RUNNING WITH A DOG THAT PULLS… AND EVERYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT RUNNING WITH DOGS
I want to start off with a little disclaimer, I am not a runner, I am not a vet or a medical pro or a nutritionist or a trainer or anything other than a writer who has had lots of pups in my life and has done some serious research on multiple topics. This post is for informational purposes only and just chronicles my experience. The reason I’m writing this is that I have gotten SO MANY questions about running with a dog that I thought I could assemble them into one big “running with dogs” post.
If you’ve sent me Qs about running with your dog, I hope I addressed them here. If not, or if this sparks more questions, please do leave them in the comments so I can provide the best info possible!
I will also let you know, some links on this page will offer me a commission at no extra cost to you because I am an associate with Amazon. Please if you see something that works, any purchase through this site helps me continue providing help for all the coolest dogs on the planet!
OK, lace up those sneaks, and let’s get going!
HOW DO I TRAIN MY DOG TO RUN WITH ME?
Just like you train your dog to do anything else: slow and steady! You have to start with your dog’s fitness level. As I said, I am not a runner, I have had a few surgeries on my left knee and ankle to correct the effects of a fun youth and it just hurts too much (it’s an excuse to avoid the abuse). We do a lot of hiking though, and depending on the terrain it can be as winding as a light jog and still provides exercise. I have been able to discover and navigate a lot of trails all over the country using an App called AllTrails.
Taking a big step back, though, I think it’s super important to train your dog to walk well with you first (see the next big point), so if your walking skills aren’t yet solid, go back to that basic foundation and start working on loose-leash walking. If you need to review some tips to achieve that, check out these two posts:
Loose Leash Walking from Victoria Stilwell
How to Teach Loose-Leash Walking from Karen Pryor
OK, so speaking of which…
Without a doubt, the number one question has been: How can I run with my dog that pulls?
Cooper keeps a loose leash. He’s usually slightly ahead, but he’s got his automatic check-in down pat. He is a great walker.
Except for when he isn’t!
When he isn’t = when we spot a dog, a bunny, a squirrel, some weird patch of wind, a person surprising him in any way (getting out of a vehicle, saying hi, etc.) OR when he anticipates those things happening. That last one is the real problem for us because he is a curious fella.
Cora does better as long as she is in front. She is the leader and everyone should know that! If you put her in a position where she is not in front she will pull until she is. She will not stop until she is in the front of the pack.
So, for us, our reality is this: We ensure our equipment works great. We hike routes we know inside and out. We always have an escape plan. And when they do start to pull? We just “power through,” which is basically reeling them in tightly and sprinting past the perceived threat as quickly as we can.
That’s my best advice for reactive pulling. If your dog only pulls when threatened, well, you can and should keep desensitizing to those threats and then accept some degree of pulling when you’re out for a focused run.
If your dog is just a puller on leash, the best option is to go back to basics: Go back to those loose-leash walking tutorials and work on that like crazy because, for some dogs, running increases that desire to pull (“C’MON LET’S GO, HUMAN!!!!”) so you have to have it down pat.
GEAR FOR RUNNING WITH YOUR DOG
I mentioned ensuring our equipment works great. I honestly can’t stress this enough. If you’re running with your dog, your running gear is critical to your and your dog’s safety.
No matter the dog, no matter the distance or terrain, no matter the weather, I strongly recommend running with your dog on a harness rather than a collar. It’s safer. It alleviates pressure on your dog’s neck, and since he’ll be breathing hard, that’s extra important. The type of harness is up to you and your needs.
Cooper and Cora have a few different harnesses. They have one we use primarily for hiking and another that has saddlebags. The one with the saddlebags is his absolute best harness, and he walks and runs with purpose with that thing. It’s way too hot right now to use it, though. So, if you are getting in some serious running when it is hot out, it is good to have something reflective, and it’s light without much body coverage to cause him to overheat. Some people prefer front-clip harnesses for runs. Even if going so early in the morning, they even have ones that light up like this one. Choose what’s best for you and your pup.
