Running With Your Dog: Tips for Your Next Outdoor Adventure
You're ready to explore that new public running path or spend the afternoon on a state park trail. As you grab your sneakers and water bottle, you notice your dog giving you an inquisitive look. What are you up to, dear human? It would be amazing to have your pup's company, but is it healthy? Is running with your dog a good idea?
The quick answer is yes! Here's how.
The Benefits of Running with Your Dog
First off, it's fun to spend time outdoors with your fur buddy. Watching her sniff the air, explore the landscape, and wag her tail with happiness is a mood booster for you both! Runner's World® notes, running with a dog provides mental enrichment. The stimulating environment and change of scenery help reduce her boredom and stress level.
Second, running with your pup means you're exercising. Regular movement helps you both maintain mental and physical health.
Seeing your canine companion get excited when you reach for your running shoes is a solid motivator to get out the door.
Finally, a run with your pup equals quality time together. These bonding moments bring you closer.
What Types of Runs Are Good for Dogs?
Before starting a new exercise routine, visit your doctor and veterinarian. Running is more active than your daily dog walk, which means it puts more stress on the muscles, joints, and heart. Physical exams help you know how much exercise is appropriate based on your current health conditions and ages.
Never run with a puppy. Her bones, tendons, and ligaments are still growing and so are more susceptible to injury. For most breeds, it's best to wait until they're at least 1 1/2 to 2 years old before hitting the track.
A healthy young or middle-aged working-class or sporting breed dog has excellent endurance and should be able to keep up with you. Start slowly and build up your distance. Increase the difficulty of the running course, from flat terrain to steeper hills. To ensure your pupper feels her best, offer her a supplement to help support her mobility and joint functions.
Of course, runners of all types — human and canine — can get injured. You wear supportive, protective running shoes, but your dog is running 'barefoot'. The best runs for pups are on soft surfaces such as grass, soil, and sand. Running on hard surfaces such as asphalt, concrete, gravel, and rocks can be stressful on a doggo's body. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), that "can put a lot of stress on your dog's body and can put them at risk of injury to their legs, paws or paw pads."
What Types of Dogs Are Good for Runs?
In general, larger dogs with longer legs, such as border collies, dalmatians, and golden retrievers, can run greater distances. Smaller dogs with shorter legs, such as terriers, are more suited to shorter runs of 3–5K. Short-snout dogs like boxers, pugs, and bulldogs struggle to breathe when exerting themselves, per the AVMA. These dogs are better suited to join you on your rest day walk.
While you may be ready to go in every season, it's not fair to expect your pup to be an all-weather running fanatic. Some breeds — think huskies — are more predisposed to running in the cold, and you can't expect them to run in the summer heat with their thick fur coats. On the other hand, if your running partner is a smooth-coated greyhound, be sure to bundle her up in winter with a doggie sweater. Boots can protect many pups from skin-irritating ice melt products and slippery ice. (Booties may also be helpful in summer when sidewalks get scorching hot.)
Speaking of gear, don't forget to grab a leash and comfortable harness. For runs in town and public spaces, adhere to leash laws. Opt for a belt-style leash if you want to keep your hands free. Hate leashes? Look for parks or beaches with designated off-leash dog areas.
If running is a new hobby for you and your pup, the American Kennel Club suggests mastering loose leash walking first. Then, your pal won't run across your path and trip you with her leash; and when you increase your speed, you won't have a leash tugging between you. You can use verbal commands to help your fur buddy know what's expected. Try "walk" for slow movement, and as you build endurance, use a phrase like "let's go" to signal it's time to pick up the pace.
Prep for a Successful Outdoor Run
You likely already have a go-to packing list for your runs. Be sure to include bottled water and snacks for your running budding because she will want a drink as much as you do when you pause to catch your breath. Of course, you should have doggie waste bags in your pocket. Cleaning up after your pup is always a must, even if it interrupts your run.
During your run, keep an eye on your buddy. If she starts panting vigorously, slows down, or flat-out refuses to move, she's probably overexerted. You need to stop running. If she starts limping or appears stiff or sore, she might have an injury. Pause and check it out. If she exhibits excessive panting, confusion or disorientation, vomiting, bright red gums, or if she collapses, she may have heatstroke and needs to go to the emergency room. If you can't evaluate the situation, a visit to the vet is a good idea!
Are you and the doggo ready to hit the ground running? Do a little light walking (even if it's from the car to the trailhead or around the backyard) to warm up those muscles. Here's to bonding with your pet and focusing on healthy activities for the two of you.