Running With Dogs 101: How To Run With Your Dogs

how to run with dogs

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This content was reviewed and fact-checked by AKC Certified Dog Trainer & Behaviorist Madison Tanner Clark.

This is the ultimate resource for anyone interested in taking their canine companion along for a run. As a responsible dog owner, it’s crucial to understand the fundamentals of this activity to ensure your dog’s safety and well-being. From determining the proper running age to training tips on how to run with dogs, we’ve got it all covered. Discover expert advice on appropriate warm-ups and ways to motivate your pup during those long runs. Not only will you be improving your fitness, but you’ll also be providing your four-legged friend with the mental and physical stimulation they crave. Let’s get started!

When Can My Dog Start Running?

Starting to run with your dog depends on three critical factors.

1. Bone Development (Growth Plates)

Running on hard surfaces like pavements can harm a young dog’s joints and bones, which may not have fully formed yet. According to Sharon Wirant, an animal behaviorist at the ASPCA, it is essential to wait until a young dog’s growth plates have started to close before engaging in rigorous exercise. Growth plates in puppies refer to areas of cartilage tissue located near the ends of their long bones. These growth plates gradually calcify as the puppy grows and transform into solid bone.[1] Subjecting a young dog to strenuous exercise before their growth plates are fully developed can increase the risk of injury and potential fractures.

2. Age

It is recommended that you avoid strenuous running with your puppy until its growth plates are fully mature. This typically occurs between 4 and 8 months but can vary depending on the breed. To determine the usual closure times of growth plates in dogs, refer to the table below. Heather Loenser, Senior Veterinary Officer at the American Animal Hospital Association, suggests limiting runs to less than a mile before the nine-month mark.

Dog SizeDog BreedsWeight Range (kg)Rapid Growth PeriodTimescale to Fully Size
ToyChihuahua, Pomeranian, Maltese, Toy Poodle< 5Birth–11 weeks6 – 12 months
SmallJack Russell Terrier, Dachshund, Pug, Miniature Schnauzer5 – 10Birth–14 weeks8 – 12 months
MediumBorder Collie, Cocker Spaniel, Beagle10 – 25Birth–16 weeks8 – 18 months
LargeGerman Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Bulldog, Boxer, Siberian Husky25 – 40Birth–18 weeks11 – 18 months
GiantGreat Dane, Mastiff> 40Birth–20 weeks12 – 24 months
Musculoskeletal Development of the Puppy: Birth to Twelve Months

3. Size

Large dog breeds generally take longer to fully mature their growth plates than medium and small dog breeds. For instance, a Beagle may be able to start going on regular runs earlier than a larger breed, such as a German Shepherd. However, it is important to note that growth plates may not fully mature until 18 to 20 months old for some large and giant breeds. To ensure your dog’s safety when starting to run, it is recommended to consult your veterinarian. They can take X-rays to determine if the bones have finished growing and if it is safe to engage in physical activity.

How Many Miles Can a Dog Run?

Don’t expect your four-legged friend to be able to run marathon-length distances from the get-go. Your dog needs time to build strength and endurance. Nike+ Run Club’s Coach, Chris Bennett, emphasizes that the first run is about the dog, not you. Running with your dog is not supposed to be all running; let them explore and have a good time. Your first several runs should not involve much running at all. Let your pup set the pace to make it an enjoyable experience they would want to have again.[2]

If you are an amateur runner who enjoys daily runs, Tom Moroney from New York’s Team Running Paws recommends not taking your dog more than five miles daily. If you run more than five miles daily, consider limiting the next day’s run to two or three miles.[3] Conversely, if you are a professional, hardcore runner or training for a marathon, you can have your dog join you on easy days. Some dogs can run up to 25 to 35 miles with proper training and conditioning.

It’s also important to understand that dogs can run at different speeds depending on the breed. Knowing how fast your dog can run is vital to setting a comfortable pace for your breed. This ensures that your dog enjoys the run without overexertion or discomfort.

