If you’re an avid runner — or want a friend to help you get started — dogs make the perfect running partner. After all, everything is better with your best friend by your side.
But, should you run with your dog?
If you have a healthy, adult dog whose breed can withstand long runs, then running together is a healthy, fun exercise you both will enjoy.
Running with your dog provides cardiovascular health and the motivation you sometimes need to push further. It can even ease your pup’s anxiety.
However, running isn’t an option for every dog. This article helps you make an informed decision based on the following risk factors in your dog:
- Medical conditions
The benefits of running with your dog
Having your trusted companion by your side makes long runs more enjoyable. Together, you increase your cardiovascular health, build a stronger heart, and avoid obesity — the most preventable disease our dogs face today.
The benefits of running with your dog don’t end with physical health. Your dog’s mental health also relies on being active throughout the day.
A survey by the Department of Veterinary Science – University of Pisa, showed inactive dogs are far more likely to show aggressive, disobedient, and destructive behavior.
Another significant benefit of running with dogs is safety, especially at night or in wooded areas. If your dog isn’t the most assuming large dog, even their alertness and barking are a deterrent to threats.
Should you run with your dog?
The most important job we have as pet parents is the health and safety of our pups. Before running with your dog, there are several factors you must consider.
The right life stage, breed, and health will determine if running, jogging, or gentle daily walks are best.
Don’t run with your puppy or senior dog.
Puppies demand low-impact exercises until fully grown. When running with a puppy, the stress can cause serious damage and injury to their joints, hips, and knees.
So, when can you run with your puppy? Puppies develop at different stages depending on size. A smaller breed fully develops around 6 to 8 months, while larger breeds are grown at about 12 to 18 months.
When dogs reach their senior years, their joints again risk injury from stress and high impact.
In a study published in Value In Health Journal, over 37% of dogs were diagnosed with osteoarthritis. Of the dogs with osteoarthritis, the mean age was 7.61 years.
It’s challenging to find the right amount of exercise for senior dogs. Always be aware of how your dog is feeling. Look for any signs of discomfort and excessive drooling or panting.
It’s a good idea to take more frequent water breaks since older dogs are at higher risk of overheating.
Lose the fat before running with an overweight dog.
It’s challenging to notice weight gain when we see our dogs daily. Obesity in the U.S. has reached pandemic levels, with over fifty percent of dogs diagnosed as overweight or obese.
To determine if your dog is overweight, look for a defined taper around the stomach and abdomen. When running your hands along their rib cage, you should be able to feel each rib.
Overweight dogs have more stress on their joints due to the extra weight. With each running stride, they risk serious injury.
Slowly introduce more vigorous exercise as your dog’s weight declines. Daily walks can quickly turn to daily jogs and eventually runs. Plus, a happier, healthier dog.
Underlying medical conditions can make running with your dog harmful.
Tracing back to their wolf pack origins, hiding pain and discomfort is in our dog’s DNA. Running can be unsafe if your dog is hiding discomfort from a condition.
Conditions that affect your dog’s health when running include:
- Hip Dysplasia
- Elbow Dysplasia
- Respiratory issues
Mixed breeds show the lowest risk of hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis, while certain purebreds, especially Labrador and Golden retrievers, are at the highest risk.
Always consult your veterinarian before you start running with your dog. A routine physical can determine conditions that should preclude your dog from long runs.
Running isn’t suitable for all dog breeds.
A dog’s breed defines many characteristics, including the safety of endurance running. After all, breeders have purposefully designed dog breeds for specific tasks like hunting and herding livestock for hundreds of years.
Many of these active breeds are built for endurance and can run several miles a day only to wake up and do it again.
Popular dog breeds for running include:
- Australian Shepherd
- Golden Retriever
- Border Collie
- Australian Cattle Dog
- Labrador Retriever
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
- Doberman Pinscher
- Belgian Malinois
- Siberian Husky
If your dog’s breed didn’t make the list — or you have a mixed breed — training your dog for 2 to 3-mile runs may still be possible.
For breeds not known as strong runners, consider a slower progression towards long runs to prevent injury. Taking the time to condition your dog for long runs helps to understand its limitations and spot signs of exhaustion.
Extra caution needs to be taken when exercising with short-nosed breeds. Short-nosed dogs suffer from a compact breathing passageway causing their body temperature to overheat. When exercising your Pug or French Bulldog, it’s best to keep to short walks and playtime at home.
Large, cold-weather breeds are also at risk of overheating. Breeds like the Newfoundland, Belgian Malinois, and Siberian Husky don’t do well in hot climates.
Keeping your dog hydrated is vital when running long distances. If your city has dog-friendly water fountains, consider mapping out a running route with frequent water stops. Carrying enough water for both of you is always the safest bet.
If your dog starts to show any of the following signs, stop your exercise immediately and focus on hydration:
- Collapsing after a run
- Excessive drooling while exercising
- Sudden weakness
- Excessive panting
- Lack of coordination
- Lack of interest in playing
Now that you’ve determined if your dog is a candidate for long runs, it’s essential to begin training. When you start running, keep your dog on a lead. Lead training teaches dogs to run at a pace and to keep by your side for future off-leash runs.
Start out slow and warm up before each run. When warming up and working into a light jog, practice commands for safety. And always let your dog lead, if your dog begins to fall behind you, it’s time for a break.
You should always complete a thorough examination of your dog’s paws after each run. There’s always a risk of cuts to their pads or objects becoming lodged, making each step painful and uncomfortable.
During the summer months, place your bare foot on the asphalt to test the temperature. If you cannot withstand the temperature for seven seconds, the ground is too hot for your dog. When the air temperature is 87° Fahrenheit, the asphalt is 143° F. Hot enough to burn their paws.
In the winter, salt used to melt snow can irritate and sting a dog’s paws. The stinging causes dogs to lick their paws, leading to an upset stomach and vomiting. Avoid roads with salt on them and wash your dog’s feet after runs to ensure any salt is fully washed off.
Once the safety checks are complete you can enjoy the rewards of running with your dog. The fitness and bonding time you’ll spend together is priceless.
Have a great, safe run.
Will you start running with your dog? Share this article with a photo of your pup!