7 Tips for Starting a Running Program with Your Dog

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running with dogs

Running is a great exercise for both you and your dog.  Yet, many people don’t include running as a regular part of their fitness routine.  This is unfortunate because of all the benefits that running provides to humans and dogs.


Benefits of Running

There are numerous benefits associated with running.  Here are a few important ones.

  • Burns a lot of calories: depending on speed, running can burn three times as many calories or more as walking burns.
  • Increases stamina:  running builds stamina and improves overall endurance.
  • Increases strength: running builds strength, especially if you incorporate hill and speed work.
  • Lowers resting heart rate: running improves cardiovascular efficiency and can lower resting heart rate
  • Increases euphoric feeling: running is an intense exercise which activates the human and canine endocannabinoid systems, which in turn, leads to “runners high”, a feeling of well being and euphoria during and after exercise.
  • Improves cholesterol in humans: running can help reduce LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol levels.


7 Tips for Starting a Running Program for you and your Dog

Want to get started on a running program with your dog so you can experience all of these benefits?  Here are 7 tips to get you going:

  1. See the doctor.  Both you and your dog should get checked out by your doctor/vet to make sure there is no medical reason that would preclude you from vigorous exercise.
  2. Find a good pair of sneakers.  Forget all of the marketing speak about pronation, stability, etc.  Just go to a running store and try on some shoes and find ones that feel comfortable.  You don’t need to get caught up in all of the technical specifications of your sneakers, at least not until you become a regular runner.  Focus on comfort.
  3. Engage your core.  There are many people who complain of back aches when they run.  This is unfortunate because humans were meant to run and often the back pain is due to improper form.  Focus on your core, keeping your abs gently braced and pulled in (like a Pilates stance) , to ensure that your body is stacked properly with a very slight forward lean.  Practicing this technique, even when walking, will not only build core strength, but will teach your body proper positioning.
  4. Forget about speed and distance. Beginning or returning runners should forget about how far or how fast they go. Focus instead on time on your feet.  In fact, until your fitness is improved, try walk/run intervals where you alternate between walking and running so that you can finish your workout.  A common approach is to walk for 2 minutes and then run for 2 minutes and repeat.  Gradually reduce the walk time until you can run your entire workout.
  5. Gradually increase time on feet.  As you and your dog become more fit, you can gradually increase the time of your workouts.  Start with 15 minute runs.  Add 2 minutes to each workout every week and build up to 30 minutes or more.  Remember to consider your dog’s condition, body type, and injury history before asking them to run for longer durations.
  6. Use the proper leash.  Harnesses are a good choice because they provide more control and less risk of hurting your dog’s neck from sudden starts and stops.  We do not recommend using retractable leashes as they can get tangled and cause other control problems that can lead to injury.
  7. Practice consistent body positioning.  Train your dog to stay on the same side of you whenever they are on leash.  This provides predictability to both you and your dog and can reduce the chances of getting crossed and tangled.


Just do it.  Go ahead and get started. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t think about how cold it is.  Just follow these tips and get going.  I promise you that you will feel a lot better after just a few weeks of consistent effort.  Your dog will too.


Here is our PetsMove.Org Expo video on how to begin a running program:




Please enjoy our FitDog Friday Blog Hop brought to you by SlimDoggy and our co-hosts Peggy’s Pet Place and To Dog With Love. Join the Hop or just enjoy the links below – lots of fun fitness tips and advice!


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  1. I was going to comment that I hate running and there’s no way I can do it. I will start running Saturday morning with Rodrigo. Thanks for the tips. I’m really looking forward to giving this a try. I can do 15 minutes. I think. I hope. 🙂
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…Fur Mom Confessions | I Stole a Box of Riley’s Organic Dog TreatsMy Profile

  2. I think you’re right, back pain can be associated with a weak core. Good tips.
    Ruckus the Eskie recently posted…Top 7 (Sapien) Pet PeevesMy Profile

  3. Hooray for mentioning Pilates! 🙂 I was already jogging with Tynan when I started Pilates (and then my teacher training) but I definitely had less pain in my back and my knees when I learned how to use my core! In fact, my abs were sore even after just a walk. Nothing’s better than that!!! Oh, accept for how much more I wanted to take Tynan out to exercise!
    Bethany recently posted…Fit Dogs On A MissionMy Profile

  4. Hi Y’all!

    Thanks for tips and reminders. After being house bound in the mountains, my Human is going to have to start over with me when we get back to the shore…slow and easy does it…just try to make me go slow and easy! I’m forgetting those words NOW!

