How to run with your dog

We’re all busy people, right? This means it can be hard to fit into our day all the things we need and want to do and, because we love our dogs unconditionally, walking them is a top priority. 

While that walk is good exercise for us, too, it can often mean sacrificing more intense workouts like a gym visit or a run. But there is a solution: you can go running with your dog.

Running with your dog has become hugely popular in recent years. It’s even become a competitive sport, called CaniCross. Go on an organized trail run these days and you’ll often see, and be overtaken by, a runner and their four-legged partner (the human always looks more tired).

In case you’re tempted by trotting with your Tibetan Mastiff, jogging with your Jack Russell or sprinting with your Samoyed, we’ve listed some of the reasons why it’s good to run with your dog and how to do it in a safe and healthy way for both of you.

Why should you run with your dog?

The first and most obvious reason to run with your dog is that it’s really good exercise for you both. It’s good for building muscle, for heart and lungs, and for losing weight. Obesity is the cause of all kinds of terrible illnesses in humans and dogs, so losing a few pounds isn’t just about aesthetics, it’s about long-term health – staving off future problems (and future vet/medical bills). 

It can also help improve a dog’s behavior. A lot of dogs play up because they’re bored or under-exercised. Giving them extra, intense exercise that seems like a big game to them is one way of negating this. A lot of people who run with their dog think it increases their bond.

Oh, and it’s really good fun. 

How old should your dog be before you run with them?

You shouldn’t walk your puppy too far too soon, so it stands to reason that you shouldn’t run with them too far too soon. In fact, you shouldn’t run with a puppy at all until they’re fully grown – about one-and-a-half years old. Their muscles and bones are still developing so too much exercise can lead to conditions like arthritis down the road (pun intended). Likewise, spare a thought for older dogs who might not have the energy levels they once had.

Can you run with any breed of dog?

In short, no. Some breeds, like pugs and bulldogs, simply can’t cope with anything more than a short burst, so aren’t well suited to running with people. Whippets and greyhounds are fit, athletic dogs but are sprinters rather than marathon runners, so don’t expect any leisurely jogs.

How do I train my dog to run with me?

The first thing is, don’t try to run before you can walk. Literally. If your dog can’t walk properly on a leash or walk to heel, then what chance do you have getting them to run with you in a nice, well-mannered fashion? Exactly.

Once that’s all ok, start with short runs along your regular, familiar walking routes if possible. Ten-minute bursts should be fine, gradually increasing the time and distance. Trust us, it’ll soon be a case of you trying to match them for stamina.

If you’re going to use a leash, make sure there’s enough slack in case your running partner suddenly puts the brakes on or spies a squirrel. You can get ‘bungee’ leashes specifically designed for running.

Get your dog to run by your side

If they run behind you, it’s not only annoying but you won’t be able to see any signs of fatigue, thirst or injury. And you won’t have time to react if they suddenly stop. If they run ahead of you, it’s dangerous because you could easily trip over them, causing a person-pooch pile-up.

Your dog will probably love running with you, but there’s no harm in giving them the odd small treat if they’re doing well, to encourage good behavior. You need to be more enticing than those squirrels. 

Let your dog know when it’s time to run

A simple command like “C’mon boy” or “Let’s go girl” will do the trick. It’s also useful to have a command for when you want them to slow down. Again, reward them for getting it right. 

How do you run safely with your dog?

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to running safely with your dog, but it’s mostly basic common sense and applies equally to dogs and humans.

First, take a look out the window. If it’s really hot or really cold, don’t take your dog out (unless you have a Husky). Ask yourself, especially on a hot day, how you would feel running barefoot in a fur coat?

Think about your route and the terrain

If you can avoid being near roads, do it, so that neither of you is breathing in dirty air and there’s less chance of anyone running in front of a car. Also try to run on grass or trails, which are better surfaces for your joints and your dog’s (and their paw pads). You should always check their paws after the run, too, just to make sure they haven’t picked up any injuries.

You both need to hydrate, so always run with water and drink it regularly, especially on longer runs and warmer days. You can always share a bottle, but maybe take a little fold-up bowl for pooch. 

Take breaks on the run, for drinks, toilet duties, or just a little breather. And don’t forget to have a couple of poop bags with you. 

Do I need any equipment to run with my dog?

This is up to you and your dog. If your dog walks/runs to heel and is unlikely to sprint into the woods or traffic, then you can probably just carry a light leash for when you need it. 

If you want or need to run with a leash then you have options. You can use a normal leash and either hold it or loop it over your arm. We’d suggest something three to six feet long – extendable or long leads are a hazard to you, your dog and the public at large.

You can also buy some CaniCross gear. This often involves a harness for your dog that’s attached by a bungee leash to a belt that you wear (they often have handy pockets for treats, bags, etc). As with most things, you can spend a little or spend a lot, so it’s up to you how serious you want to get. 

Is there anything else I should know?

Yes. Enjoy it!