How to Run With Your Dogs: Step-By-Step Training

Professional dog trainers suggest that if your dog is prone to dodging off course or gets easily excited, they will need training before they’re ready to run. Use the following tips to teach your dog to run with you:

Check in with your veterinarian to ensure your dog is healthy and apt for running.

Step 1. Introduce Your Dog to The Harness or Hands-Free Leash

Start by letting your dog get used to wearing both items. Allow him to wear them around the house and reward him with treats so he associates his new gear with an enjoyable experience.

Step 2. Teach Your Dog These Basic Commands Before Running

The American Kennel Club (AKC) suggests two essential commands your dog should master: the “let’s go” (or “get running”) cue and the “slow down” signal. Use these verbal cues to alert your dog to changes in pace, letting them know when it’s time to speed up or slow down. This helps ensure smooth transitions and prevents you from jerking the leash, making the run more enjoyable and safe for both of you.

Other vital commands Fido needs to understand are:

  • Look” command: This is probably the most essential command. This command gets his attention to focus solely on you. It makes it easier to communicate with him and teach him other commands.
  • Recall command: This is essential to master when telling your dog to come in emergencies.
  • “Leave It” command: Be sure your dog understands that everything on the ground isn’t up for grabs when you tell her to. While running, your dog may encounter trash, non-potable water, and wildlife, among other non-edible items.

Step 3. Take Dog Outside For A Practice Run

Fill your pocket with dog running training treats and decide which side your dog will run on. Hold treats in your right hand if your dog runs on the right side. Don’t forget to bring a poop bag to respect the environment and other runners. Additionally, never skip your warm-up; it’s essential for both you and your dog to prevent injuries and ensure a comfortable run.

Step 4. Start Running & Gradually Increase The Distance (Maintain The “Heel” Position)

Take a quick jog for about 10 yards, then stop. Feed your dog some treats from your hand. It’s okay if your dog doesn’t stay in the “heel” position at first, but always correct them if they don’t. Gradually increase the distance and reward every time you stop. This will teach your dog to run by your side. After a few weeks of practice, you won’t need treats. Minimize giving treats to your dog while running, as it can cause an upset stomach and other problems.

Step 5. Stop Immediately If Your Dog Starts to Pull You or Runs Ahead

If your dog pulls ahead, stop running immediately. Use the “recall command” or “slow down” cue to call your dog back to you or slow him down. Lure him back with treats, but don’t reward him just yet. Instead, do a quick jog again before feeding him the treat. This reinforces the behavior of staying by your side while running.

Step 6. Repeat Steps Until Dog Masters Running Alongside You

When your dog is well-trained for runs, you and your new running buddy can start working on building endurance and going on longer runs. Plan your route and a running schedule, and be consistent. Take water breaks so he can recharge and go to the bathroom. Remember to cool your dog down when you’re finished by walking for several minutes.

Dog Running Training Beginner Plan

This basic plan will help you build insurance. Running 5K with your dog takes condition, training and consistency.

Time PeriodDescription
Week 1 Build distance. Add 0.5 miles or 5 minutes to your original 2-3 mile run.
Week 2 Build distance. Add 0.5 miles or 5 minutes to your original 2-3 mile run.
Week 3
Repeat week two and try to increase your average mile pace from moderate to moderate-high.
Week 4
By now, you should be able to run 4 to 5 miles if you struggle to return to week four and work on your endurance. If not, week five should include tempo-style runs.
Week 5
Build distance again. Increase your distance by 0.5 to 1 mile and add one or two more running days to your schedule. So you are running 4 to 5 times a week.
Week 6
By now, you should be able to run 4 to 5 miles if you struggle to return to week four and work on your endurance. If not, week five should include tempo style runs.

Key House-Keeping Tips You Must Follow & Understand

You need to implement the crucial aspects of running with dogs.

