For many dog owners, hitting the tracks with their adorable four-legged companion is a dream come true. Except that not all dogs are suitable as running mates, and those that can run need adequate training if you want to enjoy your time outdoors together.
Do you want to know how to train a dog to be a running partner? Here are the main steps you need to follow to make your dog an awesome running partner and companion:
- Check your dog is fit to run
- Start leash training
- Take things slow
- Increase the t
- Build endurance
- Create a workout program for both of you.
You need a lot of preparation and training to get your dog to run beside you with no incidents. That’s why we created this definitive guide to answer all your questions. Know that you have to be patient and understanding with your pooch as both of you learn and bond together on your way to becoming a perfect running pair.
*Section 1 – Before You Start*
Before you head out the door with your dog on the leash, there are vital things you need to know before you run. These questions are Phase 1 to know how to train a dog to be a running partner.
Distance – The Big Question You Need To Ask
What kind of distance are you talking about?
- Are you trying to get prepared for a 3-6 miles (5-10 km) fun run?
- Are you taking on a half marathon distance (13 miles or 24 km) and you want your dog beside you during training?
- Are you going all the way with a full marathon distance (26 miles or 48 km)?
Based on your answers to the above questions, here’s the big question about your dog – is your dog physically suited to running the distances you are intending to cover?
Check with your veterinarian
It is important to talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s ability to run the distances you want to cover before you train them to become your running partner.
Based on the breed and age, your dog may be predisposed to certain health conditions that may limit their ability to tag along on runs. Does your dog suffer from joint problems? Is he always short of breath after a few minutes of exertion? Hip dyslexia, disc issues
Ensure your vet clears your dog of any pre-existing health conditions which may worsen if they run with you before hitting the tracks.
For example, all of my dogs were born with a hole in their heart. That was discovered during a routine health check when they were puppies. Although they could still be healthy active dogs, I knew I could not over-exert them with exercise. For me, training them for long distances on a regular basis would not have been advisable.
When you have a rescue dog, you’re not familiar with their health history. So please do see your local vet before starting your running training with your dog.
The best running breeds
My recommendation as the best breed of dog for running is the Vizla.
The best running dogs have long bodies and legs. That’s why the Australian Shepherd, Weimaraner and German Short Hair Pointers make excellent running buddies.
Agile dogs like the Dalmatian, Aussie Shepherd, and Siberian Husky do not tire easily. If you are training for a half or full marathon and you want your dog as a running buddy, these breeds will be with you all the way.
Labradors make great running partners but they do need to be fit like Bella, who has run 2 marathons and 18 half marathons.
For detailed commentary on the best dog breeds for marathons, read our article here.
Brachycephalic dog breeds
If your dog is brachycephalic i.e. have a short snout like a Bulldog or French Terrier, then it may have difficulties keeping up with you during runs. This is because such dogs have a physical abnormality that limits their air intake and they quickly overheat after a short period of exertion.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t run with your Pug, Shih Tzu, Boston Terrier, Chihuahua, Pekingese, Spaniel, Chow Chow or English Mastiff can’t run, just keep it light, mindful of their proneness to overheating.
Ruby Tuesday, a Boston Terrier, has competed in 15 races with her 45-year-old dog dad, Shane. They have won all but one race.
Short legs and long bodies
Dogs with short legs and long bodies such as dachshunds are prone to intervertebral disc disease.
Prone to hip dysplasia and joint issues
If distance running is your passion or something you do consistently, larger dog breeds susceptible to hip dysplasia and joint issues may not be an appropriate workout partner.
At what age can dogs run with you?
Puppies are still growing their bones, so they cannot withstand long periods of running.
It is important for your dog to be of the appropriate age before you run together.
For best results, start running with your pooch when he is one-and-a-half or two years old.
While you wait for the dog to come of age, practice walking,
At what age should a dog stop running?
This depends on various factors such as the breed, inherent health issues,
Best Weather Conditions to Run with Your Dog
Running with your dog is great, but beware of these weather dangers. Conditions won’t always be fair and ideal when you are running with your dog.
