A Few Tips for Running with Your Dog
Running with your dog can provide great benefit to both you and your four legged friend. While I don’t often run with others, I still get to experience all the benefits (motivation, accountability, camaraderie) of running with others thanks to my dog, Ruby. Over the last 8 years, she has been by my side (even on the treadmill) on nearly every run.
Like me, Ruby is starting to slow as she ages. Gone are the days of our PRs as we welcome a more relaxed pace, longer recovery times, and even injuries. It pains me to say, but at 9 years-old, my partner will be “retiring” to a life of walks within the next year.
So it’s time for us to think about how Ruby and I will work together to train in her relief. It’s been 9 years since I’ve trained a puppy how to be a great runner, but using the following guidelines I know we’ll succeed.
Get Ready for Running with Your Dog
Dogs need to be fully grown before they can begin a running program. The age at which puppies are fully grown varies by breed; smaller dogs may start as early as 8 months and larger as late as 2 years. A good guideline to keep in mind is around 18 months, but a check-up at the vet is a good idea before getting started.
While you’re waiting for your puppy to mature, work on a training program that will prepare them to be a great runner. Along with puppy basics (think sit, stay, come); work on the following skills to begin running with your dog:
- Leash Manners: Use a 4-6ft leash. Avoid using a retractable (flexi) leash. There are numerous reasons why a retractable leash is not a good option for any dog. And as your running partner, your dog should be at your side. Personally, I love running “hands-free” with a waist leash (from Minneapolis’ own Stunt Puppy) because my form isn’t compromised and she’s always close.
- Heel: Work on teaching your dog to walk at your side. Select a side that your dog will run on (right or left) and consistently work at keeping him no more than a foot in front of you while walking. Using the command “stay close” followed by a treat is a great (and quick) way to reinforce this behavior.
- Focus: Dogs love to sniff, especially on walks. While there is a time and place for sniffing, training walks are not one of them. Teaching the command “leave it” or “watch me” are ways to focus your puppy’s behavior. Try placing a treat on the floor and one in your hand. Place the hand with the treat in it on your forehead using the command “watch me” – it’ll teach your dog to avoid the yummy treat on the floor and focus on the yummy one between your eyes!
GO! Enjoy Running with your Dog
When you do start running with your dog, remember these three tips to get going on the right foot (or paw):
- Start Slow. Just like people, dogs need to slowly ease into a running regimen. Start with a 1/2 mile to a 1 mile run and increase the distance by up to 10% per week.
- Hydrate: Many water stops in Minneapolis and St. Paul are dog friendly – providing dog bowls right next to fountains for your pooch to use! If you’re not running in the city – consider the conditions and bring along a collapsible dish to ensure you both stay hydrated while running with your dog.
- Pick Up: Etiquette would suggest you get your dog to “go” before you begin your run. But, sometimes “stuff happens.” If your dog does his business on the run, it’s your business to pick and toss the evidence.
As with most things in life worth doing, it takes hard work and dedication to train your dog to be a great running partner. But, I can attest that the effort is worth it when you have a running partner who will be loyal to you and by your side for the next 8-10 years.
What other tips can you share for running with your dog?