    Y’all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog
    Hawk aka BrownDog recently posted…Follow Up Friday and Fitness…What Fitness?My Profile

  5. I run around with Mr. N when he is off-leash to make him run but we don’t really go for a run. I worry about him running on pavement.
    Shoes are important. I once saw someone jogging around the dog park… barefoot. So gross.
    Tenacious Little Terrier recently posted…FitDog Friday #18 – Training Treats for Small Dogs (and those on a diet)My Profile

  6. Well done for breaking it down & making it more manageable for first time joggers. I think short bouts & mixing it up with walking & running both great suggestions. Still hasn’t convinced me to get off the bike though 😉
    Paws and Pedals (Kate & Scooter) recently posted…A Blogger’s Journey – A Change is Gonna Come…….My Profile

  7. Running with dogs is Mom’s favorite way to run! She always uses a short leash for runs but nevertheless, she seems to have had a bad crash with every dog she has ever run with. You have to really focus on keeping the dog on one side and not letting it cross in front of the human. Funny thing is that all her crashes happened at the end of a run when she was focused more on already being home. She never ended up in the hospital, but it came close with having her face mangled landing on a curb, getting an egg size injury on her knee and landing in a barbwire fence causing cuts all over, but it was not the dog’s fault and once she healed up, she was back on the road. Running with Mom is always lots of fun!
    emma recently posted…A Balancing Act | GBGV | FitDog FridayMy Profile

    • Ouch! We’ve had a few crashes too, but we’re lucky enough that we have been able to run with the dogs off leash most of the time. It does seem to be on leash when we’ve had crashes too.
      mkob recently posted…7 Tips for Starting a Running Program with Your Dog My Profile

  8. They were really great tips , i wonder if this will push us to start running 🙂
    YourSpecialDog recently posted…I am a Pit Bull and I am a girl!My Profile

  9. I’m a big fan of running with dogs…and running has really been the only thing I have been able to do with some degree of success over the years. I really love the walk/run model, which is the Jeff Galloway method , reduces injury and keeps you going for longer distance/time…and yes it is okay to stop and walk! I wear a watch that beeps the intervals at me…and the dogs know the beep..so it is their time to sniff and “read their mail” then Eve can cruise along on the run part. For me , I decided to go to a specialty running store and got fitted before I started since I had a past history if foot problems (too many years in high heels and pointy toes!). My dogs LOVE to run! I have pullers and I find the run actually works better for us than the walk, since it is more at their preferred pace…and they are sweet and don’t mind slowing down a little when I go to the walk :).
    Kathryn Durno recently posted…Where have you been all my life?My Profile

    • I was just about to leave almost the same comment, and then I read yours! I trained with the Galloway folks here in Atlanta a while back when I was hoping to do a marathon. That ended when my body started falling apart and I had to give up distance running, but I still use a walk run method so that I can get in some running without too much pounding! Rocco and I have been walk/running for a while now. (I had the high heels, pointy shoe issue too! But now that’s pretty much resolved with more sensible shoes.)

      And Steve, great tips! We’re heading out for a walk/run now!
      Diane and Rocco
      Diane recently posted…K9Kamp is Back and Under New Co-Ownership!My Profile

      • Walk, run walk/run – it’s all good!
        mkob recently posted…K9 Kamp ReturnsMy Profile

  10. A little bit of something is better than a whole lot of nothing. Get up, get out and get moving. For those that don’t or can’t run (or injured like me), start with a walk, then combine it with some High Paw Knees, Butt Kicks or Lucky’s Lunges. Keep the leash on your left side, we recommend a 2-foot lead. Remember, slow and steady wins the race!
    K9 Fit CLub recently posted…Winter Safety TipMy Profile

  11. Very helpful post. Momma has tried to run with me, but I don’t like to run while on a leash so I run really slow and it’s difficult for her to match my pace. We may try a harness and see if I like it any better. I love running off leash but we can’t do that in my neighborhood.

    Garth Riley recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: FlightMy Profile

    • It’s tough sometimes to get the pacing down – especially trying to run Jack (long legs, fast runner) and Maggie (shorter legs, likes to sniff) together – that can be a challenge!
      mkob recently posted…K9 Kamp ReturnsMy Profile

  12. These are all terrific tips. I remember years ago when my husband decided our black Lab, Spanky, should run with him. Though Spanky was excellent walking on a leash, it was a totally different story jogging, let alone running. (As an observer, it was pretty funny.) Took a bit to get the kink out. I’d recommend a lot of patience on the part of the human 😉 I used to job with my tripawd, but never on concrete/asphalt surfaces – too hard on the joints (both canine and human.)
    Sue at Talking Dogs recently posted…Factory Farming | Blog the ChangeMy Profile

