How to Start Running with Your Dog – 6 Tips from a Dog Trainer

Running with Your Dog

Running with your dog is a perfect opportunity to get fitter and spend more time working out, bonding with your dog.

Not only does it increase the bond with your faithful friend, running improves the strength of a range of muscles, none more so than your heart.

As we run, our muscles demand oxygen, our heart must pump the oxygenated blood around our body. The more we run, the more our heart pumps. Our heart adapts over time and becomes stronger; much stronger.

Before you reap the rewards of running with Fido, there are a few things to consider. Here we will give you some top tips for running with your dog, how it impacts on their daily exercise requirements and look at some of the best breeds built for running.

Six Professional Tips for Running with Your Dog

How to Start Running With Your Dog

Just like most of us wouldn’t wake up tomorrow and think it was a good idea to go and run a marathon with no training, we shouldn’t expect our dogs to either.

First Run Plan

When introducing running with your dog, start slow. If you’re new to running, this is important for you too. As we’ve mentioned, we are putting demands on the body that it just isn’t used to.

Start with a ten-minute run with walking intervals every two minutes necessary:

  1. Run for two minutes at a 10/minute per mile pace (6mph)
  2. Walk for one minute
  3. Run for two minutes at a 10/minute per mile pace (6mph)
  4. Walk for one minute
  5. Run for two minutes at a 10/minute per mile pace (6mph)
  6. Walk for one minute
  7. Run for two minutes at a 10/minute per mile pace (6mph)

Increase to 20-minute runs with walking intervals gradually becoming longer and longer apart, remember to always rest where necessary. Don’t worry about the distance to start with.

Can You Speak?!

Watch your dog’s behavior – is he coping with running? He should be panting but not winded. Excessive panting is a sign he has done too much. Are you coping with the speed, can you still speak? This is crucial. If you can’t speak, you can’t command your dog.

Use a Harness Leash

Most owners who run with their dogs tend to keep their dog on a leash. They will usually invest in a harness with a short, slightly elasticated type leash. This is often attached to a walking belt, so you have your hands free. This keeps Fido close but lessens the chance of jolting you with any sudden movements. You’ll have a better experience of running if your dog is leash trained and doesn’t pull excessively.

Top-Tip

We wouldn’t recommend running with a dog who isn’t leash trained as it will be too challenging. Fido will pull because he’s running and he may also cross over in front of you or run off to the side; stay alert, most owners who have been running with their dog will fondly recall an occasion they ended up tripping over Fido or being dragged through a muddy puddle!

Release Those Happy Hormones

When we exercise, we release endorphins, known as happy hormones.

Some describe this feeling as euphoric which energizes us. Dogs release the same hormones too, so they have a new-found energy. Interestingly, it is believed that these responses aren’t found after mere walking, so in fact, a running dog is a happier dog.

Watch Fido’s behavior and his body language for signs that he isn’t coping with being a running buddy.

Trail Running with Your Dog

You may notice that Fido prefers running in certain locations – some dogs love trail running. They experience the sights and sounds of nature, it is often quieter running on trails too. Be mindful of the wildlife you come across when running trails. You run the risk of Fido chasing them or even Deer or Foxes posing a threat to him.

Speak with rangers or fellow trail runners for some safe routes.

City running poses its own risk, keep Fido on a short leash and be mindful of running around corners. Highly reactive dogs have dragged owners into streets wanting to chase something on the other side so be realistic about your dog’s personality and temperament and whether it is in fact safe to run.

Pack Some Water

Whenever you head out on a run, ensure you take water with you; regardless of the climate. Although dogs don’t sweat like humans, water does contribute to regulating body temperature and helps them cool down.

It also supports the transport of nutrients around the body; which happens a lot quicker when you are making demands on the body.

Be mindful with large dog breeds and don’t allow them to gulp large quantities of water. When dogs are gulping large quantities of water, they will take in excessive amounts of air whilst gulping. This has been known to contribute to the development of bloat where the dogs stomach fills with gas, fluid or food making it expand.

On the subject of keeping Fido safe, let’s see how running can fit in with their daily exercise requirements without overdoing it.

How Much Exercise Do Dogs Need?

Exercise Requirements for a Dog
A dog should not be exercised until they are fully matured.

If you have a puppy, you may as well stop reading this article here. It is not advised to run with your dog until they have fully matured. This will vary depending on the breed:

  • Toy and Small Dog Breeds (e.g. Havapoos or Chiweenies) will be fully matured when they are around 12 months old
  • Medium sized breeds (e.g. Puggles) will mature from between 12 – 18 months of age
  • Large or Giant breeds (e.g. Russian Bear Dogs) won’t mature until between 18 months and two years old

This is all to do with a puppy’s growth plate. These plates calcify and get stronger, however, sometimes areas of cartilage develops at the end of their bones, over time, due to over-exercise or trauma before they have fully hardened. This can result in deformity and weakness. It is thought that over exercise during growth can be a risk factor in the development of hip dysplasia.

The General Rule of Thumb

When exercising puppies; exercise no more than 5 minutes per month of age. So if your puppy is 4 months old, a 20 minute walk is perfect. To avoid any potential trauma to developing growth plates and bones, no stair climbing, jumping in and out of trunks of cars, or running is advised until fully matured.

Not only do we have to consider their skeletal system, we also must be mindful of the demand exercise puts on the rest of the body.

