Running With Your Dog. How to train your pup to run with you

*Section 1 Before You Start*

Before you head out the door with your dog on the leash, there are vital things you need to know before you run. These questions are Phase 1 to know how to train a dog to be a running partner.

Distance – The Big Question You Need To Ask

What kind of distance are you talking about?

  • Are you trying to get prepared for a 3-6 miles (5-10 km) fun run?
  • Are you taking on a half marathon distance (13 miles or 24 km) and you want you dog beside your during training?
  • Are you going all the way with a full marathon distance (26 miles or 48 km)?

Based on your answers to the above questions, here’s the big question about your dog – is your dog physically suited to running the distances you are intending to cover?

Check with your veterinarian

It is important to talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s ability to run the distances you want to cover before you train them to become your running partner.

Based on the breed and age, your dog may be predisposed to certain health conditions that may limit their ability to tag along on runs. Does your dog suffer from joint problems? Is he always short of breath after a few minutes of exertion? Hip dyslexia, disc issues and other musculoskeletal conditions can make it difficult for some dogs to make running mates.

Ensure your vet clears your dog of any pre-existing health conditions which may worsen if they run with you before hitting the tracks.

For example, all my dogs were born with a hole in their heart. That was discovered during a routine health check when they were puppies. Although they could still be healthy active dogs, I knew I could not over-exert them with exercise. For me, training them for long distances on a regular basis would not have been advisable.

When you have a rescue dog, you’re not familiar with their health history. So please do see your local vet before starting your running training with your dog.

The best running breeds

My recommendation as the best breed of dog for running is the Vizla.

The best running dogs have long bodies and legs. That’s why the Australian Shepherd, Weimaraner and German Short Hair Pointers make excellent running buddies.

Agile dogs like the Dalmatian, Aussie Shepherd, and Siberian Husky do not tire easily. If you are training for a half or full marathon and you want your dog as a running buddy, these breeds will be with you all the way.

Labradors make great running partners but they do need to be fit like Bella, who has run 2 marathons and 18 half marathons.

For detailed commentary on the best dog breeds for long distances, mod to long distances as well as short jobs, read our article here.

Brachycephalic dog breeds

If your dog is brachycephalic i.e. have a short snout like a Bulldog or French Terrier, then it may have difficulties keeping up with you during runs. This is because such dogs have a physical abnormality that limits their air intake and they quickly overheat after a short period of exertion.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t run with your Pug, Shih Tzu, Boston Terrier, Chihuahua, Pekingese, Spaniel, Chow Chow or English Mastiff can’t run, just keep it light, mindful of their proneness to overheating.

Ruby Tuesday, a Boston Terrier, has competed in 15 races with her 45-year-old dog dad, Shane. They have won all but one race.

Short legs and long bodies

Dogs with short legs and long bodies such as dachshunds are prone to intervertebral disc disease.

Prone to hip dysplasia and joint issues

If distance running is your passion or something you do consistently, larger dog breeds susceptible to hip dysplasia and joint issues may not be an appropriate workout partner.

At what age can dogs run with you?

Puppies are still growing their bones, so they cannot withstand long periods of running.

It is important for your dog to be of the appropriate age before you run together.

For best results, start running with your pooch when he is one-and-a-half or two years old.

While you wait for the dog to come of age, practice walking, and leash training. Another tip – familiarize your young dog with intersections, people, cars and other dogs.

At what age should a dog stop running?

This depends on various factors such as the breed, inherent health issues, and others. If your dog is prone to hip or joint problems at old age, consult your doctor on the best time to stop forced exercise with your pooch. It is important to observe your dog after runs and go for regular vet checkups to ensure your dog is in top form.

Best Weather Conditions to Run with Your Dog

Running with your dog is great, but beware of these weather dangers. Conditions won’t always be fair and ideal when you are running with your dog.

Ideal running temperatures for your dog

Maximum temperatures

Dogs have the tendency to overheat after exhaustion, which is why they want to cool down.

High temperatures can cause heatstroke, paw abrasions and soreness for your dog. Be aware of these hot weather guidelines when running with your dog:

  • If the temperature is 24-27 degrees Celsius, your dog will probably overheat.
  • Above 30 degrees, there is a major risk of heatstroke for all breeds, ages and sizes of dogs so don’t walk your dog during this period.

During the summer, it’s best to schedule your runs to the early mornings and late evenings when the temperature is cooler.

Minimum temperatures

Your dog should not run when the temperature is below freezing.

You can still run short distances with your pooch when the temperature is above 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Below that, only exercise for short periods and limit their time in the snow.

By all means, exercise your dog during the winter but pay attention to their wellbeing and take necessary precautions like buying snow boots. These boots protect a dog’s sensitive paw pads from ice, snow, and deicers (chemicals) used to clear heavy snowfalls on city streets.

Best time of year to train your dog to run

Do you live in a climate where it tends to snow and you don’t own a Siberian Husky or Malamute? Then I would recommend you train your dog in the Spring and then into Summer or at the tail end of Summer and into Fall.

