9 Tips For Running With A Dog
Do you love taking your dog for a walk – while running? I do too. There are many reasons to combine your daily dog walks with your runs. I’ve already listed 18 of them in a blog post for you and after received lots of great pics (Thanks again! You might find yours in this post…), but also several questions like:
“Jack Russell, Dalmatian or Labrador – which breed is the best for runners?”
“How long were your first dog runs?”
“Where do I need to pay special attention when running with a dog?”
…to quote just a few. Since I’m not an expert in this field and since I approach my runs with my female Chihuahua, Mocca, rather intuitively. I decided to ask dog trainer and coach, Manuel Kregl, at Dogprofi for advice.
The “dog pro” works to help people enjoy their everyday lives together with their dogs in a relaxed manner. He’s your go-to expert if you’ve a dog displaying behavioural problems and knows the answers to your questions on challenging your dog and keeping it busy.
In our interview, he explained to me what to focus on and watch out for if you’re planning to take your family dog out for a run a couple times per week. “Dogs like to run, and they’re long-distance runners. This means running is natural to them,” says Manuel as I was accompanying him on his daily walk with his German shorthair pointer, Lotti.
My question about whether there’s a minimum age for dogs to go on a run with their owners was met with the following reply: “There’s no general rule. It always depends on the breed, on how often you plan to run, on the route and on your dog’s health. 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.”
Many more questions on running with a (wo)man’s best friend followed this first one, and dog pro Manuel answered all of them in a very patient manner (a vital characteristic of a dog trainer!). Here are nine tips from our talk:
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.
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 by its owner, react to his or her commands and withstand stimuli presented by other dogs.
Therefore running with a dog requires thorough preparation. Despite being dynamic, the activity needs calmness and structure. “The dog must remain calm while running and oriented towards 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 long leash – with reflecting parts 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 friends 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 a 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 apshalt in summer.
Pro tip: 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 dogs 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 “flowing” movements. Just like amongst humans, sore muscles in dogs usually show after two days.
In this case, give your friend a break. Do you really want to avoid talking 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
Grant your dog several short breaks during a run to allow it to rest, breathe, sniff (“read the paper,” as we say) 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; strong and fast panting; extremely pulled back chaps; dark red tongue or pale mouth mucosa.
And last but not least, Manuel gave me an extra tip for you: “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 it’s bed after an hour of running, you might want to focus on mental challenges too. Regular cognitive activities like nose work or searching games, for example.”
I must say that I really learned a lot from dog pro Manuel! To conclude this blog post, I want to share my favorite quote from our interview with you: “Ideally, owner and dog share the same attitude.”
Well, Mocca and I agree on at least one thing – we love our runs together!
I hope you found these tips as interesting and informative as I did and keep running (or try it out for the first time) with your dog. Have fun!
Bye for now,
PS: Has your dog ever run away and disappeared in the woods? GPS devices help you determine your dog’s location within seconds and get it back home safe and sound!