With energy to spare, dogs can make excellent running companions. Plus, it’s hard to blow off your workout when your dog is begging for a run. The first thing to consider is whether or not your dog should run along with you. Some pups are biologically predisposed to enjoy running and others may be runners at heart, but it’s not for every dog. Here are some factors to consider before planning a run with your dog:
Size: Large-framed or stocky dogs can often handle 5Ks — as long as you go slowly. Medium-frame dogs with a muscular and lean build are ideal for longer runs, such as 10Ks. And don’t count out the little guys: Small, high-energy dogs bred specifically for hunting can often keep up over long distances.
Behavior: If you usually run along busy sidewalks, personality and training matters the most. You don’t want to worry about aggressive behavior when passing other runners or dogs.
Ability: Some dogs just aren’t designed to handle human-style running. Squishy-nosed dogs like pugs or English bulldogs are prone to overheating and breathing issues. Giant dogs, like Great Danes, also struggle to keep up. These dogs benefit from exercise, of course, but you’ll probably want to stick to walking.
Think your dog could be your next running buddy? Here are some tips to keep in mind:
Start With Leash Training: Before you begin running with your dog, he should be leash-trained for walking. Use a four- to six-foot leash, and teach your dog to stay close to your side. Even the best-behaved pup can find running on a leash distracting, so give treats throughout the run to reward good behavior.
Follow Human Principles: A human couch potato shouldn’t jump into running 10 miles at a time, and neither should a dog. Your pooch needs time to develop cardiovascular fitness, paw toughness, and joint, muscle and ligament strength. Start with half-mile slow runs, and build your dog’s mileage over the course of several weeks or months.
Get the Green Light: Don’t forget to get running cleared with your vet. You’ll want to wait until your dog’s growth plates are fully closed; depending on your dog’s size and breed, this bone growth can take anywhere from one to two years.
Monitor Your Dog: During the run, constantly check in on your pup to see how he’s handling the workout. Your dog needs water as much as you do, so bring some along if you’re running for more than a half hour or if it’s especially hot out. Your dog also may need to refuel during long runs (but he prefers high protein treats over your sugary gels!).
Protect Those Paws: If you’re running in cold weather, put booties or a pet-friendly topical wax on your dog’s feet, as ice and salt can irritate the paws. Be sure to wash off your dog’s feet when you get home.
Caitlin Boyle is a blogger, motivational speaker and author of the book Healthy Tipping Point: A Powerful Program for a Stronger, Happier You. She helps her husband run a holistic health clinic in Charlotte, N.C.