Dogs make the best running partners. They’re always enthusiastic and motivated and won’t ever flake on you for a workout. So if you have a dog and love to run, it seems like it would be a no-brainer to start running together.
The problem is that not all dogs are ready to run. They may not be ready for the distance you want to run and even worse, they might not be able to stay at your side (which can make running with your dog a real challenge).
If you want to get your dog ready to run and have a forever willing and enthusiastic running partner, follow these five tips.
1. Before you run, you must walk well together
This might seem obvious but it will save you a lot of anguish (and/or frustrated walks back home) if you take this first step. Before you can even think about running with your dog, you first have to teach your dog to walk on a leash.
You’ll want your pup to either run on your left or right side (choose one and stick with it) with its snout even with you body or slightly behind. Start with a regular leash that you hold with your arms at your side (mimicking how you would hold your arms while running). Have treats (or some kibble) easily accessible. Have your pup sit next to you first, and reward it with treats. Make it hold that close sit for a little while before giving the command to walk — like “let’s go!” (make sure to be consistent with whatever command you choose) — and then start walking forward, treating your dog for staying close by your side.
If your pup’s feet get ahead of you, make sure to stop immediately and try to keep your arm glued to your side so that your pup doesn’t get used to pulling. Wait for your pup to turn and look in your direction and then ask for a sit. Reward your pup with a few treats in a row until it is focused on sitting and looking at you. Once you have your pup’s attention, begin to move forward again. And repeat.
2. Start slow
In reality, your first run together will be more like your pup’s regular walk with a few minutes of jogging thrown in. Just like you, your pup needs to start small and build its mileage from there. Try jogging for a couple of minutes every few blocks and stopping and sitting anytime your pup begins to pull out ahead of you (hopefully before it gets ahead of you). Do this for the first few runs, and you’ll not only get it used to the idea of staying by your side, but also help your pup build up some endurance.
3. Build up your time
After you feel confident in your pup’s ability to stay by your side and in its ability to run, you can start taking it on a 10-minute run and then adding 5-10 minutes each week until you’ve reached your desired time or distance. Just like a human, dogs need time to build muscle and stamina, so be patient with your dog as it learns to adapt to your pace and your stride.
And don’t forget to bring treats — you can stuff them in your pockets or use a leash with a treat pocket for easy access. Continue to reward good behavior on your runs as your pup builds up stamina and continues to be a great running partner for you.
4. Pay attention to your dog’s signals
While you might be OK running in 100 degree temperatures, your dog is likely not OK. Dogs are generally less tolerant of heat than humans — most of them are wearing a pretty heavy fur coat! If you see your dog excessively panting, mouth open wide, tongue hanging out, it might be time to give your pup a rest and some water. If breathing doesn’t return to normal after a few minutes of rest, the run is probably over.
Another thing to pay attention to is how your pup is running. If it begins to hang back behind you or pulls back and stops, it’s had too much. You definitely don’t want to overdo it, and try not to coax it to go faster or farther. It’ll do it because it wants to please you, but it could be damaging to your dog.
5. Keep your pup hydrated!
It’s just as important for your pup to stay hydrated during a run as it is for you! If you’re carrying water for yourself and feeling hot and thirsty, chances are your pup is too. Make sure you’re giving your pup plenty of water breaks — either stopping for water along the way or carrying a collapsible bowl and water bottle for your dog.
Running with your pup can be so rewarding for both of you. It’s a chance to bond, get exercise and explore together. Just remember that your pup, like you, needs to start small and build a base before committing to longer runs. Be patient. Be consistent. And the reward will be plenty!