As we have mentioned, when dogs run, we are asking their heart to pump a lot more blood around their body to get oxygen to their muscles. This puts extra pressure on their lungs to take in oxygen and subsequently the whole body to respond. Whilst young dogs haven’t fully developed their skeletal system, their immune system is also compromised; their potential for inhaling pathogens is significantly increased through the rapid breathing.

Just like humans, some dogs are just better at running than others. Whilst there are no studies which have concluded how much exercise is necessary for dogs, it is generally decided on a breed to breed basis.

We know that sled dogs have a unique anatomy for travelling long distances at a constant speed; they have more slow twitch muscle fibers than the fast twitch fibered greyhound. Greyhounds were bred for incredible speed, so they need short bursts of intense energy.

Sled dogs also have a longer muzzle which enables efficient inhalation. For that reason, we know that dolicocephalic breeds like the wolf hounds and deer hounds are better choices for running than brachycephalic breeds like the Pug, French Bulldog and Shih Tzu.

Brachy breeds aren’t great at regulating their body temperature; due to their short muzzle and flat faces, so these guys are more likely to over-heat during exercise. Similarly, older dogs aren’t as efficient at cooling themselves down, so you should be mindful if considering running with your older companion.

There is also the chance that pre-existing health conditions can affect your dog’s ability to run; for example, any joint or bone conditions such as arthritis, heart conditions or respiratory issues. If you are considering introducing running to your routine, speak with your veterinarian to ensure your dog is healthy enough to do so.

So, which dogs are best for running with? We have put together a list of the six best dogs for runners.

Six Best Dogs for Runners

1. Alaskan Malamute and Siberian Husky

Malamute and Husky

Whilst lumping the Malamute and Husky together is a pet hate for all sled dog owners, we just didn’t want to leave either of these impressive breeds off this list.

Not surprisingly, being historic workers, both the Malamute and Husky are brilliant running buddies. Malamutes were freighters and Huskies were racers.

Malamutes are a larger dog breed with more muscles whereas the Husky is smaller and faster. Both of these workers are tireless – ideal for long runs!

Being classed as large breeds, follow our earlier top tips to avoid over-exercising whilst too young.

Standard Poodle

Standard Cream Poodle

Another worker is the Poodle. Renowned for its water fowl hunting capabilities, Poodles are incredible swimmers. Interestingly, this stamina and endurance transfers brilliantly to running. One of the reasons why they are a common mixed breed dog.

Being highly intelligent and trainable, and a frequently the Poodle is a perfect running companion.

They learn your pace quickly and the size of the standard poodle means his gait matches yours. If you’re planning on running a lot of trails, keep his coat trimmed short their coat is a magnet to mud and brash.

Labrador or Golden Retriever

Three Labrador Retrievers on a Door Step

Is there anything the Labrador isn’t good at? Both the Labrador and Golden Retriever are well suited to running thanks to their working history, willingness to please and ease to train.

Asking your Labrador to run at the side of you is relatively easy to achieve, just keep a bag of small treats on your hip. As we know, labs follow their nose. Labs just love being with their owner, so they will follow you anywhere!

Beagle Dog

Beagle Dog

You may be surprised at this one, but Beagles are actually incredible running buddies.

They are not renowned for their recall, don’t make the mistake of forgetting your leash. When on a leash, Beagles are in it for the long haul. Historic hunters, Beagles have an unrelenting energy.

Happy, Merry and Curious, the Beagle is just happy being busy. Ranking 5 out of 192 for popularity with the American Kennel Club, this popular pooch is certainly a contender in an active lifestyle.

German Shorthaired Pointer

German Shorthaired Pointer

A breed who loves vigorous exercise, the German Shorthaired Pointer is perfect for those long runs.

Their intelligence makes them super trainable, making them suited to running, swimming, agility and flyball. Often described as boundless, some owners say that running is a key part of their routine.

Despite their high energy, GSPs do have a relaxation phase, once their day is done, they love nothing more than curling up on the sofa.

Pitbull: Red nose or Blue nose

American Pitbull Terrier Sleeping

Thanks to their working history, Pitbull dogs have an unrelenting energy when called upon. This makes them loyal running buddies.

Their high intelligence makes them a dream to train; they really do just want to please their owner. Suited for short brisk walks, or those long endurance runs on the trails, the Pit is just happy being with you.

Some Pit types do have shorter muzzles so keep in mind the increased likelihood of overheating when running and always remember to take water out on runs.

Summary

Not only is running beneficial to us humans, it also has similar effects on the mood and body of our faithful friend. Running can also improve the bond with our pooch, it’s all time spent together after all.

It is essential to introduce running slowly, increase time and distance over a period of time. Be mindful of the age of your dog and how over-exercising can impact their skeletal development. Also, be mindful of the breed of dog and how dolicocephalic breeds are generally more suited to running, whereas brachycephalic breeds are more likely to struggle.

Speak with your veterinarian if you are considering introducing running to your exercise routine to ensure no pre-existing health condition will impact on your dog’s ability to do so and watch his behavior for signs he isn’t coping.

Let us know your favorite running tips in the comment area below.

John Woods Autho Bio Picture
John Woods is the founder of All Things Dogs, member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, graduate in Animal Behavior & Welfare and recognized author by the Dog Writers Association of America.

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