How to Train Your Dog to Be Your Running Partner
If you’re looking for a motivation buddy to help you with your Couch to 5K dreams, your dog might be the perfect partner! Here’s what you need to know to get your dog ready to hit the trails with you.
Whether you’re an experienced runner or trying to start running as a beginner, having a running partner will help you stay motivated and stick to your training plan! We love our dogs and many dogs love to run, so they seem like a natural partner. However, getting things right for your new running routine requires good preparation!
Here are answers to the most common questions about running with your dog to help get your running plan off to a smooth start:
Will my dog be a good runner?
While some breeds are naturally talented runners, you don’t need to have a greyhound to have a good runner. Dogs from golden retrievers to border collies to good ol’ mutts can be great runners as long as they have lots of energy and good manners! Even small dogs like a chihuahua or a bichon frise might love to accompany you—although you might have to make your run a jog so they can keep up.
If your dog doesn’t have the temperament for running, that’s okay! Whether they get tired quickly or they would rather sniff the roses than run, you can still enjoy great walks with them and let them nap during your runs.
There are some dogs who shouldn’t run longer distances due to potential health issues:
- Young puppies who are still developing their bones—wait until they are at least a year old to start jogging with your puppy
- Brachycephalic breeds with short muzzles like pugs and French bulldogs who are prone to breathing issues
- Extra large breeds like great danes who can damage their joints
- Dogs with extremely thick coats like huskies or great Pyrenees who can easily overheat
- Dogs with luxating patellas, arthritis, or other joint issues
- Dogs with breathing problems like collapsing trachea (common in small dogs) or laryngeal paralysis (common in older dogs)
- Dogs who are severely overweight (start with weight loss and gentle exercise before working up to running!)
How should I prepare my dog for running?
Before you even start running, you have to work on good leash etiquette! Running can be naturally exciting for dogs with lots of stimuli coming at them fast, so you have to make sure they have rock solid leash training on your walks before you transition into running.
We recommend teaching your dog basic obedience training, loose leash walking, and a command to redirect their attention to you. Keeping good dog treats on you and using a consistent cue that means “look at me” will help to redirect their focus whenever there’s a tempting bicycle to chase or scary loud noise that might cause them to bolt.
Once you have the basics down pat, you can start practicing the same skills at a fast walk, a jog, and eventually a run! Your goal is to train your dog to run smoothly by your side on a loose leash—not getting underfoot in front of you or behind you. Take things slowly, move at your dog’s pace, and use lots of positive reinforcement, and you’ll be running with your dog on a leash in no time!
How can I make a dog running training plan?
Are you trying to figure out how often you should run with your dog or how many miles you can run with your dog? Most dogs (and people for that matter) aren’t ready to jump off the couch and straight into a marathon. Learning to be a distance runner takes work, and all of that build-up comes with a good training plan!
First things first, measure your goals in time, not in distance. It will take a Pomeranian and a Rhodesian ridgeback a very different amount of time to run a mile, but running for 20 minutes will provide the same benefit to both of them—no matter how far you actually travel.
When you’re ready to head out the door, take things slowly and start with a good 30-minute walk. That’s enough for day one! Take a rest day between any long runs or walks. On day three, begin introducing short bursts of running into your walk—1 minute of running alternated with 2 minutes of walking is a good place to start.
As your dog gets comfortable with that activity, you can bump it up to longer periods of running until you’re doing more running than walking, and eventually both manage a full 30-minute run! From there, you can start adding time to your runs until you can make it 40 minutes, 50 minutes, and longer. With a little patience, you’ll be 5K ready.
Where and when should I run with my dog?
There are three major factors to keep in mind when choosing where and when to run with your dog:
- The ground: While running shoes can pad our feet from rough ground, your dog will be toes to the earth for your runs. Dogs can also damage their joints with repeated harsh impacts over time. With that in mind, the best running surfaces are grass or dirt trails. Sand is okay too, but pavement is the worst material. It’s rough on the paws, too firm for healthy joints, and can become extremely hot in the summer.
- The weather: You might look outside at noon on a sunny summer day and think the weather looks beautiful, but midday heat is terrible weather for running! You want to avoid the hottest times of the day—ideally, you shouldn’t run in any temperatures over 70-75ºF depending on your dog’s heat tolerance. Conversely, in the winter you have to watch out for sneaky ice and shouldn’t stay outside long in any temperatures under 30ºF.
- Distractions: You’re not going to have a good run if your dog keeps stopping to play with other dogs or get pets from every pedestrian in the park. If your dog is laser-focused, this might not affect you, but most dogs are distractible! Consider running in a more private location and outside of peak hours to avoid as many distractions as possible.
What supplies do I need to run with my dog?
Just like you need a pair of running shoes to go for a comfortable run, there are some basic supplies you should have ready to keep your dog safe and happy during your runs!
- A dog harness for good control and to prevent tugging too hard on the neck—this is especially important for running with a dog that pulls!
- A short leash between three and six feet long. Your dog should stay close to you when you’re moving fast! You may opt for a leash with a lower traffic handle to shorten the leash when needed and/or a leash that clips onto your belt so you can run hands-free.
- A water bottle with a spout or bowl for your dog to drink. Running is thirsty work, and it’s your responsibility to provide water at regular intervals to keep your dog hydrated and happy.
- High visibility gear including reflectors or LED lights are a must if you’ll ever be running in low-visibility conditions like dawn, dusk, or poor weather.
- Consider getting a paw balm to use before and after runs to keep your dog’s paw pads moisturized and reduce irritation. They don’t have nice rubber soles like you do to protect your feet (unless they’ll wear booties, which is also a good option if you’re running on pavement and is very cute)!
Whether you can’t wait to start running with your golden retriever puppy or you’re trying to teach an old dog new tricks, these basics can help you train the good running partner of your dreams! If your training and runs go well, you might even consider making running a more social affair with local run with your dog events to find a community of pooch-loving runners just like you. Hydrate and have fun out there, friends!