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Dog Running: How to Train Your Four-Legged Running Partner

Laura Richards
Sept. 23, 2015

Love to run and want your four-legged friend to join you, but not sure how to start? Follow this guide for tips, safety and etiquette while keeping it fun!

You've seen dogs and their owners taking a jog around the neighborhood, the park or even on the beach, but how do you know if your dog is ready or even able to begin joining you for a run?

Visit Your Vet First
Young, old and regardless of breed, your dog needs exercise to maintain a happy and healthy body, but it's important to check with a vet before beginning any exercise program, especially if you want to get your dog running. "If your dog hasn't been to the vet in a year or more or if you are unsure about the health of your dog, the vet must be your first step," says Michael Schaier, a certified professional dog trainer, author of two books on dogs and the owner of Michael's Pack in Mineola, New York.

He recommends your dog have a thorough exam and that you should talk to your vet about your dog's activities, lifestyle and diet. Tell your vet that you would like to start an exercise program with your dog.

As a trainer, Schaier suggests that you have the following questions answered before you begin running with your dog:
 

  • Is my dog's weight ideal for his size and breed?
  • What is the exercise tolerance for the breed?
  • Is my dog healthy enough to start?
  • Do you consider my dog a puppy, adult or senior?
  • What is a safe level of activity for my dog?
     

Age and Breeds Best For Running


 

Schaier says that puppies shouldn't start a regular regimen of jogging until they're at least 6 months old. "Dogs that are low to the ground and dogs that may have breathing issues should avoid jogging and running as a form of exercise. These breeds include bulldogs, dachshunds and basset hounds," says Schaier. These breeds still need exercise, but they should stick to forms that are more controlled and less strenuous than running.
 

Leash Your Dog
Leash your dog with a six-foot or shorter nonretractable leash so he's safely beside you, even if you are going to a fenced park or your own yard. "If your dog is not leashed, you can't dictate his speed and teach him the proper work ethic: running at a speed that you dictate, beside you, without stopping," says Schaier.
 

Warm Up
Let your dog bound around for a few minutes on his leash to burn off some energy, and then give him a few minutes to wander around to relieve himself. A few minutes of slow movement is a good warm up before exercise.
 

Start Slowly
Don't overdo it or expect too much in the beginning, as a good fitness program can take up to 30 days to achieve. "Make a schedule -- start at a 15-minute trot, morning and evening, and add three minutes to the duration every five days," says Schaier. "Rest is a critical factor in any exercise program. Set aside one day for rest out of every seven days of exercise."
 

DO:

  • Make sure your dog has digested her food before running
  • Give your dog enough water before and during a run, as dogs can overheat easily
  • Build up slowly for distance running
     

DON'T:

  • Run with your dog unless she is leashed and close to your side
  • Push your dog beyond her limits
     


 

Signs of Tiredness
If your dog starts to lag behind, that is a sure sign that she is tired while running. "Panting will be normal when running, but heavy breathing and salivating is an indicator that you should stop," cautions Schaier.
 

How Much Is Enough?
You will know if your dog is getting enough exercise by watching what he does during the day, after his morning run. If he goes to bed and sleeps through the day, he is getting enough. If he is up and wandering around the house barking at neighbors and looking for something to do, then your dog can handle more exercise.

Dog Running Etiquette
Your dog should be leashed and by your side at all times while running. Train your dog to run by your side so he doesn't jump on other runners or people passing by, which will keep everyone happy and safe.

Does your dog need some encouragement to be on the leash? Read 6 Leash Training Tips You Won't Learn in Obedience School.

Laura Richards is a Boston-based freelance writer and the mother of four boys, including a set of identical twins. She is also mom to three rescue pets: Scarlett, a 7-year-old beagle, and Edith and Ollie, 15-year-old identical twin black cats. She has written for numerous parenting publications and is the president of On Point Communications.

 *This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.

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