How to Run with Your Dog Safely

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safety tips for running with your dog How to Run with Your Dog Safely

Your furry family member is always happy to see you, always down for a good snuggle, are probably the best listener out there and have twice as many legs as we do. Like most of your other family, taking your pooch out for a run depends on a lot of factors and causes some concern. Do they want to go?  Will you accidentally injure them? Will they putter out a quarter of a mile into the run? Do you want them go? Are they healthy enough?

There are some breeds that just aren’t going to log even a slow gait to the end of the driveway and others who will run laps around you for 10 miles. The single most important factor is speaking to your vet about your dog’s ability to join you for a run. Just because the breed is a “runner” doesn’t automatically mean your pup can go. There are age parameters, distance parameters, terrain and temperature parameters. (And just think of those bare puppy pads on the bottom of their paws.) However, once you get the ok, there are still some things to think about for both you and your dog’s safety and to ensure a good run.

Trial Runs

There needs to be a few trial runs so both of you don’t end up frustrated. You might want to try a few different locations. Some dogs might not have a problem running on a sidewalk or road with a bunch of passing cars, while others might not want to and freak out when cars are right up next to them. Trying a dog friendly greenway if your dog is ok with kids, other pooches and bicycles could be a great option.

Another item to consider is the length of the leash. If you are on sidewalks, near others and near a busy street, you’ll want a pretty short leash. Running on greenways, rural roads, beaches or other low traffic areas will allow you to use a longer leash. Be careful it doesn’t drag though and cause a tripping hazard for you. In rare cases it may be best to run without a leash, but you’ll need to trust your dog and be up on the local leash laws.

Treat them Like a Human

Just like taking a human couch potato out for a 3 mile run, doing 6 minute miles would be a catastrophic failure. Taking your dog out on a 3 mile run doing 6 minute miles is not fair. They haven’t been running as long as you and aren’t as conditioned as you. Start out with your pooch on recovery days or slow(er) tempo runs. It might also be a good idea to split your run in to two loops. Run the first loop alone and circle back on the second run and grab Fido until you are confident he has gotten the proper conditioning.

Depending on access and how long the run is, you are going to want to carry water and a collapsible bowl or make sure you run through a park that has water accessible to dogs.  Do some research and make sure you are hydrating both of you properly based on weight and weather. Along the same thread increasing activity in animals just like humans can increase appetite. Make sure you are correctly compensating for increased calorie burn. And don’t be surprised if Rover wants to take a few more naps. Running wears us out, so it’s going to wear out our four legged friends out as well.

This also includes incorporating rest days into the doggie training plan if this becomes a regular thing. He’s not training for anything, you are. You do need to leave some room for snafus. Your fur family memeber doesn’t really care if you are in the middle of a much needed tempo run. If they aren’t into it, then they aren’t into it. Take them back home and finish your run alone.

Pooch Protection

The pros to running with your four legged best bud far outweigh the cons but there are some things you need to make sure don’t do. If you are running at dusk or after dark don’t forget to place a reflective collar or purchase a lightweight light that attaches to your dog’s collar so they will be noticed. It’s also a good idea to carry a bright colored and/or reflective leash. As we runners know, people might look for you but they for certain aren’t looking for your dog. They need to have on night safety gear just like you do.

Based on your local terrain and weather don’t forget you might need to be investing in a protective vest to assist with cold weather, snow, sleet or rain. Paw protection is something you might want to discuss with your vet.  You do not want anything to happen to those pads as they can take weeks to heal. If you live somewhere humid, wooded or otherwise insect prone, grabbing the proper spray or insect deterrent collars from you vet might make your fur family a little more comfortable post-run.

Things to Avoid

Don’t let your pup pull you.  You are leading the run and are the Alpha in this role. Make sure your dog can understand the basic commands and will run alongside you or slightly in front of you. And for all humans and dogs alike, don’t be that person that leaves poop. Have a poop plan. There are all kinds of options. Go back and get it. Time the run so neither one of you needs to make a pit stop. There are fantastic little contraptions that clip onto to leashes and hold up to 50 doggie bags (not the restaurant kind).

Running with your favorite family member can be a lot of fun. Talk to your vet, gear up you pup and get out there and pound pavement with all six legs!