I’ve been training for our local five mile obstacle course and my dog has been my running buddy. I have run off and on with her since she was little so I thought it might be useful to share a couple of tips when running with dogs.
Firstly, it’s best not to run with very young puppies. It’s recommended that puppies are only walked for five minutes for every month of age, twice a day. So a four month old puppy could have two 20 minute walks a day (this doesn’t include playing in the garden and house at home). Running is likely to put too much strain on their growth plates as they mature and could cause irreparable damage. Its might be best to wait until your puppy is one or ask your vet for advice if wanting to run some distance with your puppy.
However, for adult dogs running with their owners can be a fantastic way to burn off extra energy, increase bonding time and make the owner more exciting (as the dog has to keep up). If possible, try to make the runs as much off road as possible so that the dog can be off lead the majority of the time. Dogs are not used to running at one constant speed and need to be able to stop and toilet or drink and be able to run faster and stretch their legs. If having your dog off lead, make sure that they have a great recall and that you are 99% certain that you have them under control and can call them back where necessary.
Take into consideration how much exercise your dog is getting each week and try to make sure it is maintainable. For example, if you are training for a 10k but want to rest after you have completed it, dont take your dog on all your long runs or perhaps try taking them on only part of the run. When i was training for a 10 mile race a few years ago i would map my runs to pass my house at around 4 miles so that I could drop my dog off and carry on building up the miles needed for my training. Remember that dogs dont get tired, they just get fitter.
As a word of caution, do not run past other dogs, whether your dog is on or lead (or livestock for that matter). Instead, slow to a walk until you are a way past. Otherwise, this can lead to a multitude of issues very quickly. If your dog is anxious or likes to keep themselves to themselves for example, they wont appreciate all the puppies in the park chasing after them and pestering them. The slower you are, the less likely it is that other dogs will run after you. Or perhaps you’ve got a bouncy, friendly dog. No dog will appreciate having your dog race up to them. A polite dog will always stop a short distance from another dog then approach them slowly in an arch round to their side. It is not polite for a dog to race flat out toward another dog. Ever. As another consideration, respect to other walkers is also a must. Some people are terrified of dogs and may be startled if your dog races past.
If your dog becomes excited when you run, jumping or nipping you, start slow and stop each time they become boisterous. When you stop, dont look at them, touch them or talk to them, just make yourself as boring as possible. Once they are calm, start a slow jog again and repeat as many times as possible until they realise that if they want the exciting fast paced run they need to run with you and not on you. Shouting at and pushing your dogs down is likely to only make them more excited. Instead, focus on giving your dog praise and attention when they are running along side you and doing what you want.
How about pulling? If your dog pulls when running on the lead slow down then run the opposite way until they are back by your side. Then turn again and run back the way you were wanting to go. Try to slow down as soon as your dog passes in front of your leg rather than when they are at the end of the lead to avoid hurting their necks when you stop. Praise your dog heavily for jogging beside you on a loose lead. Increase the speed and distance you run gradually as your dog becomes calmer. If your dog jumps up or pulls a lot, practice is short sessions at home first, at a time when you are not actually going for a run.
Regarding gear, I run with my dog in a harness and with a lead that attaches around my waist so that I can run hands free. This ensures that my dog is safely secured but also that I exercise my body evenly on both sides (I have found that holding a item in only one hand can work one side of my body more than the other which can play up my scoliosis). I also have a running jacket and shorts that have pockets on the back where I store poo bags and light weight flat treats (cracker types). Both my dog and I have florescent jackets and lights to make sure we are visible when running in the dark.
In summary, reward your dog heavily for not jumping or pulling and for coming back when called whilst you run. Prevent them jumping up or pulling when your run by stopping and ignoring them until they stop or running away from where they are pulling to.
Pro Dog School. Reward the good, prevent the bad.
About the Author: Holly Keeling. Dog Trainer in Sussex, England. Mother to furrbaby Leskie 5yrs and little humans Teddy 3yrs and Louie 1yr. Outdoor lover. A blog about raising kids and dogs and my life as a dog trainer. View more blogs here.