Running with your dog

Feeling the need to get fit this year? Or have a race coming up soon?

Your dog may be the ultimate exercise partner! Depending on the breed of dog of course, I can’t imagine a pug or lap dog running that far! Consider your dog's health, build, and breed. Dogs are always eager to spend more time with you, they have plenty of excess energy to burn, and temptation to skip a scheduled sweat session melts away when your furry friend stands at the front door, lead in mouth, ready to log a few miles with you.

Before you hitting the pavement you will need to make sure your dog is up to the challenge, are they fit enough? Dogs with short legs may not be able to keep up with the pace you'd like to maintain, while larger breeds are prone to hip dysplasia, an abnormal formation of the hip socket that can lead to arthritis.

You will also need to give your dog some training to teach them to run with you. Here's how to make your run enjoyable and rewarding for both you and your best (furry) friend.

  • Give it a go: Just like humans, dogs need daily exercise for their health and happiness. Walking or running with your dog on a lead is one way to get you both moving more. Not all dogs are cut out to log multiple miles at once but many can learn to be great running partners

  • Check with your vet: If you aren't sure whether your dog’s fit to run, check with your veterinarian. A vet can let you know if there are any red flags, and can provide advice about what's safe and healthy for your individual dog in your individual surroundings.

  • Don't start them too young. Running on hard surfaces can damage a puppy's joints and bones that haven't fully formed yet. Ideally wait until your dog is at least a year old.

  • Start out slow. A sedentary person can't just jump off the couch one day and run 5 miles, and neither can a sedentary dog. Too much too soon increases your dog's risk of injury, just as it would a human's. There are many apps available to try, for example the NHS Couch to 5k would be a perfect start!

  • Don't skip your warm up. Before you pick up your pace for any workout, be sure you've given yourself, and your dog, at least a few minutes of walking or slow jogging. Another warm-up ritual to make a habit: giving your dog a chance to sniff around and do his business. That means fewer stops for pee and poop breaks once you get moving.

  • Head for the parks and woodlands. Running on dirt trails will be easier on your pup's joins and paws than running on pavements. Be sure to check at the park entrance that dogs are allowed, either on- or off-lead.

  • Teach basic commands. You want to teach them to walk nicely on leash, and break the behaviours of stopping to sniff or marking every tree, or racing ahead and pulling you.

A "Leave It" command might be handy so that your dog will ignore or walk away from tempting items they might come across on a path. As well as Sit and Stay for crossing roads too.

  • Make sure you take water for you and your dog. Remember dogs can’t sweat so being hydrated is very important.

Bottom line:

Don’t forget to enjoy yourself and have fun! If you need any further help or advice such as purchasing a running lead or Hi-Viz products, or nutritional advice – pop to PetShed, it’s free and impartial.