Training Tips to Get Your Dog to Run With You

Trail run­ning is an invig­o­rat­ing, but lone­ly sport if you choose to tread ground by your­self. If you’re look­ing for a new com­pan­ion while you train for the next 10K, there’s no rea­son you can’t take your best friend. It’ll take a lit­tle con­di­tion­ing, but dogs def­i­nite­ly make for some good run­ning buddies.

Here’s how to get started.

Choose the Right Breed
Not every dog is made for run­ning, believe it or not. A French bull­dog isn’t going to get very far on an uphill trek, but a Vizs­la can climb moun­tains. Be sure to research the breeds and make sure your pooch is fit for the trail. Take into account body shape, propen­si­ty for injuries and genet­ic defects like hip dys­pla­sia and whether or not your pup can han­dle the cli­mate you pre­fer to run in. Don’t take a dog run­ning if he’s not built for the adventure.

Build Up Endurance
While the aver­age dog might be able to out­run most ath­letes, that doesn’t mean your pup won’t need con­di­tion­ing. When first start­ing out it’s impor­tant to help your dog build his endurance rather than expect­ing him to keep up right out the gate. Try min­i­miz­ing runs to a mile or two for a cou­ple of weeks, then slow­ly increase the dis­tance over time. His mus­cles and joints need time to adjust just like yours did.

Work On Leash Commands
If your dog isn’t the best at walk­ing on a leash, he’ll prob­a­bly be a night­mare if you try to run with him. Make sure he has his leash and walk­ing com­mands down pat before attempt­ing to speed things up. You dog should be taught to stay by your side on both walks and runs by reward­ing him with treats as you go. Remem­ber, he should be with­in three feet of you at all times, so keep him on a short leash that is teth­ered to your waist. If he pulls, imme­di­ate­ly turn around in the oth­er direc­tion and call for him to fol­low. If he turns with you and comes to your side, toss him a treat. Your dog also needs to learn how to stop on command.

Teach Man­ners
Your dog needs to be prop­er­ly social­ized before hit­ting the trails. Oth­er­wise, every encounter with a human or anoth­er ani­mal could cause him to becomes excit­ed and lead to seri­ous injury. A poor­ly social­ized dog can become too ener­getic and trip you dur­ing your run when some­thing approach­es, or could become aggres­sive and attack. Intro­duce him to plen­ty of strangers, both of the two and four-legged vari­ety, when he’s young so he’ll know peo­ple and their pets are not a threat.

Start At an Appro­pri­ate Age
Most medi­um to large breed dogs don’t stop grow­ing until they’re rough­ly 18 months old. Try­ing to make your pup run with you before then could cause last­ing dam­age to his joints. Wait until your dog is ful­ly grown before start­ing a train­ing regime. It’s dif­fi­cult to make him sit out on your adven­tures for so long, but it’s much bet­ter than the alter­na­tive of expen­sive surg­eries and med­ica­tions to help him walk when he’s old­er because you messed up his legs as a puppy.

Warm Up
Like humans, dogs shouldn’t just hit the ground run­ning with­out per­form­ing a few stretch­es and warm-ups first. Walk your dog for at least five min­utes before pick­ing up the pace to help ease him into the trip. Repeat this at the end to help him calm down.

Bring Water
Dogs are hard­wired to please their own­ers, which some­times mean they’ll push them­selves a lit­tle too hard with­out us know­ing it. Watch for signs of fatigue and dehy­dra­tion while run­ning and be sure to bring along extra water for your pup. If your dog is exces­sive­ly pant­i­ng that means it’s prob­a­bly time for a break. Don’t push him too hard, keep him hydrat­ed and make sure to have him checked out by a vet on a reg­u­lar basis to ensure he main­tains his health.