How to Run with a Dog – 7 Tips for Safe & Fun Runs
Running with a dog probably seems easy enough.
After all, dogs absolutely love being active.
So, if the same goes for you, it would seem like putting your four-legged friend on a leash and going for a jog would be a no-brainer.
But before you do, let’s review some helpful tips for taking your dog for a run – safely.
How to Take Your Dog Running – 7 Simple Tips
The truth is that, yes, running with your dog isn’t exactly rocket science.
And yet, plenty can actually go wrong.
So, here are the seven steps you need to make sure you take before heading out for a jog with your four-legged running partner.
1. Know What Kind of Running Your Breed Is Capable Of
Alright, first and foremost, not all dogs are great at running – at least not for long distances or prolonged periods of time.
For example, if your dog has brachycephalism (e.g. bulldogs, Boston terriers, boxers, etc.), that kind of exercise could do far more harm than good.
Other dogs are prone to hip dysplasia like Saint Bernards, German shepherds, and Great Danes. Though these dogs can be extremely energetic, taking them for long jogs may trigger or aggravate these issues.
If you’re unsure if your canine can join you for runs, check with your vet. Even if you are positive your pup will be fine, it never hurts to have your veterinarian give them a quick onceover just to make sure.
Dog Breeds That Are Usually Good Running Partners
That being said, some dog breeds are renowned for making great jogging partners. According to the American Kennel Club, here are the best dogs for runners:
- German Shorthaired Pointer
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
- English Springer Spaniel
- Doberman Pinscher
- American Foxhound
- Belgian Malinois
Again, still probably a good idea to check with your vet first as no dog is impervious to issues that could make running difficult. A little later I’ll cover some common examples that you’ll want to watch out for because they could make long runs a big problem for your pup.
Age Matters, Too
Just like with humans, age catches up to our four-legged friends, too.
There’s no magic number when running becomes a bad idea, but keep an eye out for age-related issues that might manifest in trouble walking at a normal pace. If those kinds of problems arise, running should be out of the question.
But here’s the thing: you shouldn’t take your dog running when they’re still just a puppy, either.
Until they’re fully grown, their joints aren’t completely developed. Taking them for runs can create minor issues that become major problems later on in life – like arthritis and other joint problems.
Again, there’s no magic number, but small dogs typically take a year until they’re full-sized. For medium-sized dogs, it usually takes about a year-and-a-half. Large breeds may require two years before going for long jogs becomes safe for their joints.
2. Don’t Run Before You Can Walk
Alright, so let’s say your dog is one of the breeds that has been cleared for running, is fully grown, and your vet has even signed off on joining you for jogs.
That still doesn’t mean you’re ready to go on a run together.
If your dog isn’t at least moderately obedient, then taking them for a run may not end well – especially if they’re a larger, stronger breed.
It probably goes without saying, but if your dog isn’t always a good listener when they’re walking with you, running with them is going to be tough.
At the very least, they should be a good walker who responds to the command to “stay” or “heel.”
Otherwise, all it’s going to take is the smallest distraction – much less something like a squirrel – and a powerful enough dog could pull you right off course while you’re both running at top speed. That would probably end your jog prematurely (and painfully).
Assuming your dog is obedient for a run, start with short distances first. Run a couple hundred feet at a time to see how they respond to the faster cadence.
This will also give you a chance to see if your dog may have any underlying health issues that you hadn’t noticed up until this point.
3. Use a Hands-Free Dog Leash
Hands-free dog leashes have become all the rage in recent years among active owners.
The main reason is self-explanatory: it’s just far easier to run with your pet when you have your hands free. You can pump your arms like normal that way. You don’t have to worry about needing to switch hands as your buddy moves around, either.
And if your dog is the type who sometimes pulls every now and then, It will be much easier to handle this kind of behavior with a hands-free dog leash. You can still grab the leash to pull back if necessary, but your bodyweight will be a much better anchor to resist that initial lunge.
Speaking of dogs who are prone to wandering, I would strongly recommend against a retractable leash. For one thing, the handle is heavy enough that it can become uncomfortable to hold over the duration of a run.
It’s also much too easy for dogs to take advantage of any slack in the leash during a run. While you definitely want your leash to have some slack – so your dog is running comfortably and not overexerting themselves by trying to pull you forward – too much slack can become dangerous if they decide to bolt during a run.