What Type of Surface Are You Running On?

When you run with your dog, you are most likely wearing specialized running shoes but your canine buddy is barefoot.

If you are running long distances, it’s best to run on natural ground surfaces such as grass or earth as these are gentle on the animal’s paws.

Artificial surfaces like concrete, asphalt, and gravel can be unforgiving to your dog’s legs and paws. Not only do these harder surfaces cause paw abrasions and soreness, but they can also damage your dog’s joints and bones.

It is advisable to get your dog a pair of running pads to cushion the effect of running on hard surfaces.

Video

Walk Before You Run

Your dog should master loose-leash walking before you start training them to run beside you. A canine companion that pulls on the leash is frustrating when walking, but downright dangerous at faster speeds. Remember that the environment is full of rewards, like squirrels and interesting smells. So, if you want your dog to stay near you, with the leash hanging in a J shape, you need to be equally rewarding. Use treats, toys, and praise to reinforce your dog for keeping the leash slack.

Keeping your dog on one side of you will be essential when you start running together. If they runs in front of you or weave from side-to-side, they can trip you or tangle your legs in the leash. It doesn’t matter which side you choose, left or right, but pick one and stick with it. Start training at a walking pace and keep reward placement in mind. Always give your dog their treats in the position you want to reinforce, so if you want them on your left, only offer treats at your left leg. Once they’ve mastered one side, you can train the other with a different cue.

*Section C Next Steps*

This is the moment you have been waiting for!

Now that your dog can walk on a leash beside you, how to train a dog to be a running partner and companion?

Step 1 – Walk and Run

When you start running with your dog, take things slowly at first.

  1. Continue walking at a fast pace with periods of jogging.
  2. Later intersperse your walks with a few seconds of running.
  3. Once the dog gets the logic, increase the runs gradually until you can start running right from the start.

You can increase the runs as your dog learns to stay beside you.

Also, stop and practice commands to help your dog understand things like U-turns and about-turns.

Teach speed cues

It’s safer for both of you if your dog knows when to slow down and when to run faster. You do this by teaching speed cues. Have cues for walks, jogs, and runs so your dog can change their pace to meet yours seamlessly.

To reinforce the running cue, give it immediately before increasing your speed. If the dog gets the cue, reward them.

Also, teach cues for slowing down and stopping to rest.

Conditioning

Now, it’s time to condition your dog for long runs. Increase your runs with your dog gradually. With time, they will learn to run longer miles with you safely.

Observe your dog during your runs to avoid exhaustion. If your dog is panting heavily, lagging, or stops, both of you need a break.

Draw Up a Training Regimen

Once your dog gets the routine, you have in her a worthy running partner that will always provide encouragement and motivation on your low days. Plus, both of you will get powerful workouts and enjoy each other’s companionship.

When your dog has mastered running long distances by your side, create a workout program. Even if you have an exercise program before, try tweaking it to accommodate your dog. One way to do this is to run every other day, increasing the time and distance each week until you reach your target.

3. Start off slowly

    If you are looking to start running with your pooch, don’t just clip on their lead tomorrow morning and take them on a 5K run – can you imagine if someone did that to you if you’d never been running before?

    Dogs, like humans, need to train and build up their tolerance. Start by doing an easy mile and work them up to longer distances if everything goes well. Find somewhere you both enjoy going and a distance that suits you both. There are lots of ways you can adapt to make this work. For example, if you do laps of a route from your house, you could just take your dog on your first loop and then drop them home, or pick them up on your last leg to give you some encouragement.

    5. Take the right kit

      When it comes to equipment, there are many types of belts and attachments you and your dog can wear. A key deciding factor will of course depend on what you feel most comfortable using, but it’s important to ensure that whatever you use doesn’t restrict any part of your dog’s natural movement when running. Collars may be harsh on their neck, but some harnesses actually restrict shoulder movement, so be sure to do your research on the best options for your four-legged buddy.

      Cadrim Hands Free Dog Walking Belt Ajustable Dog Leash Waist Belt Pet Dog Leash Coupler Running and Jogging Lead Belt for Dogs with 2 Pack Bags and Reflective Strip (grey) Cadrim amazon.co.uk £13.99 Shop now

      5K or 10K Training Plan

      There are many 5K and 10K running plans to help you build distance and pace. You can try one of those or start out with something even easier.

      To start, figure out your average mile time. Use a local track or mark the distance in your car and then time your mile run at a comfortable pace.

      Once you have a comfortable pace, take that time and multiply it by the miles to get your run time for a 5K (3.1 miles) or 10K, (6.2 miles). Example: 11-minute mile x 3.1 miles = 34.1 minutes

      Begin running with your dog 10 minutes every other day for a week. Then, the next week add another 10 minutes to your running time. Continue training every other day. The third week add another 10 minutes. The fourth week add another. Continue this process until you reach your projected time. Once you reach your projected time, keep running with your dog.

      It will take time and patience to get your pup ready, but with a little guidance and practice you’ll end up with one of the best running partners you could hope for.

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