Running with your dog is a great motivation for you to get and stay fit yourself as well as providing health benefits for your dog. If you are planning on starting to run with your dog the first thing you need to do is to consult with your vet and have them do a complete checkup to ensure that your dog is healthy and suitable for this type of exercise.
Dogs are more natural at running short fast bursts and not so much continuous running over longer distances. Some dogs may not be suitable for running such as the shortnose breeds like bulldogs as they can overheat easily and their respiratory function isn’t suitable. Distance running is not suitable for puppies and should only be done with adult dogs that are fully developed. Puppies muscles and tendons are still forming and they have less bone density making them more prone to injury.
What you will need before running with your dog
The second thing you need to do before running with your dog is to ensure that they have mastered loose lead walking as you don’t want your dog dragging you along or all over the place.
You will also need the right equipment which includes a leash, ideally 3 to 5 feet, or you can use a hands-free leash that attaches to a running belt. Using a harness rather than attaching the lead to a collar is recommended to avoid choking or pulling your dog around by the neck.
In addition, you will need water for your dog and you can use either a travel water bowl or dog water bottle. Dogs don’t sweat like humans so it is much harder for them to cool themselves down, so avoid running in hot weather and if your dog is showing any signs of overheating or potentially heat stroke get them to water and cool them off.
Signs of heat stroke include heavy panting, confusion, sluggish movement, and red gums and tongue. To learn more see Overexercised dog symptoms.
Also, keep a check on your dog’s paws for signs of cracking or soreness. If possible try to run on a softer surface like grass or sand.
Don’t forget to take poo bags as well so you can pick up after your dog. It is best to run in the daylight for safety, but if do run in dimmer conditions or low visibility use a flashing or reflective collar or harness on your dog and if possible avoid high traffic areas.
Conditioning your dog for running
As with humans, you need to build up your dog’s fitness, so don’t just go out and do a 30 minute run the first time. Start each session with a warm-up of brisk walking for around 5 minutes.
Depending on your dog’s current fitness level you should start by doing 1 minute of running followed by 1 minute of walking for about 15 minutes for the first two weeks. In the third week, run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute for up to 20 minutes. In week five, run 3 to 5 minutes with 1 minute walking between up to around 30 minutes. By week seven you should be running the whole time. 30 minutes should be long enough for any dog to get a good workout.
Run two to three days a week but still go for walks on the days in between to allow recovery and to work out any muscle soreness. It is also a good idea to give your dog a gentle muscle massage after each run to aid in recovery.
Monitor your dog’s sleep and eating patterns and make sure that they are not showing any signs of injury or soreness. Your dog will get many health benefits from this exercise as well as the opportunity to release pent-up energy, especially if you have a high energy or hyper dog. You may even see improvement in their behavior. Most of all, ensure that it is fun for your dog and they want to do it.
For a guide to how many miles a particular breed of dog can run see here.