How to Run with Your Dog (Training Guide)

By Britt Kascjak

Have you ever wondered how to run with your dog? Have you seen dog owners out running with their dog by their side and wanted to try it yourself?

For most pet owners, this means regular walks or hikes. But, for other dog lovers, this is the opportunity to find a perfect running partner.

The secret to successfully running with your dog comes down to one thing – training. If your dog can listen well and show good manners when out on the streets or running trails, you’ll have a great time!

How to Train Your Dog to Run On Leash

Step One: Warm Up

Before any training session or dog running excursion, always take the time to warm your dog up. This is no different than warming your muscles up for a workout. 

A great way to warm your dog up is through loose leash walking.

Not only does this help to stretch and warm up your dog’s muscles, but it’s necessary for running with your dog. If your dog can’t walk nicely on a loose leash, they arent’ ready to be running yet!

Other warm-ups include position changes (sit to stand) or jogging figure 8s. Most dogs will appreciate this warm up phase!

Step Two: Start with Interval Training

When introducing the idea of running, start by using an interval method. Run for 5 minutes, then walk for 5 minutes, and repeat.

As your dog shows that they are comfortable, you can extend the running time and cut back on the walk. For example, 8 minutes of dog running, and 2 minutes of walking.

Before long, you will be able to start phasing out the walking downtime as both you and your dog won’t need it to keep up.

During this time, make sure to focus on leash manners. Your dog should stay by your side in the same way that they learned with loose leash walking.

You want to be sure that you’re both comfortable before moving to the next level.

Step Three: If Your Dog Pulls, Don’t Pull Back

If your dog is pulling on the leash when you’re out running, resist the urge to pull back. This will only encourage the pulling behavior.

When your dog pulls, stop moving forward. When your dog turns around and gives you their attention, reward them. Head in the opposite direction with your dog by your side.

Repeat this process, moving back and forth as needed, until your dog remains by your side, attention on you.

Step Four: Consider a Training Plan

If you’re working up to running for the first time with your dog, consider using a designed training plan. This plan will walk you through the process of leveling up from walking to running in small steps.

Kurgo has released a great free Dog 5K Training Plan for those that are getting started.

Be patient with yourself and your dog throughout this process. If you have to redo a week of training, don’t feel bad. You want to do what you need to for the best long-term comfort for both you and your dog.

Step Five: Cool Down After your Running program

After each session, make sure to stretch and cool down. This will help to reduce any pain and soreness while minimizing recovery time.

One simple stretch you can do is to use a treat to direct your dog’s nose to their shoulder. Hold for five seconds before allowing their head to return to neutral.

Repeat the process on the other side.

After your dog has stretched to the shoulder, do the same cooldown but stretching to the rib cage on each side. Make sure to reward as you go.

How to Train Your Dog to Run Off-Leash

Step One: Master Running On-Leash First

Before even considering training your dog to run off-leash, master on-leash running. This includes leash manners, staying by your side, and following obedience commands.

If there is anything that comes up on-leash running, removing the leash won’t fix it.

Step Two: Learn Proper Recall

The other skill to master is recall. This refers to the ability to call your dog and have them respond and return to you.

When training your dog’s recall, make sure to do so both with and without distractions. A good recall distraction-free isn’t going to help if your dog sees a squirrel.

This is important for the safety of your dog and those you encounter while you’re out.

Step Three: Start Running in a Designated Off-Leash Area

It may be tempting to let your dog off-leash in your usual running locations. But, you need to pay attention to the regulations and where your dogs can go off-leash while following the rules.

This is important both for your safety and comfort, but also out of respect for others using the trail or path.

Step Four: Tracking and Identification

Before heading out off-leash, make sure all identification is up to date. This includes checking ID tags, microchip information, and any other identifiers you use.

You may also choose to use a tracking collar like the GPS collars offered by  Tractive or Garmin. These products allow you to track the location of your dog using GPS technology.

If for any reason your dog gets loose, a GPS tracker can help you bring your dog home.

Tips and Safety Concerns

Not All Dogs Will Love Running

Some Dog Breeds that Don’t Make a good Running Partner

Dogs with short muzzles like pugs have a harder time with exercise. Known as brachycephalic dogs, the airways in the respiratory system in these dogs are often flattened or too small.

As a result, they may suffer breathing difficulties from too much exercise over an extended period.

Your running buddy should be a dog that can keep up with the pace without risking their health. For this reason, brachycephalic dogs are not a good running dogs.

Common flat-faced breeds include:

  • Boston Terrier
  • Boxer
  • Brussels Griffon
  • Bulldog
  • Bullmastiff
  • Cane Corso
  • French Bulldog
  • Pug
  • Shih Tzu

Your dog’s temperament

Just like people, your dog has its own personality, likes, and dislikes. Some dogs are high-energy and love physical activity. But, other dogs are much happier at home cuddling on the couch.

Before you start to train your dog to be a running partner, ask yourself: “Will my dog enjoy running?” After all, you wouldn’t want to try to force your dog to do something they hate.

Another temperament consideration is your dog’s trainability. Some dogs are eager to learn and will pick up on training commands quickly.

If your dog is stubborn and rebellious, you may have a harder time with the basic training needed.

Your Dog’s Age:

During the early puppy months, your dog’s bones are still growing and forming. They have small growth plates that can be easily damaged with too much activity.

