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Tips on Running with Your Dog

Searching for a running partner? Look no further than your 4-legged companion. 

I find that when I take my dog, Teton, on runs with me, my pace, endurance and mood improve. Plus, not only am I keeping myself healthy by exercising, I'm keeping Teton healthy and happy, too.

I've been blogging about dogs for more than a year now and have acquired a robust portfolio of knowledge surrounding dog behavior, health and training. Here are my tips for introducing your dog to running:

Running with your dog

Evaluate Your Situation
Before starting any exercise regimen with your dog, consult with your physician if you have any health concerns or haven't exercised regularly in a while. Visit your dog's veterinarian, too, for input on whether—based on your dog's medical history—your buddy is capable of starting an exercise routine that includes running. In general, dogs under 1 year of age (and sometimes even older) should not run because their bones are not fully developed. If you have a puppy or dog that isn't quite done growing, hold off on running until your vet gives you the green light.

Mind Your Manners
Your dog should come readily when called, regardless of your surroundings.
• Confirm that your dog is proficient in the wait, stay, sit, down and leave it commands.  Leave it becomes particularly helpful when passing dead rodents, cigarettes and mystery objects that smell deliciously delightful to your dog.
• One behavior that I find particularly important is having your dog sit and wait at a curb, stop sign or traffic light until you give the command that they may continue moving.  This allows you to maintain control of your dog when in an unfamiliar situation.
• If your dog has aggressive tendencies, work with them to eliminate undesirable behaviors before you consider walking or running on busy streets and trails.
Walking your dog

Master the Walk
If you and your dog haven't mastered the art of walking together, you won't be successful at running together. Work with your dog if he or she pulls, refuses to walk, relentlessly sniffs, marks excessively or is easily distracted. Remember that successful walking is you moving at a comfortable place with your dog walking at your side, adjacent to your hip.

Start Small
When you have determined that your dog is ready to practice running, ease them into it. Don't start, for example, with a 6-mile run around your neighborhood in 95-degree weather. Try to remember your feelings of uneasiness and exhaustion when you first started running, and respect that your dog is new to this sport.

When I introduced Teton to running, we first incorporated 3 minute intervals of jogging in our daily walks.  Once we found our cadence and I was confident in his ability to run for longer periods of time, we upped those intervals. Go at your dog's pace and don't hesitate to shorten your running intervals if your dog seems fatigued or uncomfortable.

Know Your Surroundings
If it's your first time out, don't take your dog to an unfamiliar location. It's best to start your dog running in your neighborhood, on the local community track or even on your own property if space allows. This will minimize distraction and allow both you and your dog to focus on the run. 

Respect the Rules
Introducing your dog to running on your community track is a great idea, especially if it's outside of school hours and not crowded. However, know and respect the rules in your community and on trails before you bring your dog along. Many places enforce "No Dogs Allowed" rules, so research before you run.  

Alite Boa Lite LeashGear Up
Running gear for both you and your dog can make or break your workouts. There's lots of cool gear out there—some that Teton and I have used and some that we still need to try. Here are a few of our favorites: 
Alite Boa Lite Leash (right) – I like this leash because it's shorter than most (good for keeping control while on runs) and has an integrated pocket with 2 zippers (I use 1 section for treats and 1 for poop bags).
Zuke's Power Bones – The PowerBar of dog treats. We've gone through our fair share of treats, but Power Bones are Teton's favorites.  Feed them to your dog whole or break them into smaller pieces if your dog is small or you are watching his or her weight. 
Ruff Wear Track Jacket – If you plan on running early in the morning or at night when cars may have a difficult time seeing your dog, the Track Jacket is a must.  
Nite Ize SpotLit Pet Light – This is another great way to increase visibility when on the road or trail. The SpotLit light attaches easily to your dog's collar or leash and isn't heavy or bulky.  
Gulpy Gulpy Portable Water Dispenser or REI Dog Water Bowl – Two different but equally effective ways to keep your dog hydrated on long, hot runs.  
Field Guide to Dog First Aid – Anything can happen on the road or trail, so knowing the basics of dog first aid is vital. 

Bring a Buddy
If you have a friend whose dog is an experienced runner and is compatible with your dog, invite them along for a run. Having a running buddy can provide that extra oomph that both you and your dog may, at times, need.  

