One of the cool things about dog ownership is that you’re never without a running partner. Plus, with that cute face looking up at you, you’re much less likely to play it lazy and skip a day when you shouldn’t. Fresh air, mutual exercise, bonding time—running with your pup has it all. But before you dive in head first, check out the following tips to make your running routine safe, healthy and successful.
1. Check in with the Vet
Before taking your first run, visit the vet for a checkup. Be clear that you’re planning to start a running routine, and you want to make sure your pup is fit enough for that type of exercise. Not doing a preliminary health check can cause your dog serious harm, especially if their breed is unsuitable for intense exercise, or they have underlying health conditions like hip dysplasia, arthritis or cardiovascular complications.
Is your dog ideal for running? Click here for a list of of dog breeds that make excellent running partners.(Remember: even if your dog isn't mentioned here, they might still be a good candidate for running, which is why a vet check-in is essential).
2. Start with a Bathroom Break
Giving your pup a potty break just before each run can save you pit stops along the way, not to mention the annoyance of stopping to bag dog poo. But just because your dog enjoyed a successful bathroom break before running, doesn’t mean you can get away with leaving the poo bags at home. Always bring them along just in case.
3. Start Slow
If running is a new activity for you and your pup, it’s best to start slow. From cardiovascular fitness to strengthening your dog’s paw pads, it can take some time to get into running shape. Moderate 10-minute runs are a good starting point, then simply add an additional 5-10 minutes each week until you find a distance and pace that’s right for both of you.
4. Watch their Body Language
Because your pup can’t say when they’re tired or hurting, you need to monitor their body language closely. Heavy panting, foamy mouth, tongue hanging out—all point to an exhausted canine. Note any significant change in their speed as well. If they’re lagging behind or heavy on the leash, your dog is tired and needs a rest.
5. Pay Attention to Their Paws
Running, especially starting out, can sometimes cause injury to your dog’s delicate paw pads. Hot concrete, ice, and glass are all common sources of injury. If you spot limping or constant licking of the feet, there’s a good chance your pup has hurt their pads. Routinely checking their pads before and after outdoor activities—including running—is a good habit to adopt. We also advise cleaning the pads with warm, soapy water after each run to remove possible irritants. If your pup is susceptible to paw injuries, consider investing in some booties for added protection.
6. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is fundamental to any healthy exercise, especially when your dog’s involved. Giving your pup water before, after and during runs is a must. While bottles might be ideal for your personal needs, they aren’t always the easiest way for dogs to grab a drink. So consider purchasing a collapsible bowl for when your pup needs water, too.
7. Pick the Right Leash
Having the right leash for your dog's physical characteristics and behavior profile will make all the difference. The specifics, however, will vary depending on you and your pup's unique needs and running preferences. To narrow your search, here's a list of excellent leashes for dogs and their human running partners.