Get The Proper Gear

Having the right gear is crucial. Proper dog running gear ensures your pet’s safety, comfort, and overall health. From harnesses that prevent strain to reflective gear for visibility, the right equipment makes all the difference. Equip your furry friend with the best so you can enjoy your runs to the fullest. Check out our comprehensive guide on the best dog running gear.

Ideal Weather

Dogs are susceptible to heat and cold; extreme temperatures pose serious health risks. Knowing the best temperatures for running ensures your furry friend stays comfortable and safe. Choosing the right time to run will make the experience enjoyable for both of you. Learn when running with your dog is too hot or cold.

Nutrition For Dogs That Run

Usually, you wouldn’t have to adjust your dog’s diet if you’re taking your dog out for a run a couple of times a week. Dr. Joseph Wakshlag, a professor of clinical nutrition and sports medicine at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, told The New York Times:

“For dogs jogging along with you for 20 minutes a few times a week, a normal commercial dog food containing about 15 or 16 percent fat should be fine. But if you and your dog run five or 10 miles a day, that dog likely needs a slightly higher-fat diet”.[6]

Dr. Joseph Wakshlag

Protein content should be at least 25 percent, preferably from meat. Dr. Joseph also mentions that if your canine friend runs continuously for over 30 minutes, you should adjust the dog’s diet to support performance. You can use a service like The Farmer’s Dog, which tailors your dog’s meals based on their activity levels. Monitoring their weight regularly is essential to ensure your dog’s nutritional requirements are met. If your dog is losing weight and seems hungrier, you may need to increase its food rations accordingly. Conversely, if your dog is gaining weight, you may need to adjust its diet and exercise regimen.

It’s important to remember that water is the most critical nutrient for your dog. Providing water before, during, and after a run prevents dehydration. However, offering water in small amounts is crucial to avoid overhydration, which can lead to gastric volvulus and dilation (GDV), commonly referred to as “bloat.”

Start Slow And Build Endurance

The first advice to build endurance running is to start slowly and gradually increase the pace to achieve longer runs.

Here are five steps to building your dog’s endurance for longer runs.

  • Consistency. Consistent running builds your dog’s aerobic base and capacity (how much oxygen your muscles can use) and strengthens his muscles. Aim for 3 to 4 sessions per week for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Run longer. By week 3, you’ll want to increase your runs by another 5 to 10 minutes each time. It might not sound like much, but it begins to add up.
  • Shorter distance but faster. You’ll want to mix in some tempo runs or run over a shorter distance but faster than usual.
  • Nutrition for endurance. Ensure your dog’s diet provides enough nutrients, carbs, and energy to cover the distance you’ll be running.
  • Recover. Your dog’s recovery is based on a proper diet and sufficient sleep time.

Monitoring Your Dog During The Run

Understanding your dog’s capabilities and limitations is important. It’s up to you to ensure your beloved pup is doing okay through the run. The American Veterinary Medical Association spokesperson, Michael San Filippo, explained that “dogs usually limit their activity when they’ve had enough, but sometimes they’ll go beyond their comfort zone and conceal an injury to keep up with their owner.”

Monitor your dog at all times, both during and after a run, to check whether it’s doing okay. Stop running with your dog if you notice any of the following signs of exhaustion:

  • Dog refuses to run
  • Lethargy
  • Heavy or rapid panting
  • Extremely pulled-back lips
  • Signs of heatstroke or overexertion
  • Signs of heatstroke or overexertion
  • Dark red gums
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting or diarrhea

Other signs your dog isn’t enjoying the run are a lack of engagement, enthusiasm, and whining. If a dog’s tail or ears are tucked, he might not be enjoying himself. When a dog is lagging or has a hard time keeping pace, this means they could use a break. If your dog stops and refuses to continue, don’t force him.

Watch Out For Their Paws

During runs, a dog’s paw pads can be susceptible to injury. Abrupt stops, stepping on glass or other sharp objects, extreme temperatures, and other factors can cause tears or cuts on your dog’s paw pads.

