Guide: How To Run With Your Dog
Looking to bump up your heart rate, improve fitness, or add another fun activity with your pup? We're here to introduce you to running in a way that keeps it fun for you and your dog.
HOW TO RUN WITH YOUR DOG: THE STARTING LINE
“I’m not a runner.” “Running is hard.” “Where do I even begin?” If this is you, you’re not alone. Between PD and me (and a couple guest pros), we’ve got you and your dog covered and will help guide you through exploring this new way to move together. We’ll cover:
- Motivation: What's so great about running with dogs?
- The Golden Rule: Four words to start you and your dog off on the right paw (setting expectations)
- Before the Run: How to prepare for running - considerations like checking with your vet, your own doctor, planning a route, and trail etiquette
- The Gear: What gear do you need to get out on a run with your dog?
- Training Plan to Run a 5K with Your Dog
- Beyond the Training Plan: Keep Going
MEET YOUR COACHES: KRISSY & PD: YOUR COACHES
I’m Krissy – your bipedal coach. I ran competitively in high school and college and pursued a competitive ultra-trail career 2000-2019. Now, I’m 45, still running, and also coaching, authoring, and race directing.
PD’s the furry one with the wiggle bottom. She’s a 7-year old mini Australian Shepherd who likes to run mostly to be with me, and also loves to chase sticks, her frisbees, and small tennis balls (but don’t count on her bringing them back). She’ll take all the treats and pets she can get.
We became running (and life) buddies in 2016. While running had been a major part of my life for decades, when PD joined my life, I had a bit to learn about running with dogs – learnings that I hope will help you and your dog find a connection to both each other and to running.
WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT RUNNING WITH YOUR DOG?
Coming from a background racing and high-level of training, I love the playfulness and exploration that PD adds to my runs now. As you and your dog get started, explore running and what you’re capable of through the lens of a curious pup. Be each others’ teachers.
Dogs are great distractions. Running solo, it’s easy to get sucked into your own mindset. Running with a dog creates constant external stimulus, and witnessing their joy of exploration adds to your running experience.
They’re great motivators, too. When I grew up in the sport of running, there were a few dogs (not my own) whose personalities added huge joy to training runs. We’d be tired after a 20-mile run, and Jack the Austrailian Shepard would find a stick in the parking lot for us to throw while we were trying to suck down recovery drinks. Piper, my god-dog, would double the mileage with all of her out-and-backs and forays off trail.
They help us break up the routine. Before PD, I often did convenience runs from my house that could include quite a bit of pavement. Now, I see more how PD (and I) thrive when we can cruise through the woods on dirt trails that we don’t have to be leashed together. I can stay steady with my pace and she can get in her sniffs and catch up.
Dogs remind us to recover. While up for a run, she’s also done when we are done. She loves to be toweled off and then, with that Aussie whine, she tells me it’s time to be let into the backseat of the car so she can quickly start her recovery.
Run your dog’s run.
If you approach all your planning and head out on your run with this top of mind, you’ll be golden.
You may be changing up your usual pace or distance or trip lengths. You may have to adjust to frequent stops, especially if on leash. Perspective is everything! I had so many runs “in the zone” that I now choose when I want to run in that solo headspace and when having the addition of PD’s antics (like maybe a quick break for a roll in the mud) is the experience I’m going for.
But – you’ll be having a blast enjoying the outdoors in a whole new way with your best buddy by your side.
Running your dog’s run also means learning your dog’s desire for running, as well as your own. We encourage you to run together and take opportunities for your dog to rest, especially if you’re looking to increase mileage. Variety is a pro’s hack to keeping running enjoyable.
BEFORE HEADING OUT ON YOUR FIRST RUN WITH YOUR DOG
Check with Your Vet (and Your Own Doctor)
I learned early on that is was best to not run a dog before they're fully grown. This depends on your dog's size and breed, so best to check with you vet. It's important to let their bones form without the beat down of a lot of miles.
Check in with Your Dog
Every dog is different, so it’s key to practice noticing your own dog’s signs for “Let’s go!” “More, please,” and “Time to be done.”
Do they join you at the door when you are tying your shoes or do they lay on their bed? Are they moving around fluidly, or a bit stiff when they first stand up and take a few steps? Is their appetite average or has it increased?
If it’s the first on any of these questions, they are likely good to go. If the latter on any of these, it might be time for a solo run.
Where I try to look for breaks for PD is in her energy around the house the day(s) after a run, especially a long run. I air on the side of caution in hopes of prolonging our running time together over years rather than immediate miles.
4 Tips for Planning a Dog-Friendly Route
- Trial run. Get a sense of your area before you leash up. Maybe run a few different routes on your own first to scout it out, or walk the routes with your dog first.
- Leash check. Look up leash regulations of the areas your route passes through. If your route passes through an off-leash area and off-leash works for you and your dog, that can be a great way to mix things up and run at your own pace. If not, there’s a lot of fun to be had running together (like a dog-powered turbo boost when your legs get tired).
- Where's the water? Know your water sources both for drinking, and, as PD taught me for dipping. PD does a great job of keeping herself cool by submerging at nearly every opportunity.
- Look for bonus features. Softer surfaces, fun ways to connect streets and trails and dog parks and snack stops, where garbage cans are (so you don’t have to run with full poop bags). I swear PD recognizes garbage cans and poops when we are close so I don’t have to carry it for a long haul. Best running buddy ever.