Most veterinarians recommend waiting until your dog is approximately 1 1/2 years old. This will give the growth plates time to fuse and prevent unnecessary injuries.

On the other end of the spectrum, your senior dog may not be up to that level of exercise.

Every dog will experience aging at their own pace, so there is no one age to stop. As your dog enters their golden years, watch for any signs that they give you.

Is your dog tired much quicker than they used to be? Do they seem overly exhausted after a run? Is your dog suffering from arthritis or joint pain, making running painful?

You want to make the best decision so that your dog will stay healthy and happy!

Your Dog’s Physical Fitness Level:

If your dog hasn’t lived an active life, don’t jump into running right away. Like us, our dogs need to train and work up to this level of physical activity.

Dogs that don’t have a high physical fitness level can still be great running partners. But, it’s going to take some time.

If you’re looking for an instant workout buddy, your dog may not be the best choice.

Your Dog’s Body Type:

This isn’t referring to your dog’s fitness level or size. There are some breeds whose body isn’t built for running. The prime example is the dachshund.

It’s not that the breed itself is a bad running companion. A healthy adult dachshund can run safely. But, the breed has a high risk of back issues.

Running may not cause the problem (it’s largely genetic) but it can make it worse.

Another breed to think twice about is the Corgi, with its short, stubby legs. They may be in great shape and want to keep up with you, but their legs are going to have an impact on their ability to run.

What if Your Dog is Out of Shape?

Are you interested in running with your dog, but they are out of shape? Don’t be discouraged! You can train your dog to be a great running companion.

The trick is to start small. Don’t expect your dog to become a runner right away.

Try jogging or even power walking. Go for 5 or 10 minutes instead of 30 minutes or more. Increase time and intensity with each walk, building up to your running goals.

Keep An Eye on the Paws

Always inspect your dog’s paws after a run for any signs of damage. This includes cuts and abrasions, blistering, or slivers from foreign bodies.

A sore paw will not only impact your dog’s ability to run but also their daily mobility.

If you are worried about sharp rocks or rough surfaces, consider purchasing paw pads. Your dog’s paw pads will protect his or her feet in the same way as a pair of shoes or hiking boots on a human.

Weather Conditions

Cold Weather

In locations where the temperatures drop lower, you may have to consider the risks of ice and snow.

Icy surfaces can be difficult to find traction. If your dog loses their footing and slips, this could cause minor or serious injuries.

If necessary, you might want to invest in some running gear for your pooch. There are dog boots designed to provide added traction during the ice and snow.

Another risk to consider is the presence of ice melters.

These chemicals help to melt the ice for safe passage on walkways and sidewalks. But, they can irritate your dog’s paws and make your dog ill if ingested. 

Always clean your pup’s paws off after a winter run.

Hot Weather

Any time that the temperatures climb too high, your dog is at risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

These conditions can range from minor discomfort to life-threatening. It’s not something that you should dismiss or brush aside!

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke occur when your dog’s body temperature climbs. If it exceeds 103 degrees Fahrenheit, a dog’s temperature is abnormal. At 106 degrees Fahrenheit, your dog has heatstroke.

Heatstroke can cause the body’s organs to fail, unable to continue operating as needed.

The most common warning signs include:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Dry or sticky gums
  • Bruising in the gums
  • Bright red, white, or blue gums
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Lethargy or disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Coma

As soon as you notice any sign of heatstroke in your dog, get them out of the sun and into a cooler area.

Contact your veterinarian and explain the situation. They will be able to direct you on the next best steps for your dog’s care.

Another concern during summer weather is hot asphalt. Roads and sidewalks absorb the sunshine, heating up to dangerously high levels.

During the peak of summer, you should limit your running time to the early morning or late evening to avoid extreme temperatures.

Check the temperature of the sidewalk or road by placing your hand upside down upon it. If it’s too hot for the back of your hand, it’s too hot for your dog. In these instances dirt trails might be preferable.

Water Breaks

Regardless of the weather, running with your dog carries a risk of dehydration. For this reason, water breaks are an important consideration.

When you go out running with your beloved pet, be sure to carry water with you. There are water bottles available with attached dog dish extensions. This allows you to give your furry friend a drink on the go with minimal effort.

As a general rule plan to take a water break approximately every 15 to 20 minutes.

Can Your Dog Practice Running on a Treadmill?

A treadmill is a great way to condition your dog. But, you need to take time to introduce them to it slowly and always supervise running time.

Start slow by introducing the treadmill with it stopped. You can then slowly add movement and speed as your pup’s comfort increases.

How to Set a Running Routine with Your Dog

When setting a routine, pay careful attention to both your dog’s limits and your own.

You want to challenge both parties, but not push yourselves too much. Especially in more extreme weather conditions and over long distances.

Try to create a regular and predictable schedule that allows both running time and rest days. This will give your pup and you the dog owner both time to recuperate.

Final Thoughts: Running with Your Dog

You and your dog may be the best running partners that you have ever imagined. You don’t have to be a professional dog trainer, but you may need to be willing to invest a little time and energy first.

Learning how to run with your furry friend creates a situation that you can both enjoy. Plus, it’s a great way to bond with your best friend. Many dogs love running with their owner.

Photo of author
Britt Kascjak
Britt Kascjak has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering, and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. Her ‘pack’ includes her husband John, their 3 dogs – Daviana, Indiana, and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx.