Humans and dogs were born with something in common; a need to run. It is ingrained in us from the start. The instincts, physical ability, and drive to just take off running kick in and start to take hold early on in life. Children and puppies alike need eyes on them at all times or else they will be off and out of sight. These needs and abilities only get stronger in the years to come, so you might as well take your friend along for the jog!
Running with your dog can be a super rewarding experience for both of you. Both you and your pup get to let out some energy, make your bodies stronger, and spend time with each other at the same time. Many people complain about their dogs having too much energy and running with them is a great way to keep them relaxed and content for the rest of the day. Not to mention the health benefits for both of you!
Dogs in general are built for shorter overall distance running and chasing down small prey. Humans are built for much longer distance runs, but at a slower overall pace compared to dogs. Keeping all of this in mind can help you find a distance that works for both of you. The last thing you want out on the trail is one of you dropping out from exhaustion with miles still left to go.
There are a lot of things to consider about your dog before taking them running. Age, physical fitness, breed, build, and overall health all play a role in determining if your dog is ready for a run. Although puppies have lots of energy, they should not accompany you on any jogs just yet. Look into when your breed’s growth plates close before taking them on any hard surfaces or consult your vet to see if your dog is ready to run.
Once you have determined that you and your pup are good to go, it’s time to gear up. On the human side, you will need all your normal running gear. Shoes, workout clothes, and hydration for you if the distance calls for it. For the canine side, it's mostly the same for taking any hike or walk. A collar or harness, leash, and probably a bowl and water should be all you need.
When starting out, start easy with everything. Pace, distance, and heat should all be pretty easy to begin with. This is an awesome time to practice some basic commands and get them used to things you might come across, such as other runners, dogs, bikes, or small animals. Really take this time to watch your dog and get to know their reactions. See how they react to changes in speed, distance and temperature, and back off if they are getting too overworked. If you are both newer to running, it might be a good idea to start training in the fall so that the cooler temperatures help you out a little.
If you have had dogs for a while, you know that they can overeat much easier than humans. Not only are they covered in fur, but that cannot dump heat as efficiently as us. They lose heat through their tongues and paws but can’t sweat all over their bodies like you and me. If you can work out a point in the middle or end of the run where you guys can jump in some water, that would just be a bonus all around. Make sure to always keep an eye out for heat exhaustion. If they plop down and don’t want to move, the run is over.
Leash control becomes super important when running with your dog. Keep them on a 4 to 6 foot leash, and do not let your dog pull. If they get used to pulling against you, it is a hard and dangerous habit to break. Try to stay away from long retractable leashes. Another thing to consider is leash laws. Both you and your dog would probably be happier without the leash there. Personally, I try to find a place where it is okay to run them off leash, but only because I am confident in my ability to control my dogs off leash and know that they will stay very close to me at all times. However, if the trail you are on has specific leash rules, make sure to obey them for the safety of you, your dogs, and others that use the trails.
Starting a running routine with your dog can be a rewarding experience for both of you. For me, it feels like I am tapping into something primal and ancient, as humans running and hunting with dogs goes way back in our history. You and your dog will be happy, in shape, tired out, and probably more bonded than ever. If you haven’t tried running with your dog, I really couldn’t recommend it more. Go get out there!