How to Train Your Dog to Run with You

woman running with dog, a sheltie
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As a dog lover, it's only natural to want to include your dog when you exercise. Many people enjoy running as a physical activity. Whether you are already a runner or you wish to start running, you can probably include your dog. Running can be a great form of exercise for certain people and dogs, but it's important to do it right. Here's what you need to know before you start running with your dog.

No Puppies

While it's certainly safe to let your puppy run and play in short spurts, running for exercise is not healthy for growing puppies. Because your puppy's bones are still growing, the stress and fatigue brought on by any kind of distance running can lead to injury, potentially causing permanent damage. Most dogs will be able to start running between 9-12 months of age. Larger dog breeds tend to mature more slowly. Ask your vet when your puppy is mature enough to start running with you.

Consult Your Veterinarian First

No matter your dog's age, it is important to communicate with your vet before starting a new exercise program for your dog. Your vet may be able to detect minor health issues before they become worsened by running. Remember that your dog may not show any signs of illness until the health problem becomes more severe. Do your furry friend a favor and have your vet clear your pooch for running first.

Know Your Dog

Not all dogs are cut out for running. Your dog might be happier on a walk where he or she can explore the world with their nose. Some dogs cannot handle the physical exertion of running or they do not have the endurance for anything more than a short run. Many dogs are too sensitive to the heat. Do not run with a brachycephalic dog (short muzzle) such as a bulldog or pug. These dogs simply cannot cool themselves properly and will easily overheat on a run, even in cooler temperatures.

Train and Socialize Your Dog

Before running, make sure your dog is well-trained. Your dog should be able to walk on a loose leash and know how to properly behave during a walk. Be certain that your dog knows basic commands as well. Also, ensure that your dog is well-socialized before running. It's important that your dog does not react adversely to other people and dogs, cars and trucks, wild animals, and other distractions. If you think your dog is not yet ready, stick with walks.

Start Slowly

The first day you go running with your dog is not the day to go the distance. Begin with about 10 minutes at a slow to moderate pace, watching your dog's reaction to the exercise increase. Add 5 to 10 minutes to the run every few days if your pooch tolerates it well. If your dog is slowing down on their own or begins to limp, it's time to stop running and walk home. Increase your pace as your dog can tolerate it. When in doubt, go for short and slow runs until your dog builds up the endurance for more. Don't overdo it and risk injury!

Bring Plenty of Water

Make sure your dog has access to plenty of cool, fresh water while running. If you cannot bring water with you or run in a public area where water is available for both humans and dogs. Your dog needs about as much water as you if not more.

Be Safe in the Heat

It's important to know that dogs do not cool themselves efficiently. If the day is hot enough that you can hardly tolerate a run, common sense dictates you should leave your dog home. Even a sunny day in the 70s may be too hot for your dog. During warmer months, consider early morning runs with your dog before the heat of the day. If your dog shows signs of heat stroke or heat exhaustion, seek immediate veterinary attention. Also, do not run on hot asphalt with your dog. If it's too hot for you to touch, it's too hot for your dog's paws!

Be Respectful and Responsible

It's best to keep your dog on a leash when running. Consider a hands-free leash to make it easier for you. When running, you should follow the same basic rules of walking: pick up after your dog, have control of your dog, respect others, pay attention. Most of all, have fun!

Problems and Proofing Behavior

If your dog is unable to handle a safe run, it's best not to run with your dog. You are only setting yourself and your dog up for injury and disappointment. A common mistake is jumping right into long runs with your dog. This is something new for them, and like humans, need to build up their endurance. Choose areas that are easy to run in, have access to water, and provide safe paths for you and your dog.