A lot of people ask me how I get started with running with my dog and there are a few things to think about before you think of taking your dog. First, is your dog able to run with you in the first place? Meaning, what breed of dog do you have?
Some breeds can’t keep up, no matter how much you train them to try to run with you. Take for example, I have two small Chihuahuas’s – they are not running anywhere with me unless I’m basically jogging in place. Maybe even jogging at a snails pace. Your dog legs should be at least as long as half of your leg if you jog at a slower pace. If your pace is fast, around the 7-mile per hour pace, then your dogs legs should be longer.
Know Your Dogs Abilities First.
As mentioned above, your dogs legs should accommodate the speed at which you plan on running. Short legs = very slow pace. My Chihuahuas’s legs move at lightning speed, but they’re also only 3 inches long, so my one stride equals 10 feet for them. Obviously, my little dogs aren’t going anywhere with me on foot unless they’re in a backpack of some sort and they don’t mind bouncing around like they’re in a bouncy house.
I have another dog that is very stocky, with legs that are only about 7 inches high. I have attempted to run with her 2 days in a row, and while she has the ability to run short distances with me, she’s not a dog that will be able to run miles with me. If I’m running only about a mile with her, she’s fine as long as my pace is accommodating to her abilities.
Understand your dog first and know what they’re capable of. Big dog will definitely be able to run with you, especially if you have a fast pace, so dogs that are tall and lean will have the ability to keep up more than short stocky dogs.
Next, Assess Your Dog.
Now that you’ve looked at your dogs stance, leg length and body build, it’s time to assess your dog. Running with your dog at a starter jog will allow you to see whether your dog will enjoy the pace at which you try to run. Start small with him/her in the beginning. If you normally run miles, try a shorter option first with your pet and see how they do. So instead of running your usual 2-4 miles, start small with your pet.
Just like with humans, they have to start someone as well. A dog isn’t usually able to run fast paced, miles and miles like you can if you’ve been running for a while. Start them with a 1/2 mile to 1 mile first and go from there. This will allow you to see how they react to other distractions as well.
How To Handle Distractions During The Run.
Once you’re on the run with your dog, now you can see how they’re going to handle other distractions. Nothing hurts worse than running along, in your stride and next thing you know, your dog pulls you forward or to the side, or trips you. I don’t know about my readers, but these distractions can hurt very badly, twist ankles, hurt your knees and now you’re down for the count for a few days to rest and heal.
I have to use the Gentle Lead which I’ve talked about in previous articles and this is the only way I’ve ever been able to take my dogs on runs – Click here to read more on the Gentle Lead. They are too easily distracted by other dogs that bark or come near them and I’ve been pulled one too many times to enjoy the feeling. However, a note of caution with the gentle lead. If your dog gets too hot, or overexerted, it can hinder their ability to pant comfortably. I have to pay very close attention to how my dog is acting when they have one on while we run. The last thing I want is for my dog to not be able to pant since that’s how they sweat.
How Often Should Dogs Go Running?
Like humans, dogs need to work up to the distance you’re wanting them to go. Their pads may not be ready, their endurance and their desire to run miles. My older dog Annie that recently passed was my running buddy for years. She was able to run with me the entire distance of 5 miles almost every day. Yes, I took days off here and there, but I tried not to since taking time off made me not want to run the full distance.
This took a lot of time to build her up to run that distance with me. She trained alongside me, and while I had to work up to it, so did she. I noticed that she got tired when I took time off as well, so when I went, she went. She got to the point pretty quickly into the training – when I pulled on my running shoes, she started dancing in circles showing she was excited to go. It was a beautiful relationship.
Listen To What Your Dog Tells You.
After all is said and done, your dog will tell you what they’re capable of. By starting small, you’re not hurting them when you start out with them. If it’s a puppy, wait until they’re almost a year old really. They should be leash trained as well, and capable of even going on decent walks first before the jog/run. Pay attention to their stance, their stride, how they react each time you go to start.
Dogs enjoy being with us where ever we go, and we want to be sure that we’re taking their health, along with ours into consideration. Paying a close mind to how they act will allow you to know whether you have the next running buddy. Like Atlas in my jogs with her so far, she loves going, but she’s not capable of going long distances. Over time, she’ll get better and more endurance, but her short legs will never allow her to go 5 miles with me. To make her do that would be hard on her body and would wear her down quickly and possibly cause some damage.
For my shorter days, she can go, but when I start getting my own stride back, she would need to stay home I’m afraid. What works best for you with your running buddy? Comment below with your tips and best practices.