Ideal running temperatures for your dog
Dogs have the tendency to overheat after exhaustion, which is why they want to cool down.
High temperatures can cause heatstroke, paw abrasions, and soreness in your dog. Be aware of these hot weather guidelines when running with your dog:
- If the temperature is 24-27 degrees Celsius, your dog will probably overheat.
- Above 30 degrees, there is a major risk of heatstroke for all breeds, ages and sizes of dogs so don’t walk your dog during this period.
During the summer, it’s best to schedule your runs for the early mornings and late evenings when the temperature is cooler.
Your dog should not run when the temperature is below freezing.
You can still run short distances with your pooch when the temperature is above 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Below that, only exercise for short periods and limit their time in the snow.
By all means, exercise your dog during the winter but pay attention to their wellbeing and take necessary precautions like buying snow boots. These boots protect a dog’s sensitive paw pads from ice, snow,
Best time of year to train your dog to run
Do you live in a climate where it tends to snow and you don’t own a Siberian Husky or Malamute? Then I would recommend you train your dog in the Spring and then into Summer or at the tail end of Summer and into Fall.
What Type of Surface Are You Running On?
When you run with your dog, you are most likely wearing specialized running shoes but your canine buddy is barefoot.
If you are running long distances, it’s best to run on natural ground surfaces such as grass or earth as these are gentle on the animal’s paws.
Artificial surfaces like concrete, asphalt, and gravel can be unforgiving to your dog’s legs and paws. Not only do these harder surfaces cause paw abrasions and soreness, but they can also damage your dog’s joints and bones.
It is advisable to get your dog a pair of running pads to cushion the effect of running on hard surfaces.
*Section 2 – Master the Basics First*
OK, you’ve completed the section of this article about how to train a dog to be a running partner.
I know you’re keen to start hitting the pavement at a decent pace with your dog. But just wait a little longer. it will be worth it!
What happens if you skip this section?
- Your dog may pull you along on your run
- You will get tangled up in the leash and trip.
Phase 2 is all about mastering your dog walking comfortably on their leash before that walk breaks into a run. Walking “comfortably” means avoiding accidents and ensuring your dog stays politely by your side when you start running.
Step 1 – By your side
Traditionally, it is recommended you train your dog to walk by your left side. Either way is fine. What’s more important is whatever side they have been trained to walk on does not change. Maintain that side to avoid confusion. Ideally, he should be a few paces ahead of you or by your side.
The right leash for you and your dog
For convenience, a
A short leash that you can hold at your side while running normally without extending your arms will also work.
Stop walking if your dog pulls the leash. A short leash is also useful if your dog pulls. 2 feet of leash limits how far the dog can go ahead of you.
Reward your dog
Remember, you are trying to condition your dog to walk calmly by your side. With time, they will connect walking politely by your side with the treats, helping to reinforce the behavior.
Walk and reward them with a treat every few minutes if they stay by your side.
Bring enough treats on your walks.
Stop if their feet are ahead of you.
Make them stop and sit and then reward with treats until your dog is calmly sitting before you walk again. Repeat this until she understands that you will stop if she gets ahead of you.
Getting tricky – U-turns and about-turns
Once you can get your dog to walk beside you with no issues, train them to stay with you at U-turns and about-turns. This will help your dog know they need to change direction when you do.
Reward them generously whenever they stay by your side at these turns. Continue doing this until it becomes a habit.
The same techniques used during leash training apply for runs. Provide enough positive reinforcement and be patient and understanding with your dog.
You and your dog need to master these basic commands whilst you’re walking and before you run:
- “Sit” and “Stay” for stopping at traffic crossings
- “Leave it” or “Drop it” or “Don’t Touch or just plain “No”. This command is useful should your pooch pick up any dead bird rates, mice, roadkill, or trash from the ground.
*Section C – Next Steps*
This is the moment you have been waiting for!
Now that your dog can walk on a leash beside you, how to train a dog to be a running partner and companion?
Step 1 – Walk and Run
When you start running with your dog, take things slowly at first.
- Continue walking at a fast pace with periods of jogging.
- Later intersperse your walks with a few seconds of running.
