Exercising with your dog is a great way to keep both you and your pet in tip-top shape. However, there are a few safety guidelines to keep in mind before running with your dog.
Walk Before You Run
Your dog might be in great shape, but if it doesn't know how to walk on a leash, running on a leash will likely be even trickier. Teach your dog good walking behavior first, staying close to you and on one side of the sidewalk or path.
After your dog is comfortable on a leash, familiarize it with the running route. If your dog knows the route, twists and turns on the path are less likely to trip you up. It will also help if your dog is familiar with the smells on the route so it doesn't stop to sniff every few yards, making for a smoother run. After you've mastered a walk, your dog will be ready to pick up the pace.
Know Your Breed
Most dogs are capable of going for a run; however, certain breeds do better than others, depending on what sort of running you like. Medium- to large-size dogs are an obvious choice for longer-distance runs, especially those bred to run such as huskies and greyhounds. Any working-dog breed typically makes a good running partner, as well as many mixed breeds. By contrast, flat-face dogs, such as pugs and bulldogs, don't make the best running companions for long-distance jaunts because they are prone to overheating. However, don't rule small dogs out! If you're looking for a pet that can tag along for a run now and again, smaller breeds can fill the bill. Jack Russell terriers and beagles are muscular little dogs with plenty of energy and stamina to join you for a run.
Pace Your Puppy
Although puppies have loads of energy, running with them can be harmful at too young of an age. Because they are still growing, extended amounts of running can cause problems for hips and joints that aren't fully developed. It is best to wait until your dog is at least 8 months old before taking it for a run, and you should ease your pup into running by starting with a mile or two at a slower pace. Because larger breeds take longer to reach maturity, you might want to lean toward 10 months or more before running with your pet so its bones and joints have time to develop. To be safe, talk with your veterinarian to make sure it is OK for you to begin running with your dog.
Just like with humans and running attire, some leashes and collars work better than others when it comes to running with your pet. If your dog runs a bit faster than you, it might be best to try out a harness rather than a choke collar to avoid straining the neck of your pet. A shorter leash is often better than a long leash so you have better control of your dog. A long leash also might get tangled while you're running and be a hazard for both you and your pet. Also, if you're running on a bike path, a shorter leash keeps your dog close to avoid other runners and bikers. If you plan to run with your dog at night, reflective gear is a safe bet for both you and your pooch. A reflective collar, harness, or leash keeps your pet visible and safe.
For the active runner, there are leashes made specifically for running with your dog that secure around your waist, leaving your hands free. Many of these leashes come with pouches to tote a water bottle and a few plastic bags, and some even have reflective straps to keep you and your pet visible at night.
Being properly hydrated on your run is just as important for your pooch. If you're going on a longer run, make sure to bring a water bottle and a collapsible bowl for your pet, or know where a water fountain is located on your running route. Also, if you plan to run with your pet in the warmer months, plan accordingly; go early in the morning or later at night when the sun isn't at its peak, or find a shady route without a lot of asphalt. If your pet is dragging behind or veering toward the shade, it's best to take a break or slow down your pace.
Slow and Steady
As with beginning runners, your dog shouldn't start out running eight miles on the first day. Ease your pet into running for best results. If you're an avid runner, start with one or two miles, then drop your dog off at home and continue your run. As you build up your dog's endurance, begin increasing the mileage. Your dog will be ready for the long runs in no time.