Do you want to have a loyal running partner? Start running with your dog! I have been running with my dog, NiKYO for about 3 years now. He’s a lot of fun to take on trail runs, and it is great exercise for him. Most dogs make great candidates for a running partner. But you can’t take a dog from the couch to a 5K overnight. Before you take your dog running, make sure your dog is healthy and eager to run. Checking with your veterinarian is a good idea to get the all clear. Once you both are ready to hit the trails together, here are some tips for trail running with your dog.
1. Start Gradually
Let your dog work up gradually to some running mileage. Start out by adding some running intervals to their walk to see if they have fun and like running. When NiKYO first started running, I did a 1 mile loop alternating walking and running intervals. After a few weeks of that, I started letting him run the whole mile, then we gradually added on until he was running for 30 minutes. Very gradually, I added a little more distance to one run a week (his “long” run). He can now easily handle longer distances, plus a consistent running schedule of 4 – 5 times a week.
2. Practice Leash Skills
If your dog does not have nice leash manners while on a walk, they will not have nice manners while running either! This could be annoying (at best), or even cause you or your dog to get injured (at worst). Take the time to work with them on their leash skills before trying out a run. Once you are comfortable with their leash skills and have started running with them, consider trying out a hands free waist leash. This allows you to run without having to hold onto a leash the entire time. I use the RuffWear Roamer leash, you can read my full review here.
3. Bring Water
This might be obvious, but make sure you have water along the way for your dog to take a drink. If it is cool out and I will be running 40 minutes or less, NiKYO is fine with a drink of water once we are done. But in warm weather or for longer runs, I always make sure to have water along for NiKYO (and me!). NiKYO drinks out of my CamelBak (read my review here) or out of a regular fillable water bottle. I usually stop and give him a chance to drink every 2 miles or so.
4. Choose Trails Wisely
Make sure the trail you choose is not covered with sharp rocks or anything else that might cut their feet. Also, if you run on stones or pavement, they can get really hot in the summer and burn their feet! If it is too hot for you to walk on barefoot, it is probably too hot for them! Also keep an eye out for snakes or other wildlife that can harm your pet. I keep my eyes on the trail about 10 feet in front of NiKYO. If I spot something (like a snake), I have time to stop NiKYO before he runs right over it.
5. Be Careful in the Heat
Dogs can get overheated very easy when it is hot out. Keep an eye on your dog in the summer months. Try to run earlier in the morning to avoid the mid-day heat. If you think your dog is getting too hot, STOP. Give him a drink of water, find some shade and let him cool down. Walk back home if necessary.
Running with your dog is very rewarding. They make great running partners, and also keep you company on those solo runs! By following a few things to keep them safe, they will be running with you for a long time. NiKYO enjoys his runs, and has become a very loyal running partner! Let me know if you run with your dog!