- Once the dog gets the logic, increase the runs gradually until you can start running right from the start.
You can increase the runs as your dog learns to stay beside you.
Also, stop and practice commands to help your dog understand things like U-turns and about-turns.
Teach speed cues
It’s safer for both of you if your dog knows when to slow down and when to run faster. You do this by teaching speed cues. Have cues for walks, jogs, and runs so your dog can change their pace to meet yours seamlessly.
To reinforce the running cue, give it immediately before increasing your speed. If the dog gets the cue, reward them.
Also, teach cues for slowing down and stopping to rest.
Now, it’s time to condition your dog for long runs. Increase your runs with your dog gradually. With time, they will learn to run longer miles with you safely.
Observe your dog during your runs to avoid exhaustion. If your dog is panting heavily, lagging, or stops, both of you need a break.
Draw Up a Training Regimen
Once your dog gets the routine, you have in her a worthy running partner that will always provide encouragement and motivation on your low days. Plus, both of you will get powerful workouts and enjoy each other’s companionship.
When your dog has mastered running long distances by your side, create a workout program. Even if you have an exercise program before, try tweaking it to accommodate your dog. One way to do this is to run every other day, increasing the time and distance each week until you reach your target.
The Typical Challenges You May Encounter
Your dog might be ready to run, but you may face a series of challenges during your workouts. Here are things to watch out for and how to manage them.
If your dog is brachycephalic, they may have difficulty getting enough oxygen and cooling down.
However, all dogs are susceptible to heatstroke when the temperature is high.
It is important to observe your dog’s physical state to avoid exhaustion.
Slow down when your dog pants excessively and bring plenty of water for both of you.
By all means, try to get your pooch to settle toilet matters before hitting the road. But prepare to pick after him if he has to do his business in public.
If your runs are on hard surfaces like
Other people and traffic
Be sure to desensitize your dog before heading out to public property. Your dog shouldn’t get excited easily when they hear the blaring of vehicle horns or the voices of strangers.
Squirrels and other dogs can be a tempting distraction for most dogs and this can derail your runs.
Train your dog with cues that bring him back into the moment and use treats to reinforce his concentration.
Tips to Keep the Run Safe and Fun
To ensure you and your dog have safe and enjoyable runs, keep these tips handy.
- Always warm up your dog before runs. After the exercise, cool him down by walking for some minutes.
- Check that the weather is suitable before heading out. Your dog can’t withstand heat, humidity, and cold like you.
- If the run is long enough for you to bring a water bottle, your dog will also need water. Carry a collapsible water bowl for his use. If you are running on trails, plan your route along with natural water bodies where he can have his fill during runs.
- Take breaks on your walks. This will allow your pooch to gather his strength, cool down and soak in the environment.
- Never allow your dog to run off-leash if he is easily distracted. Also, check it’s legal and safe before releasing him.
- Observe your dog for signs of lethargy. Excessive panting, lagging or sitting are signs he has had enough.
Special Note About Running Trails
Trail running with your dog comes with unique challenges for you and your dog. Unlike running in town, your dog is at risk of pathogens, wildlife, and poisonous plants in the wild. Follow the following tips.
1. Get a health check
Check that your dog is strong enough for trail running. Visit your vet and have your dog checked up. Here, age, breed, and physiology will come into play.
2. Beware of ticks
Both you and your dog could pick up ticks whilst trail running. Ticks can cause a terrible disease called Lymes Disease. This illness can cause recurring lameness and kidney failure in dogs.
Long socks will protect you from ticks. For your dog, you need to ensure your dog is up to date on their tick medication.
When you are running through long grass or the woods, always check for ticks when you finish your run. If you find a tick, this is how to safely remove them:
3. Have a good strong leash
There are too many temptations on the trail that can endanger your animal. Get a quality leash to keep your dog close to you at all times.
When you notice your dog’s leash is starting to wear and fray at the edges, it’s time to buy a new leash.
4. Buy a dog harness
Your dog will thank you for buying a harness rather than a collar. It’s more comfortable and offers higher control.