Honor/Accept Your Dog's Limitations (and Your Own)
After a few months of running with your dog, you'll have a better idea of what his or her limitations are. If your dog is unable to run more than a few miles, that's okay. Maintain your running schedule and offer lots of praise when your dog successfully completes a run. Just as you would work on increasing your own mileage as a runner, you can help your dog do the same.

I know a handful of people whose dogs could easily outrun them. If this is you, accept your own limitations just as you would accept your dog's. Don't push yourself to run longer than your body can handle. 

Acknowledge Your Dog's Strengths
Is your dog particularly good at running on trails? Maybe he or she flourishes when you run together on the beach. Or maybe your dog is really great at listening to and acting on your commands when you're out on the road together. Whatever your dog's strengths may be, acknowledge and reward them. Consider that rewarding your dog doesn't have to mean that you give treats. My dog, Teton, is more motivated by praise and petting than by food. 

What are your tips for running with your dog?

 

Posted on at 5:04 PM

Tagged: Running, dogs and fitness

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ClimbnGoddess

Great article, Shannon! A couple things that have really helped me when running with my 4-year-old labradoodle, Stelle:
1) If possible, train your dog to poop early in the run...this tends to eliminate the distraction of sniffing around for that "perfect" spot and allows both of you to focus on the running without worrying about stopping. Plus, if you're running somewhere without a lot of trash cans, you may even be close enough to your car to leave the bag at your car and start over (NOTHING worse than carrying a stinky bag for an hour).
2) Even if your dog is capable of doing "long runs," avoid the temptation. You'll just create a dog who NEEDS a 7-10 mile run to get tired, rather than being satisfied after 5. Remember, a tired dog is a well-behaved dog! There's a reason that so many siberian huskies end up at shelters: many people cannot handle the constant energy and stress of having a dog that is fitter than they are.
Again, thanks for the tips! I'll be on the lookout for a reflective jacket for Stella now that the days are getting shorter!

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LucyMom

I have a border collie (Lucy) that I run with. She is the best training partner because she never backs out at the last minute or whines that we've gone too far. She keeps my spirits up in the middle of a miserable run and helps me focus.
I would suggest that people not run without a leash on their dog. You may think your dog is friendly and loves everyone, but Fido may think the dog/human running toward you is a threat and will want to protect you.

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lew

BEST Tip I've learned so far: Do not chase your dog. (Off leash*) If you want your dog to come back to you, TURN AROUND and run the other way (and call their name to get their attention). They like to play chase and will come your way. (Assuming there's not another dog or animal to chase, or your dog hates you and is trying to run away)

I have three labs and usually run 3 miles with all three of them. One who I've run with the most can do 6 or 7 milers with me, but I rarely take her that long. If you're in a residential area, training to run on a leash is important. But it's so much more enjoyable if you can get away from residential areas and run with them off-leash. I am lucky to live close to an open space with some dirt roads. I have them on a leash (easy-walk harnesses and a caribiner holding them together) in the neighborhood. Once I get to the open space I take them off leash and let them chase rabbits, which they LOVE. When I get back close to the neighborhood, I put them back on the leash. The two I've had since puppies come to me on command very well. But the one 8yr-old stray I've only had a few months is not trained to do anything, but when I turn and run the other direction, he comes back to us, then it's easy to put him back on the leash.
*disclaimer - any dog you want to run with off leash should be fixed. No exceptions.

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DJayne

A great bit of gear that I would like to see REI carry is the "Wonder Walker". Made by a Seattle company. It's a 'no-pull' harness that does not pinch, constrict, tug or in any way use discomfort but absolutely discourages pulling. The attachment point is on the dog's chest, just below the collar. If a dog wearing it pulls, that attachment point causes him to be turned around. The dog can't pull without his own weight turning him aside. You have to see one to really get it. Great option for training and for jogging, and if your normally perfect jogging companion gets a wild hair and takes off, this harness could save the day.

Disclosure: my only affliation with the folks who make the Wonder Walker is that I own one.

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Kim May

Thanks for pointing out that you should consult with your veterinarian before you begin running with your dog. :) The American Veterinary Medical Association has some more specific veterinary advice that may be of value, too: http://www.avma.org/myveterinarian/run-spot-run.asp (it's open access, no spam - just an article on running with dogs).

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jaranda

The only thing I would like to add is to really watch your dog while you are running. If you pay enough attention you can get your dog to behave before it starts to act up. I run 3+ times a week with my dog and just by glancing every couple seconds I can see when she's starting to see a cat or when she's more likely to be distracted by a smell and a quick tug on the leash brings her attention back to running.

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