Examining your dog’s paws before and after a run is essential to assess how much wear and tear their pads have endured. Running with your dog can be enjoyable, but overworked paw pads can cause significant discomfort. It’s like walking on a ruptured blister on the bottom of your foot.

Signs of overworked paw pads may include tears with visible skin flaps, redness, thinning, or wearing away of the pads. Swelling or pus may also indicate an infection. Stop running and give your dog medical attention if you notice these symptoms.

Benefits of Running With Your Dog

Runners often experience a euphoria known as the “runner’s high.” This feeling is caused by higher levels of endocannabinoids in the brain, as explained by science. Research published in the Journal of Experimental Biology suggests that dogs also experience a similar “runner’s high” when they exercise.[4]

The benefits of the runner’s high include an improved mood, decreased anxiety, and reduced stress levels. This feeling of euphoria can also lead to increased self-esteem and confidence. Moreover, the release of endorphins during exercise can help to reduce pain and promote feelings of well-being. The runner’s high can also improve cognitive function and overall physical performance.

Running with your dog is beneficial not only physically but cognitively. Other expected benefits include:

  • Healthier heart and lungs
  • Tired dogs are generally happier and more obedient than under-stimulated dogs
  • Keeps dog in shape
  • Weight management
  • Helps dogs socialize with the environment and other dogs
  • An active lifestyle reduces stress and anxiety
  • Exercise can help modify unwanted behaviors
  • Reduces stress

Benefits For Humans

Dogs are natural runners, providing more than just faithful companionship during runs. According to a study by the University of Michigan, people who go jogging or walk with their dogs are 34% more likely to abandon a sedentary lifestyle and practice more than 150 minutes of physical activity a week than people with other animals or none.[5]

Running with a dog by your side can be enjoyable and safer, particularly in dim or dark environments. It can also help to keep your dog healthy and in good shape, potentially reducing veterinary bills. Moreover, running with your dog can strengthen your relationship with them. Dogs can be the perfect running partners, exhibiting patience and encouraging you to push harder and maintain a consistent pace. They can motivate you to achieve your fitness goals and provide companionship.

Risk of Running With Your Dog

Too much running too soon increases your dog’s risk of injury, just as it would with humans. You need to be aware of a few pet dangers that occur when you are running with dogs.

  • Heatstroke
  • Pad abrasions
  • Muscle soreness
  • Joint wear and tare
  • Fatigue

Dog Muscle Soreness After Running

Muscular soreness is a sign your dog may be running too much. Some common symptoms of muscle soreness include:

  • Struggling to get up
  • Refusing to walk up or downstairs
  • Signs of discomfort when reaching down for the food dish
  • A dog may even cry out when first moving about

To lessen the chances of your dog’s soreness, build endurance before going on longer runs. Run on grass or soft surfaces. A body massage can aid with recovery and help loosen up stiffened muscles. If your dog is in too much pain, call your veterinarian.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, mastering the art of running with dogs requires dedication, understanding, and adherence to the principles outlined in this guide. By following the advice provided, you will ensure the safety and well-being of both yourself and your canine companion while strengthening your bond. As you embark on this journey, remember to remain vigilant and attentive to your dog’s needs and limitations. This will enable you to adapt and adjust your running routine accordingly, ultimately leading to a more fulfilling and enjoyable experience for both parties.

Now that you have the necessary knowledge, it is time to put it into practice. Don’t have time to go on a run with your dog? Using a dog treadmill or dog runs can be a temporary solution when it’s too hot, or you can’t find the time. Begin your running journey with your dog and experience the profound rewards of this shared activity. Encourage others to do the same and contribute to the growing community of responsible, dog-loving runners.

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Canine Bible uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process and product review methodology to learn more about how we fact-check, test products, and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. The Independent
  2. YouTube Nike
  3. GQ
  4. Journal of Experimental Biology
  5. Michigan State University
  6. New York Times
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