9 Tips to Keep Your 4-Legged Running Buddy Happy
You want to go for a run with your dog? Or have you already been running with your furry friend for a while? Either way, there are always a lot of questions that pop up about running with a dog, such as:
- How soon can I start running with my puppy?
- What should I pay attention to when I go running with my dog?
- What are the best breeds to run with?
- What temperatures are dangerous for my dog?
- How can I protect my dog’s paws?
Dog expert Manuel Kregl answers these questions and more below.
9 Helpful Tips for Running with your Dog
1. Preparation is key
The skeleton of most dog breeds is fully grown after approximately 1 year. That’s when you can start taking your (healthy) dog out for regular runs. Just like for us humans, it’s all about preparation and training. During the first year, your dog should get used to walking and running by your side. Jog for a few hundred meters when out for a walk from time to time. As soon as your dog stays by your side, you can start increasing the running distance step by step.
Good to know:
A Magyar Viszla or a Dalmatian are natural born runners, whereas a pug or bulldog might have difficulties breathing. But also smaller breeds like Terriers, Shelties, or Chihuahuas — to name just a few — are great companions for runners. Especially for bigger breeds, however, I recommend doing a health and HD (hip dysplasia) check.
2. Warm-up or dry runs
If you take your beloved dog out for a run, your responsibility increases too. Only a well-trained and socialized dog will result in a relaxed run for other road users. Not only do you and your dog have to keep calm, but it needs to be used to the leash, accept guidance from its owner, react to his or her commands, and cope with stimuli presented by other dogs.
Therefore running with a dog requires extensive preparation. Despite being dynamic, the activity requires calmness and structure. “The dog must remain calm while running and focused on its owner,” says Manuel. His pro tip: You need to practice this in a static environment first to make it work in a dynamic environment.
Your dog’s ability to follow certain commands is vital for a relaxed run-walk. Immediate reaction to commands, stopping and learning to move within a specific radius around its owner are the most important ones.
3. Kids love rituals — dogs do too
You’re grabbing your jacket to head outdoors and your dog is going crazy? We all know that. Repeating the same routine every time before a run helps your dog keep calm. Plus, you need to keep calm yourself as well.
Preparation routines or rituals can include: putting on the harness, leashing your dog, having it sit next to you and wait for your go -— and then go.
Special running harnesses show your dog that you’re about to go for a run and it knows what to expect. Chest harnesses are ideal for running dogs. Even if retractable leashes are pretty popular, they’re not great when it comes to running. Choose a 2 to 3 meter leash — with reflectors and maybe also a shock absorber instead. If you’d rather run with free hands, you could get a belly strap or cross-body leashes. Note: leashes which are attached to your legs are not recommended for runners.
4. Be mindful
Running with a dog requires a lot of dedication from both owner and dog. Many distractions are waiting for you: people, kids, other dogs, other animals, cars, bikes… Therefore focus on your dog and set your own pace or distance goals aside. Especially in the beginning your four-legged friend needs all your attention. Does your dog like it, follow you or lag behind?
According to dog pro Manuel, it is essential to closely observe your dog and make sure you don’t put your own runner’s enthusiasm above your dog’s needs.
5. Temperature check: Ice, Ice Baby or Sun Is Shining?
Do you want to head out for a run despite rather low temperatures? Jogging along with your dog is safe as long as the temperature ranges somewhere between -10 and +15°C or 15 and 60°F. For higher temperatures make sure you run in the shade, for example in the woods. Also early morning or late evening runs are an option during hot summer months. Never head out for a run in blazing sunshine — your dog might suffer from heat stroke! Remember, dogs cope far worse with heat than we do due to the reduced number of sweat glands.
6. Running route? Paw-friendly please!
This one’s easy: the more cushioned the ground, the better. Forest soil, meadows or sand (the latter being a great training ground for both humans and dogs!) are ideal. Dog paws are highly sensitive and can get sore on hot asphalt in the summer.
Get boots for your dog! Or protect your dog’s feet with a paw balm by applying it both before and after a run.
7. More active = more food?
As a general rule, you don’t have to adjust your dog’s menu if you’re taking it out for a run two to three times a week. As long as it’s getting high-quality food anyway. There’s no need to increase the protein content either — between 21% and 24% is great. As always, the best way to know is to observe your dog: if it’s clearly more hungry or losing weight, you can slightly increase the food rations.
Providing enough liquids before and after, and maybe even during a run is vital. Cool water is the best choice. If you’re lucky enough to run along a small river, your dog will be more than thankful to jump in, especially if you have a Retriever!
8. Also dogs can have sore muscles
Yep, even dogs can suffer from sore muscles. A dog’s muscle metabolism is actually not very different from ours. How do you notice that your four-legged friend is sore? It might have difficulties getting up and display less “graceful” movements. Just like humans, sore muscles in dogs usually show after two days.
In this case, give your friend a break.:
Do you really want to take your dog for a run while it’s suffering from pain? This might lead to negative associations (running = pain). To avoid sore muscles from the start, make sure your dog gets used to the activity gradually.
9. “Give me a break:” how to read signals
Give your dog several short breaks during a run to allow it to rest, breathe, sniff, and drink some water. If you have the possibility, you can make your dog really happy by letting it run free for a bit.
If you notice any of the following signs of exhaustion, immediately take an extended break: your dog refuses to run; heavy, rapid panting; extremely pulled back lips; dark red tongue or excessive drooling.
Your dog isn’t tired after the run…?
Jogging is a great way for dogs to get in a workout and stay active. If you’re wondering why your dog’s not sleeping soundly in its bed after an hour of running, you might want to give it some mental challenges, too, such as regular cognitive activities like nose work or search games.
We hope these tips are useful — think about taking your 4-legged friend with you on your next run!
About Manuel Kregl:
Manuel has been a behavioral consultant, coach, and