Can I run with my dog?
Yes, most likely. However, short-nosed dogs, like pugs, and giant breeds, like Great Danes, are typically not the best choices for running. Also, smaller dogs typically will have trouble running at high speeds or for long distances. Be careful running with puppies – their bones are not fully developed yet and running could cause injury or joint problems later on. Before you begin, bring your dog to the vet for an exercise-specific checkup to make sure his joints are in good shape.
When can I start running with my dog?
Before starting a running program with a puppy or young dog, make sure his bones are fully mature and his growth plates have closed, to avoid joint problems later. On average, this happens around 18 months of age. Smaller dogs take less time to reach full size (around a year), while larger breeds may take up to two years to fully mature. Check with your vet and slowly ease into running.
What gear do I need?
If you’re planning on running with your dog, here are the basics you need:
- Comfortable collar
- Hands-free leash
- Portable water dish
- Identification tag
- A light and a reflective vest for nighttime or low visibility runs
- Depending on the running conditions, you may also want protective cream or booties for your dog’s paws.
Which breeds are best for running?
Long, slow runs: Dogs with a bigger body that can handle the distance, as long as you go slowly.
Examples: Catahoulas, Labrador retrievers, standard poodles and dalmatians.
Running in the heat: Dogs with a long nose, short sleek coat and svelte body.
Examples: Rhodesian ridgebacks, vizslas, Airedale terriers and fox terriers.
Running in the cold: Dogs with a thick coat and a stocky body.
Examples: Malamutes, German shepherds, Swiss mountain dogs, Siberian huskies.
Running on trails with obstacles: Dogs that are sure-footed and quick to react (such as herding or hunting dogs).
Examples: German shorthaired pointers, viszlas, weimaraners, border collies, Belgian sheepdogs.
Running on crowded or heavily-used trails: Non-aggressive dogs that are people-oriented and obedient with a calm personality.
Examples: Golden and Labrador retrievers, standard poodles, labradoodles, border collies.
No matter what kind of dog you have, it’s a good idea to schedule an exercise-specific checkup with your vet before you start a running program.
Won’t my dog pull me over?
Before you begin running with your dog, it’s important to do some leash training. Although it’s good for your dog to understand and obey the commands sit, stay and down, the number one command your dog should know is heel. When you run, you want your dog to be even with your knees for maximum efficiency and control. Teaching your dog to heel will prevent him from straining at his collar, preventing injury, and will keep him from pulling you over.
Drive Magazine, Fall 2013
How do I get started?
Start slowly and gradually increase the distance and vary the terrain. Start off slowly, running for around 10 minutes, three days a week, building up distance over time. The generally accepted guideline on increasing running mileage is not to exceed a 10 percent increase (in either time or mileage) a week. This helps build your dog’s endurance, strengthen his muscles and allows his paw pads to build calluses.
Drive Magazine, Fall 2013
How far can I run? How often?
How far you go depends on your dog’s age, breed and personality. If your dog seems hyper or destructive, he probably needs more exercise. In general, a low-energy dog needs 20-60 minutes of exercise per day. A moderate-energy dog usually needs at least 60 minutes of exercise, while some high-energy sporting dogs may need to run 10-15 miles per day.
Start off slowly, running for around 10 minutes, three days a week, building up distance over time. The generally accepted guideline on increasing running mileage is not to exceed a 10 percent increase (in either time or mileage) a week. As you increase your mileage, your dog’s pads will gradually toughen to handle the longer distances. Eventually, you may also be able to increase the number of days per week that you run.
The number of miles, minutes or hours you eventually run with your dog is largely determined by…your dog. If he seems tired, is breathing fast and hard or lagging behind, you’ll know it’s time to slow down. Remember, pugs and other short-muzzled pups especially need to be monitored during exercise. Their muzzles don’t allow for lots of airflow, so they can quickly suffer from oxygen deprivation or overheating.
Although consistent workouts will keep your dog happy and healthy, it’s important to incorporate rest days into your dog’s fitness program, as well as a nutritious, balanced diet.
What about hydration and nutrition?
In general, dogs should drink ½ to 1 ounce of water per pound per day. If you’re going for a run, aim for 1 ounce of water per pound per day. And if you’re running for more than 45 minutes, especially if the temperatures are hot, you should always plan to stop for water breaks.
How can you tell if your dog is dehydrated? Check his nose. If it’s dry, he may be dehydrated. Here’s another simple test: Pinch the skin on the back of your dog’s neck with two fingers. If the skin remains squished or wrinkled, your dog needs to get water as soon as possible. You can also check your dog’s gums – if they feel slimy when you rub your finger over them, your dog is hydrated. If they’re not, he needs water!