  13. Absolutely great tips guys! Thanks so much! As I have told you guys in a few of your posts I am trying to get myself and my dogs on a workout fitness routine, and I would love to have a good plan in order for jogging or sprinting. So I love your tips and it is really helping us build our plan.
    ((husky hugz))
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Friday’s Woofs and Growls!My Profile

  14. You’ve laid out a great plan here – great advice! Around here, a lot of people really like hands-free/umbilical leashes for running, which makes sense to me, though I’m not a runner myself. From biking with my dog, though, I’d add considering shoes or other protection for your dog’s paws for running or biking. They can rip a pad and not even flinch, since they’re so focussed on following you. Not a necessity, but can be something to consider for those who really want to run with their dogs, but their dogs seem to injury their paws easily (or if there’s something like hot pavement to protect from).
    Jen K recently posted…BtC4A: Local Wildlife Rescue & RehabilitationMy Profile

    • Good point. We run mostly on dirt trails, so forget how tough pavement can be on paw pads.
      mkob recently posted…K9 Kamp ReturnsMy Profile

  15. Oh I am so envious of runners! I used to run with my Golden and it was so much fun. After two knee and one back surgeries, Bentley the Basset and I do a fast walk, slow down and sniff, fast walk sort of outing! LOL!
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Who Let Their Dogs Out?My Profile

    • Running is great, but not with bad knees…
      mkob recently posted…K9 Kamp ReturnsMy Profile

  16. Awesome tips! 🙂 I’m not really a runner but I do power walk!
    Nailah Bone recently posted…FitDog Friday – Bum Ankle & Fitness ReviewsMy Profile

  17. Great post and great tips! I’m not a fan of running (although I do it occasionally), but this is great advice for how to get started. Thanks for sharing!
    Christina Berry recently posted…Walking Benefits For You and Your DogMy Profile

  18. Great benefits and tips. I do jog a bit when walking/running the dogs but if I run my knees hurt to bad.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Follow-Up/Fitdog FridayMy Profile

  19. Great video. I love how Jack can’t get close enough to you! I am an awful runner, I haven’t ever pushed it to the point I experience that runner’s high. Only a runner’s real real low!
    Peggy Frezon recently posted…FitDog Friday- NEW K9Kamp, Let’s Get Ready!My Profile

  20. Golden LOVE running. Off leash running with my mom is my favorite. Hoping for my mom’s knee to get better so we can go for long runs. Happy FitDogFriday. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar
    Golden Woofs: Sugar recently posted…Yoga With Your DogMy Profile

  21. SlimDoggy, the 7 tips are excellent. There is a useful podcast called Podrunner that will provide a series of workouts for iPods and MP3 players with automatic run/walk timer and beat-heavy music at the proper rhythms for novice runners to gradually advance the length of their runs. I used it several years ago. Now I do Jazzercise because I’m older and don’t want the impact on my knees anymore, but for anyone under, say, 50 it might be a helpful way to start.
    Amy recently posted…Marine Mammals Don’t Belong in Captivity! Be the Change For AnimalsMy Profile

  22. Great tip about teaching them to stay on one side. I use a shorter leash when running to keep better track of them, but still had some close calls when the dog stopped right in front of me suddenly! We’re not running in the winter, but look forward to starting up again in the spring as soon as we can. These tips will come in handy then, since it will be a little like starting all over again.
    Jan K recently posted…FitDog Friday – Rule ChangesMy Profile

  23. Excellent tips. I can see that a harness would work well for the dog rather than a collar.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Dog Show Round UpMy Profile

  24. Awesome advice! I’ve never been much of a runner (I trip over my own daggome feet) but I sure could walk a good pace! That changed after two surgeries one on my femur, and the other to replace a severed ACL (caused I believe when I broke my femur). I’m back on my feet and walking, but my northern breed mixes are driving me nuts even a four mile power-walk isn’t taking the edge off anymore! I’m looking into picking up the pace a bit to a nice jog possibly breaking into running. I’ve always been self-consious about my running ability, but that is going to have be ignored/overcome since I have very few options for exercising the pups in the winter (spring/summer/fall we go canoeing and swim the dogs, I love how tuckered they get after a good swim). Now to go shoe shopping!
    Victoria Carter recently posted…Wordless Wednesday #11My Profile

    • There are few better exercises than running. I always tell people that, with a few exceptions (serious ortho injuries), where there is a will, there is a way, to run.

      Often times knee or back problems that pop up when running are not due to running, but to poor bio mechanics, poor posture, or poor mobility.
      steve recently posted…Wordless Wednesday 1-22-14My Profile

  25. I will use the suggestions in this article to help my pet live the best life possible. Thanks!

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