How to Train Your Dog to Run Next to You
If you love to jog or run, but you don’t like doing it alone, your canine companion can become the ultimate accountability partner for your workout sessions. Of course, you don’t want your jogging buddy to suddenly ditch you mid-run for a squirrel, so training your dog to run next to you is an integral part of the process. If running with your dog sounds like something you’d enjoy doing together with your faithful friend, then it’s time to start your training.
Before You Start Running with Your Dog
The most critical thing to keep in mind is you can’t just start running with your dog. Plus, jumping straight into a running routine without preparing first isn’t ideal for you either. There are so many factors to consider first. The most crucial consideration is whether your dog is ready and able to become your running buddy.
Bred to Run or Not to Run?
Some breeds simply aren’t runners, at least not for overly long distances. For example, brachycephalic breeds like Shih Tzus and Pugs would prefer a sprint to a long run (or no run at all). Conversely, other breeds, like Weimaraners and Dalmatians, are highly energetic and athletic and would likely have no problem keeping up with you on a lengthy run.
However, no matter what the breed, you also need to consider your pup’s age. Puppies don’t make good running partners since they still have undeveloped growth plates and growing bones. Most dogs should be at least one and a half years old before you start training them to run with you, and some may need to be at least two years old. Smaller breeds might experience growth plates that completely close sooner than larger breeds, like Great Danes, but it’s wise to check with your vet to be certain.
Check with Your Vet
You’ve probably seen the disclaimer on different workout programs that stresses to “check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine.” This is good advice because it’s essential to ensure your body can handle the physical strain of the specific exercise. Plus, your doctor can offer some recommendations or suggestions if there are any particular circumstances you need to keep in mind.
Well, the same goes for your precious pooch. Before you decide to start a running program with your pup, it’s a good idea to schedule a visit with your vet. Let your vet know your plans and see if they think it’s a good idea for your dog to be your running buddy. If your vet gives you the all-clear, then you can start the actual training.
You Have to Walk Before You Can Run
You’ve heard the tried-and-true saying, walk before you run? Well, nowhere is this more imperative than when you’re training your dog as a running partner. First, train your dog in some of the basics, like how to sit. Then, you need to work with your pup on how to walk comfortably on a leash, with the leash in a relaxed J-shape and your dog staying on one side of you. You can choose your preference, left or right, just keep it consistent. Use a short leash to start, or only use about two to three feet of a longer leash if that is all you have.
Reward your pup with lots of positive reinforcement, like traits and praise, whenever they walk on the preferred side without pulling or zig-zagging in front of you. If your pup starts to pass you up or cross in front of you, stop immediately and keep your hand at your side so your dog knows not to pull. Sometimes it can help to turn and go back in the other direction, rewarding your dog with praise as they stay by your side.
Build-In Cues Increase Your Speed
Once your dog gets consistent with walking well on a leash, you can start to introduce speed cues. For example, you might say, “Let’s go,” and start picking up the pace. When your dog complies properly, reward them. Start with just short spurts at first, allowing your dog time to get consistent with this new step.
Next, you can introduce a new speed cue, such as, “time to run,” or anything that works for you, as long as you keep the cue the same. Like you did before, reward your pup whenever they comply properly. Stay patient and calm and eventually your pup will learn what you want and expect them to do.
Ramp Up Your Running Routine
When your dog has mastered these short sprints by your side, it’s time to ramp it up a bit. You can start having your dog join you on longer runs but start with short sessions. Your first run together might be just half a block, walking most of the time with some spurts of running thrown in here and there. Then you might do the same for the whole block, then around the corner, and so forth.
It’s similar to how you would start building up your own endurance if you were starting a jogging routine for the first time. Eventually, you and your pup can sustain a longer running time together. This gradual acclimation to longer running sessions also helps guard against injuries like muscle and joint strain or pulled muscles.
Tips for Running with Your Dog
No matter how seasoned a runner your dog becomes, it’s always vital to ensure your dog stays properly hydrated and healthy. Make sure your dog always has access to fresh water in their bowl, plus on longer runs, consider bringing a collapsible dish or travel water bowl along with you. Also, watch your pup for signs that it’s time to bring your run to an end. If your dog starts panting heavily or lagging behind you, these are signs that they need a break.
It’s also important to keep an eye on the weather; remember, many dogs can’t handle heat and humidity in the same ways that humans can. If the weather will be too much for your pup, skip your run for the day or opt for a short walk instead. If you think your dog is overheated, stop immediately and take steps to cool your pup down ASAP and seek veterinary care if necessary.
Always keep your pal on a leash, no matter how well they run beside you, unless you’re in an area where it is safe and legal to go off-leash, like a dog park. And make sure you have poop bags attached to your leash because you never know when nature will call. If you want to cut down on time lost while your friend does their business, check out the Neater Bag Dispenser. Unlike most waste bag dispensers, these bags dispense like tissues one at a time and have handles for easy tying – which means you will spend less time on cleanup duty and can get right back to your run.
It’s also imperative to ensure you take the proper precautions in case your dog gets away from you, such as keeping an updated ID tag on your pal’s collar and microchipping your pet.
Your dog can be one of the best work-out buddies you ever have, providing endless motivation and companionship as you feel the burn. However, it’s always important to go through the proper steps first, making sure your furry friend stays healthy and happy through it all.
For more helpful tips on how to spend some quality time with your best friend, check out the rest of our blog. You’ll find all kinds of fun tips and helpful advice on how you can sharpen your pet-parenting skills. Happy running!
- Fernando Becattini