As for the leash, you don’t need bells and whistles. I wish with all my heart Cooper and Cora could get accustomed to a waist leash so that I could be hands-free, but we’re not there yet. Right now he’s using just a thick, six-foot nylon lead. Nothing fancy. It works perfectly. I also use a tether. This helped me the most during training because they constantly pulled on each other and finally learned to stop.
All that said, I prefer and recommend metal hardware instead of plastic. Plastic snaps, in the end.
There’s a ton of other running gear for dogs out there. If it’s too hot or too cold, you might want to look into boots. Coop has a set we use when the roads are salted. Sunscreen is another great product to consider. Beyond that? If you’re a distance or trail runner, think about water on the go, and everything else is sort of extra that you may or may not need–just use common sense!
And poop bags. Everyone needs poop bags.
“Can I train my fill-in-breed-here to be my running buddy?”
Probably, but maybe not. Some dog breeds are predisposed to running (just like some are predisposed to water or herding), but not every individual of those predisposed breeds will like/can do the activity. And, I honestly don’t think this is the right question to ask with a few exceptions: Like, your basset probably isn’t going to complete a 10k with you, and it’s really unsafe to run with brachycephalic dogs like pugs and bullmastiffs.
In my opinion, the right question to ask is: “Can I train my dog to be my running buddy?” And you should ask that question of your vet.
Here’s why: Focusing only on your dog’s breed ignores individual variations. You want to make sure your dog’s hips and joints are healthy and his heart is good, and those aren’t breed-specific health checks. Thinking at the individual level, Cooper and Cora are siblings. Cooper wouldn’t run unless it was to a cupcake. Cora wouldn’t stop running if we didn’t make her.
You’ll see all sorts of advice on the internet–get a Weimaraner for trails and a Vizsla for long runs, etc.–that may or may not be good advice for you and your dog. That said, if you’re looking to adopt a new dog, be sure to tell the shelter staff that you want a running partner! They can point you to the dogs in their care who will be the right fit, regardless of breed!
WHEN IS IT TOO HOT TO RUN WITH YOUR DOG? OR, WHEN IS IT TOO COLD TO RUN WITH YOUR DOG?
General, often-touted rule of thumb: Hold your bare palm to the cement for 15 seconds. Too hot or too cold to do that? It’s too hot or too cold to run with your pup. That said, use common sense. If you have the right gear, you can run in the heat or the cold. Heat requires extra precautions against overheating, so shorter, less intense runs during the coolest part of the day, or purposefully choosing courses that are shaded can help.
Honestly, though? This is a common-sense issue. If you’re not sure if the temps are too extreme, just assume they are. Better to be cautious than sorry.
Sort of like the question above, this depends so much on the weather conditions and your dog’s fitness level. Start slow, like with the App, C25k program, so that your dog slowly builds endurance, then be cognizant of your running conditions.
As you are conditioning your dog, pay attention to them. Most of the ones that like to run with you will go until they drop. They won’t stop unless you do. As a human, your stamina may actually outlast a dog. Make sure you are taking breaks and hydrating as they need, not as you need.
I can’t give you a number here because each dog is different. You can sometimes not tell when they have had enough until you stop. starting out, take breaks, and monitor the behavior. If they lay down as soon as you stop, they are probably ready to be done.
Some dogs can run all day long and not make a difference. I still recommend monitoring their behavior while running. They will talk to you without saying a word. Pay attention to this as they age too. They get old faster than we do and I am here to tell you age has had its effect on me!
THE BOTTOM LINE: RUNNING WITH YOUR DOG IS AN AWESOME WAY TO BOND!
I don’t particularly like to run. Sometimes I hate it. Sometimes when we are hiking, I will take a short jog with Cooper and Cora, their tail starts to wag, ears go back, and they are happy–genuinely, joyfully happy–which makes it worthwhile even though it kills me!
The only thing you need to do to start is to lace up your shoes, leash up your dog, and head outside. No fancy gear required.
Otherwise, get out there and have fun! And if you still have questions about running with your dog, leave ’em in the comments below! Or, if you think I’ve missed anything here, please add your tips! If you would like to have your coolest dog on the planet put in the gallery, fill out the form below and upload a pic with their name.
I hope this helps all the coolest dogs on the planet!