(And come to think of it, running with your dog isn’t too unlike running with your kids: bring treats, take breaks, throw out expectations, and be prepared for poop!)
We have two beautiful dogs, Riley, a golden doodle, and Rooney, a golden retriever. They bring us so much joy and embody “home.” Before we had kids, I would run with them often. But after having kids, my husband is the one to take them for runs…and the kids and I take them for walks.
Related: 12 Genius Stroller Tips
Learning to run with our dogs was a process. With their zest for life and love of squirrels, they weren’t naturally the best runners. Some dogs get it right away, while others take a lot of consistent work. That’s how running with our dogs was.
We enlisted the help of a dog trainer to guide us in managing their wiles a bit better. (Though we still have room for improvement…their runs have become a hundred percent for them—a chance to explore, sniff, and get their energy and squirrel-chasing desires out).
Today, I share tips from expert dog trainers on how to run with your dog off-leash, run with your dog on a leash, and what running gear you need to run with your dog. May it help you happily run with all your family members, furry or not.
Related: How to Run with Your Kids
What dogs are the best running dogs?
Not all dogs are fit for running, warns Joan Hunter Mayer, a certified dog trainer at The Inquisitive Canine.
Just like people, some dogs, even if their breed is good for running, would prefer other activities. Some dogs would rather play fetch, swim, or like ours, chase squirrels.
“This doesn’t mean that you can’t train your dog to run with you but it’s important to have realistic expectations about the time required to do so,” says Hunter Mayer.
Just like with your kids, don’t force running or rush it. Remember, it’s supposed to be fun for them—not a chore.
What dog breeds are the best for running?
Before running with your dog, it’s best to ask your veterinarian if your dog breed is good for running.
Andrew Garf, editor and chief of Train Your GSD, says there are three main characteristics that don’t make a dog breed a good runner:
- Legs that are shorter than the dog’s height
- Smooshed faces
- Heavily muscled body
Dog breeds that are good for running include:
- Labrador retrievers
- Golden retrievers.
- German shepherds
- German Shorthaired Pointer
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
- Doberman Pinscher
Dogs that are not good for running include:
- Boston terriers
- Doggie de Bordeaux
- Pit bulls
When can I start running with my dog?
Talk with your vet, but for most breeds, you can start running with your dog after at least six months. For large breeds, it’s best to wait until your dog is at least a year-old. Most running dogs are ready to go the distance at 1.5 years-old.
Most breeds have growth spurts around six months so it is critical to wait until this period to do short runs otherwise you risk joint and hip issues like hip dysplasia, a hip abnormality that can lead to joint dislocation.
When is the best time to run with my dog?
Just like running with your kids, you want to time running with your dog right.
Don’t run too close to mealtime or you can cause bloat which can be fatal to dogs. Be sure to wait about two hours before or after a meal before running with your dog.
Also: remember to bring water or run on a path that has a water supply to keep your dog hydrated.
What equipment do I need to run with my dog?
The most important gear you need for running with your dog is a harness. DO NOT run with a standard collar. This can pull on your dog’s neck. Invest in a harness (we like the Puppia harness for our girls) and a bungee leash.
You can also get a human belt also called a canicross which looks like a climbing harness, with leg straps to keep the belt in place.
If you’re running on rough surfaces, be sure to check your dog’s footpads. You can protect their footpads by applying Vaseline or wax like Musher’s Secret. For extra protection in the winter, consider dog boots.
Also, always keep poop bags with you! Don’t be that dog owner!!
Related: How to Start Running
How hot is too hot for running with your dog?
If the temperature is about 85 degrees, it is too hot to run with your dog.
Be sure to look at the “feels by” temperature before running outside with your dog. Dogs can’t handle heat and humidity since they pant to rid their bodies of moisture. If they can’t keep up, their body temperature can rise quickly to dangerous levels.
If you are running in warm weather, run on grass to protect your dog’s paws. Seek shade and take lots of water breaks.
Dogs pant to rid moisture in their lungs and cool their bodies. If humidity is high, their body temperature can rise quickly to dangerous levels.
If your dog overheats, bring them to a shady area and cool them off with cool (not cold) water. As they cool, have them drink cool water.
How cold is too cold for running with my dog?
Generally speaking, below 20 degrees is too cold for most dogs. But not all dogs handle the cold the same. The type of coat, build and size factor into how well a dog can handle running in the cold.
How to train your dog to run on a leash
To train your dog to run on a leash, start with leash walking, then loose leash walking. Once your dog is staying consistently at your side, you can start running a bit.
Use voice commands such as heel, leave it, right, left, and let’s go. Give the voice cue and reward with a treat. “Use voice cues only when needed otherwise it becomes just white noise,” says Hunter Mayer, adding to keep your voice calm and controlled.
Practice this multiple times a week. Build gradually, alternating walk and run days, just as if you were doing a couch to 5k plan with your dog.
Related: The Mother Runners Training Plans
How to train your dog to run off-leash
Running with your dog off-leash is the next step in running with your dog. After your dog runs on a leash well and listens to your commands, you can practice dropping the leash for short periods of time throughout your run. Gradually increase those times.
Bring high-value treats to ensure your dog really listens to your voice cues. We like turkey, bacon, cheese, and even salmon! This is KEY.
To up the ante, try new environments to train your dog to minimize distractions like squirrels, people, or loud cars.
How to run with more than one dog
Our golden retriever is a very complex creature and she likes to constantly switch sides when we are walking or running. To minimize this chaos, train your dogs separately first.
To teach your dogs to not switch sides as our goldie does, train them to run on their own side. Always walk them on this side.
Then, ensuring they get along, are in similar shape, and behave well, you can start running with them together in spurts: Jog, walk, sniff.
Let your dogs get used to running and gradually increase the distance.
You may need to experiment with leash tightness. Some may run better with tighter or looser leashes. And, always, reward them for good behavior. Give them treats when they listen to you.
And, just like with stroller runs, keep an open mind, stay relaxed, and try to have fun. This is supposed to be an enjoyable experience for all involved!
(And if you’re really having fun, check out this list of dog-friendly races.)
How to run with a dog and a stroller
Speaking of running with a stroller, to run with a dog and a stroller, start first with brief walks. Then add in some running from time to time.
Hold the leash with one hand and push with the other, and alternate. You can also hold the leash up on the bar. But never attach the leash to the stroller. That’s dangerous! (Although, it would be super convenient if the dog could pull the stroller like a sled. I hear ya!).
Use the stroller’s convenient storage for your dog’s water, poop bags, treats, etc.
12 tips for running with a dog
- Ask your vet if you have the right dog breed to run.
- Wait until your dog is at least 6 months old.
- Walk before you run.
- Gradually build mileage.
- Give them voice commands that it’s time to start running like “let’s run.”
- Reward with high-value treats like cut-up pieces of bacon, turkey, or ham.
- Give your dog frequent breaks.
- Keep your dog hydrated throughout the run.
- Use a harness and a bungee leash.
- Don’t forget the poop bags!
- Don’t run in extreme weather conditions…or really rough terrain without proper acclimation.
- Never force a run! It should be fun for both of you!