For longer runs, bring high-protein treats that are also high in fat. While humans start off burning carbs when they exercise, dogs use fat for fuel.
What about your dog’s regular diet? If your dog comes jogging with you for 20 minutes a few times a week, you can stick to regular dog food. However, if you and your dog run five or 10 miles a day, your dog will likely need a slightly higher-fat diet overall. Look for high-performance dog foods to help boost your dog’s fat intake – or just add a teaspoon of olive oil to your dog’s kibble. Athletic dogs’ diets should also consist of at least 25 percent protein, preferably from meat.
How do I run with two dogs?
Having a short leash is key for running with two dogs, otherwise they’ll just get tangled with each other. Some people find that it works best to have one dog on each side of them when they run. Others prefer to have both on one side.
Don’t want to have both your hands full? The Stunt Puppy Stunt Coupler™ can turn one leash into two: It clips to your leash and features two swivel snap hooks, so you can easily run with two dogs.
Want to run hands free? Attach the Stunt Coupler to the hands-free Stunt Puppy Stunt Runner™ leash and you’re ready to go.
Is the Stunt Runner™ long enough? What’s the right distance I should be from my dog?
The Stunt Runner was created specifically for runners. (See it in action here.)Your most natural running stride will occur when your dog is heeling close and running by your side, within three feet of you. The short distance also gives you greater control over your dog.
Drive Magazine, Fall 2013
Why is it important to have the Stunt Runner™ bungee? Can’t I just use a regular leash?
Unlike a regular leash, the flexible bungee on the Stunt Runner stretches from 35” to 51” in order to absorb slight variations in stride without pulling you and disrupting your run. See it in action here.
Why run hands-free?
To run efficiently and avoid injury, you need to be able to pump your arms and move naturally, which is difficult if you’re holding a leash. Having free hands makes running much more comfortable! See the hands-free Stunt Runner™ leash in action here.
Does it matter if my dog has a harness, collar or Gentle Leader®?
When running, it’s best to have a regular, flat collar. If your dog tends to pull, a harness can help keep your dog on course while protecting his fragile neck. However, a harness may cause chafing on longer runs.
Never run with a choke collar, as you may injure your dog’s neck if he makes a sudden move.
The use of a gentle leader (or head halter) while running is a subject of much debate. While some people say that it is an effective way to control your dog during a run, others believe that the gentle leader may not allow your dog to open his mouth fully, which could hinder his breathing while exercising.
What is the best temperature for running? When it is too cold? Too hot?
For most of the country, the best dog exercise weather is anywhere between 32 and 70 degrees – however, it all depends on what your dog is used to.
For warm weather, here’s a good rule of thumb: If the temperature plus humidity added together are greater than 150, it’s probably too hot for your dog. So, if it’s 75 degrees out with a humidity level of 80%, you should reschedule your run or leave your dog at home.
If you do decide to go for a run with your dog and the weather is warmer than 70 degrees, make sure to carry water with you for water breaks, and watch out for hot pavement, which can burn your dog’s feet.
Dogs with long hair or with flat faces (think pugs) are much more prone to overheating, so be extra careful if you try to run with these breeds in warm weather.
Dogs are much more tolerant of cold weather, since they have fur to insulate them. However, once you get below 20 degrees it may be too cold for smaller dogs or dogs with shorter coats – consider a dog jacket for these breeds.
Also, look out for harmful chemicals like salt and antifreeze on winter sidewalks and roads, which can damage the pads on your dog’s feet and can be toxic if he licks his paws. After each cold-weather run, check your dog’s legs and paws for damage and be sure to rinse them with warm water. If you run often in the winter, or if you see that your dog’s feet are sensitive to the salt or the cold, protect his paws with a set of Stunt Puppy booties. These booties also work well on hot pavement during the summer months.
If your dog isn’t into booties, another great option to protect your dog’s feet is Musher’s Secret, a balm that you can put on your dog’s feet to protect them from snow, salt, sand and hot pavement.
How do I stay visible while running?
Once the sun goes down, or during foggy or rainy weather, it’s important to wear reflective gear to stay visible to motorists while you’re out for your run. A reflective leash, collar and even a reflective vest are all good ways to stay seen and stay safe. This reflective collar is even waterproof!
Also, consider attaching a light to your dog’s collar to act as a beacon to oncoming traffic, or to help you spot him if he gets off leash. Some of the best running lights can be seen from miles away.
Does my dog need a coat?
It all depends on what your dog is used to, but if the temps are below freezing, small or short-haired dogs may need an additional layer such as a dog jacket to keep their core temperature in a healthy range. Look for signs that your dog is cold, such as lifting up a paw or shivering.