5. Always carry water for your dog
Carry your dog’s water on trails. While you can let them hydrate at ponds and streams, these natural water bodies are potential sources of pathogens and parasites.
Bring a supply of water that you can share with your dog.
6. Be prepared for the poop
It is your responsibility to pick after your pooch. It will keep the trails clean for others and reduce pollution of the environment.
7. Consider dog boots to protect paw pads
While many dogs love to run barefoot, city dogs can suffer from sharp rocks, snow,
8. Let others use the road
Hikers, horses, and bikes have more rights to the trail, so make way for them.
9. Be alert on the trail
Your dog may be an intelligent animal, but you still need to protect it from wildlife such as venomous reptiles and large carnivores. Look out for parasites such as ticks and fleas too. Wild plants may also be poisonous to your dog, so don’t let them chew anything in sight.
10. Avoid heatstroke
Dogs lack sweat glands, which makes them inefficient at cooling down. If the temperature is over 70 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s time to go home.
11. Be observant of your running companion
Don’t over-exercise your dog. If your dog pants excessively, take a break or walk the rest of the distance.
What to Do in Winter
You still need to exercise your dog in winter.
Some dogs like the Siberian Husky are bred to thrive in sub-freezing Arctic temperatures, but your dog may not withstand such extremes.
If you don’t own a Husky to run with, there are many ways to maintain the fitness condition of your running companion. Indoor exercises can help keep your dog active and happy.
- A game of fetch or obstacle courses (with everyday materials like empty boxes0 in your back yard or large garage
- Indoor exercise gym for your dog
- Indoor agility classes
- Indoor dog park.
You can even train your dog to use a treadmill, but make sure the ramp is long enough for the dog’s size.
Running Dog Gear
Some dog gear will come in handy on your runs. That way you can both accessorize and even match!
A leash is a must. The first step towards running with your dog is training it to walk on a leash. Leashes you can attach to your waist are excellent, and you can get models that convert to a harness.
It’s better to use a harness for your dog rather than a collar. A harness is gentler on the dog’s airways and offers more control.
If you are doing long mileage on hard surfaces or trails, you may consider dog shoes. Dogs need paw protection from thorns, rocks, and glass splinters on the road. Hot pavement and concrete surfaces can also burn your dogs, paws. This may not be necessary if you run on grass or earth.
Running with a dog that pulls – what do I do?
If your dog is the pulling type, train him to walk beside you. Also, get a short leash of about 2 feet which limits how far the dog can go ahead of you.
When to start running with a puppy?
The general rule is 12 months and above. Smaller dogs mature faster than bigger dogs so the age may be lower in smaller breeds. The most important thing is that the dog’s joints and muscles should be fully developed before you start forced exercise to prevent permanent damage to their joints.
Can you learn how to train your dog to run with you without a leash?
This is possible, but difficult. It is best to start with leash training.
Running with a dog harness, what are the key things I need to know and master?
Get a quality harness that fits your dog perfectly.
I’m thinking of training my dog for a 5k race, what steps should I take?
The first step is to check that your dog has no underlying health conditions that make him unsuitable for the race. Then train him to walk on a leash before gradually adding sprints and short runs. In the following weeks, mix walks with runs and increase time and mileage as your dog’s endurance improves.
How useful are running intervals with dogs?
Running intervals help to condition your dog for more challenging races. With time, he will learn to keep up with your pace regardless of the distance.
What about long-distance running?
If you would like to run a marathon with your dog, read this article to find out more.
What are the best breeds for trail running?
You can find the top 10 best breeds here.
Want some variety?
If your dog loves running, you may want to try some different activities to vary things up a bit.
Start running with your dog!
Follow the running dogs on Instagram.
If you want to dial up the challenge and the effort, join a dog jog event or any dog-friendly running event.
And then go all the way…you can even turn running with dogs into a full-time income.
How To Train a Dog To Be a Running Partner
I’ve thoroughly covered the topic of how to train your dog to run next to you. I hope you enjoy the experience. If you have any other tips to share about training your dog to run with you, drop them in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!
More Information About Running
If you are keen to have your dog as your running partner, check out our running guides on specific dog breeds: