10 Things You Should Know Before You Run With Your Dog

Taylor A Ritz

Running can be a great form of exercise for you to engage in with your dog. Not only does intense exercise tire your dog out and help them maintain a healthy weight, but it also provides bonding time with your canine companion. That being said, there are several things you should know before you take Fido for a jog.

1. Should You Run With Your Puppy?

Short answer: no! Puppies of any breed need at least eight months of skeletal development before they engage in any rigorous activities. A large or giant breed needs significantly more time than that to reach an appropriate size.

A good rule is to wait until your dog is at least one year old before taking them on a run. If you’re unsure about when to start taking your dog on runs with you, consult a knowledgeable veterinarian.

2. Is Running Good For Your Dog?

Not all dog breeds make good jogging companions. Brachycephalic dogs (breeds like Pugs and Bulldogs that have signature flat faces) can experience significant breathing issues. Rigorous activities like jogging can be hazardous and even life-threatening for these breeds. The breathing issues can be further exacerbated by conditions such as extreme temperatures.

Other breeds simply have the wrong body shape for running. One example is the short legs and long back of breeds like the Dachshund or Corgie. These breeds can experience spinal injuries.

3. Which Breeds Are Best For Running?

Just like there are breeds unsuited to running, there are other dog breeds that can make ideal running companions. Active breeds bred for endurance are well-suited to these kinds of activities. Long legs and large lung capacity are fantastic indicators that a dog is well-suited to running.

Consider breeds such as German Shorthaired Pointers, Labradors, Border Collies, and Huskies as running companions. Running can expel some of the high energy levels these breeds are known for, leaving you with a tired and (hopefully) better-behaved dog.

4. Is Your Dog In Good Health For Running?

Even if your dog has a conformation conducive to running, they may still not be healthy enough for the exercise. Running is a high-impact activity, so your dog should be in good health. Dogs with a medical history of issues such as hip/elbow dysplasia or arthritis may aggravate their conditions with running. Dogs that are overweight are at a higher risk of injuring themselves while running.

Exercises like jogging can put a strain on your dog’s joints or cause other long-term issues. If you aren’t sure whether or not your dog is healthy enough for running, ask a licensed veterinarian. 

5. What Kind Of Restraint Should You Use?

If you’ve decided you would like your dog to accompany you on regular runs, consider what kind of restraint system you plan to use. Most dog trainers do not recommend using a retractable leash, as the mechanism teaches your dog to always seek more length, which can result in more pulling.

While you can simply use a regular leash, think about attaching the leash to a harness instead of your dog’s collar. You can even invest in harnesses specially-made for running that reduce your dog’s risk of chafing. When it comes to collars, avoid those that tighten such as slip, choke, prong, and martingale collars.

6. What Should You Do Before a Run?

Immediately before a run, you should make sure your dog uses the bathroom. Running gets more than just your dog’s feet moving, and a bowel movement mid-jog will surely interrupt the rhythm of your workout.

7. What Behavior Should You Look Out For?

If you want to take your dog running with you, you need to be prepared to alter your workout to suit his or her needs. There are certain signals your dog may give you that are important to notice while running. If your dog starts to lag behind, panting with their tongue out, this is a clear indication that they are becoming tired and you need to slow down or perhaps even stop.

If your dog’s hair and tail stand up and their gaze becomes fixated, there may be something that is causing your dog anxiety. Try to identify what exactly your dog is noticing and attempt to steer clear from it. The better you know your dog and pay attention to their body language, the more likely you will have a successful run.

8. Should Your Dog Wear Anything Special?

Other than a harness, collar, and leash, you might consider additional items for your dog to wear. Before you step outside, take note of the weather conditions and think about how the outside temperature might affect your dog.

For dogs with longer or thicker coats in hot weather, you might use a cooling vest that can help your dog stay cool. Dogs with thin coats might benefit from a light jacket in cold weather.

If your dog experiences foot issues or you plan to run on rough terrain, think about outfitting your dog with booties. Many dogs take issue with booties at first but eventually get used to wearing them.

If you plan to run during times of uncertain light such as dusk, dawn, or after dark, we highly recommend utilizing reflective clothing. It is possible to simply purchase reflective strips and add them to your dog’s harness, collar, or leash.

9. What Should You Bring With You?

When taking your dog on a run it’s best to be prepared for anything. Bring poop bags in case your dog has to go while you’re out and about. Collapsible dog bowls are handy to have, especially on hot days, so your dog can rehydrate. Many of these bowls have a convenient clip to attach them directly to the leash.

10. When and Where Should You Take Your Dog Running?

Be realistic about your dog’s abilities. Consider factors such as their size, temperament, age, health, and overall abilities, then choose a route accordingly. Try to choose a route with soft surfaces that will not aggravate your dog’s footpads. Avoid surfaces like concrete, hot blacktop, or anywhere that may have debris such as glass.

During warmer seasons, try to run early or late in the day to avoid your dog overheating. Think about what problematic obstacles you might encounter depending on where you go. If your dog has issues with men, other dogs, children, etc. try to avoid areas where such encounters are more likely to occur.


Taylor Ritz

Taylor has a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science. She is a former zookeeper and animal trainer. She has her own dog, Dobby, with whom she has bicycled across the U.S. and thru-hiked the Long Trail.