Practice your leash/harness set up on some walks before running with it. Mind your legs, and your dog’s. There were a few times where adjusting to a new leash length or doing a speed workout together found us sprawled out in the middle of the road.
I love having the leash hands-free and around my waist, and PD does best with the leash clipped to the back of her harness. For the most part, this keeps us both from getting tangled up.
Brush up on Trail Ettiquette
- Pick up poop!
- Keep your dog to the farside when passing other dogs on leash. I tend to put myself between PD and other dogs so that we can run “on by” (a helpful command we’ve worked on) and not have to pause and greet, or to avoid conflict with a dog that needs more space.
- Leash up in on-leash areas
- Have reliable recall in off-leash areas
The After-Run Recovery
- Re-fuel after the run – snack for you, snack for your dog
- For humans, stretching and foam rolling will help ease muscle tightness and soreness when done with consistency
- For dogs, why not a doggo massage?
- Make sure there’s plenty of fresh water for your pup at all times while at home
PD’S CANINE TIPS FOR RUNNING WITH A HUMAN
If PD could write out some tips for aspiring canine runners, here’s what I think she’d add:
“Some basic training that you might have already learned or might want to work on with your human can really be helpful when running together. I learned some other things on the run with my human, and we continue to learn as we add time tied together. I’ve learned that my harness with the leashed clipped on the chest means not to pull. I heel when I hear “With me” (most of the time), and if we are off leash and my human needs me, I’m really good at “I need your leash.” I’ll stop and wait for Krissy to come and clip me in.
It’s helpful to have some leash awareness and manners. That might be not pulling (or pulling, if that’s what your human wants) or running alongside so your human doesn’t get their feet tripped up in the leash.
Warm-ups are great. Luckily, we live near a great area that we can run off leash and my human will double back or wait while I do my sniffs, countless pee markings, and doddle around to get my body warmed up just so. It may be a slower start for me than my human, but it’s not long before I’m right there at Krissy’s heels running like it’s my job.”
HELPFUL CUES & TRAINING IDEAS FOR RUNNING WITH YOUR DOG
We were lucky to spend our early days of running together to be joined by a human buddy that was raised by a dog sled champion. He watched PD and I struggle on a couple of runs – me tugging on the leash and saying left or right, her not understanding. On the third day of running together he offered to try G & Ha instead of Right and Left while still tugging on the leash so she understood what to do. PD got it THAT RUN! So much so that even when we are off leash, I can yell ahead to call out the turn for her.
- “G” - Right
- “Ha” - Left
- “On By” - Keep moving forward
- “Wait” - Stop in your tracks, pup
YOUR GEAR GUIDE FOR RUNNING WITH YOUR DOG
HOW ABOUT HUMAN GEAR FOR RUNNING?
When it comes to getting out the door, it really is a simple set of gear, for both the human and the dog. Running shoes and clothes, leash and harness.
Here are a few tips when considering gear (and what might help make the experience a little more enjoyable).
- Footwear: Head to your local independent running shop! They are the experts. Your feet (and whole body, really) will thank you.
- Apparel: Weather-appropriate is the key. And again, your local running shop can help. As you start to learn how your body warms up and reacts to exercise, you’ll learn key pieces of gear for you. I tend to run hot, but my hands lose dexterity fast in cold, wet conditions and my ears need to be covered in temps below 48 degrees. So while I might run in shorts and tall socks in weather considered cold by some, I often wear thick, warm gloves liners with a waterproof overmitt and a buff around my head.
- Running Belt or Pack: As runs get longer (and/or hotter) you may find that you need a running pack to carry some essential items. EX: phone, water bottle, calories, chapstick, sunscreen, dog bowl, jacket, extra gloves.
- Check out Trail Runner™ Belt
HOW ABOUT DOG RUNNING GEAR?
- I highly recommend a hands-free, waist-worn leash. It helps for balance in your running form by not having the tension from the leash pulling on one arm
- A stretch (or bungee, or dynamic) leash is comfortable and helps absorb the shocks as you and your dog find your stride together
- Check out Roamer™ Leash and Trail Runner™ Leash
- Go hand-held if you need a little more control or need to be able to quickly drop the leash rather than getting pulled off the trail when a squirrel goes by
- Check out Hi & Light™ Leash and Trail Runner™ Leash
- I recommend a harness for running. You have more connection options, the leash is less likely to get tangled up in your dog’s legs, and it’s less pressure on their neck, especially if they pull or run with tension on the leash
- Dirt Bag™ Dog Towel
- This is a PD favorite. Our post-run go-to to keep my van and house free from all the grime PD picks up on the trail.
LET’S GO: TRAINING PLAN FOR RUNNING A 5K WITH YOUR DOG
Here's a look at a 4-week training plan to get you and your dog out and running together. This guide focuses on timed workouts rather than distance to keep the focus on building up more time moving together and making running a part of your and your dog’s routine. Head over to our other post for more details on workouts and training tips from PD and me.
YOU’RE READY AND SET TO RUN (AND KEEP RUNNING!)
We covered a lot! That certainly comes with the territory for running with your trail buddy. With the right planning, practice, and gear, you’ve totally got this.
Having your sidekick there with you as you get out and move together makes it all worth it, and will be the reason that you’ll probably make movement a part of your routine.
And when you do get out there, we’d love to hear about your adventure. Tag us on Instagram or Facebook @ruffwear and @krissymoehl. And if you're looking for a more personalized training support, you can get in touch with Krissy at www.Krissymoehl.com.