4. …and a Running Harness
Don’t use a typical dog leash when taking your furry friend for a run, either.
Those leashes may be okay for walking, but more and more, most experts insist that running harnesses are a much better choice.
Once again, let’s turn to the American Kennel Club for advice. According to the AKC, the many advantages of dog harnesses include that they are:
- More comfortable for your dog
- Less likely to injure the throats of small dogs who may tug
- Less likely to cause the leash to get pulled under their legs
- Better for alleviating pain in dogs that have back problems
While it may take a little time to get used to putting the harness on your dog every time you want to go for a run, the benefits are well worth it. And despite any initial protestations, your pup will get used to the process – especially once they realize that “harness” means “going outside for a run.”
5. Stay Off of Concrete
Ideally, you should opt to take your puppy pal running on trails as opposed to sidewalks or other concrete surfaces. Dirt paths will be far easier on their joints. In fact, the same is true for yours. Running on softer surfaces – like dirt, grass, and even sand – is better for both of you.
Furthermore, concrete and asphalt retain a lot of heat. These surfaces can easily be 40-60 degrees hotter than the temperature on the thermostat, making it extremely tough on your pup’s paws. If you have to run on asphalt or concrete, try to do so in the shade whenever possible.
The same goes for hot sand, so if you do decide to take your buddy on the beach, try to stick closer to the surf where the sand is wet and therefore cooler.
6. Check What the Temperature Will Be
Speaking of temperature, you should always check the thermostat before heading out on a run with your dog.
Even if you’ve taken them on 1,000 walks before, runs are different. In hot temperatures, the faster pace can easily lead to overexertion.
According to Vetsnow:
- 90+°F – These temperatures are dangerous for dogs of every size, breed, and age
- 81-89°F – Dangerous temperatures for all dogs but particularly so for larger breeds, those with flat faces, and puppies
- 75-80°F – Practice extreme caution, especially with big dogs, obese dogs, those with flat faces, and puppies
- 68-74°F – Heatstroke or breathing difficulties are a risk if the dog runs too much
- 60-67°F – Shouldn’t be a problem, but closely watch your dog if they’re large, obese, or have flat faces
- 53-59°F – Perfectly Safe
Every dog is different, though. To be safe, monitor your four-legged friend closely – especially during the initial runs – for warning signs that they’re overheated.
Obvious signs include things like vomiting and diarrhea.
But other symptoms could include lethargy, drooling, excessive panting, and extreme thirst.
To be on the safe side, bring water with you. This is easy if you wear a running belt that holds a water bottle. There are even a number of options that hold more than one. This way, you can take breaks so both you and your dog are properly hydrated during runs on warmer days.
While considerably less dangerous, running in cold weather can still pose its own threats to you and your dog. You’ll need to be extra careful about spotting icy patches because if you slip, it could end up hurting your puppy-pal just as much.
7. Watch for Common Health Problems That Dogs Can Develop
Lastly, keep an eye out for any warning signs that running is taking a toll on your dog.
One common consequence of being overrun is a collapsed trachea, which you’ll notice if your dog starts coughing – often sounding like the “honking” sound a goose makes. Yorkies and other small breeds are most susceptible to this problem, but you shouldn’t have to worry about it much if you use a harness instead of a leash.
Laryngeal Paralysis is another problem that can occur. If your dog has it, their panting will sound deeper and louder than normal. Some owners have even referred to the sound as “roaring.” The same may go for their barking.
Over time, arthritis can develop in dogs for a number of reasons. Running can definitely accelerate the process. While you won’t see any warning signs right away, this is something to watch out for as the years go on.
This is why I recommend you let your veterinarian know when you and your dog have become running partners. They’ll be able to diagnose any early warning signs that arthritis or other problems are developing.
Finally, check your dog’s paws when you get back from runs to make sure they didn’t suffer any cuts or other injuries.
Musher's Secret Dog Paw Wax can help keep your pup’s paws nice and safe during runs. You can even try dog boots during the winter to keep them warm and protect them from the salt that gets poured on roads and sidewalks to melt the ice.
Get Out There and Enjoy a Run with Your Dog
As you just saw, going for a run with your dog is fairly simple.
So long as your four-legged friend is already obedient, all you need is a running belt and hands-free dog leash to go for safe jogs. Then, just take the necessary steps (no pun intended) to make sure your pup is having as good a time as you are, and you can look forward to regular runs with your dog again and again.