselves, just like us humans. Report
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