Running with your Dog to Feel Good

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Before we start our post, we want to announce the return of K9 Kamp! Yes, Summer 2014 K9 Kamp is schedule to kick-off next Friday. Our theme for Kamp is Backyard Games. There’s so much to tell you about and so many prizes to show you, we’ve put it all into a separate post. Read all about Summer ’14 K9 Kamp.
This is our fourth and final installment of the benefits of running with your dog series. We have already written about how running can help keep the mind sharp, prevent disease, and keep you both lean. As it turns out, running with your dog can help make you both feel great too.


What is Runner’s High?

As an endurance athlete and overall exercise-a-holic, I have long experienced the joy of what has been called “Runner’s High”. For those who don’t know, runner’s high is an overall feeling of well being, some say it is like getting high, which happens during and after intense exercise. It is a truly amazing feeling without the downside of other approaches to getting high, like alcohol or drugs. I often argue that people who experience this are more likely to stick to exercise programs over long periods of time because they become addicted to the feeling, while those that don’t experience runner’s high are more likely to abandon exercise and remain sedentary.


There have been many studies that describe the physical reactions to intense exercise and how this can lead to the euphoric feeling associated with runner’s high. Dr. Arne Dietrich is one of the thought leaders in this area and has helped to push forth the idea that it is endocannabinoids, natural opiates released in the body during intense exercise, that lead to this feeling. Dietrich’s (and other researcher’s) theories have always made sense to me and match with my personal experiences with high intensity training.


Running with a Dog to Feel Good? Runners High in Dogs.

The good news is that research supports the theory that dogs, like humans, will also experience the euphoric feeling that comes from high intensity exercise.


A 2012 paper published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, titled “Wired to Run,” examined endocannabinoids (ecbs) in a small number of fit people, as well as in dogs and ferrets. The ferrets were included in the study because unlike dogs, they are not predisposed to endurance activities.


The researchers took blood samples before and after a treadmill run and found that endocannabinoid levels, as measured by anandamide (a chemical produced naturally by the body) increased in both humans and dogs afterwards. For ferrets, the change in anandamide levels was not statistically significant. The graph below, taken from the research paper, shows the changes in ecbs. Panel A shows ecb levels before (white) and after (black) running and Panel B shows before and after walking. It is interesting to note how ecb levels declined in both humans and dogs after walking (although the human change was not significant).


This research suggests that your dog can experience runner’s high from intense activity and could be a partial explanation for the old adage, “a well exercised dog is a well behaved dog”. Running your dog could make them feel good and thus behave ‘better’!


I don’t know about most other pet owners, but I can see how “happy” SlimDoggy Jack is during and after our runs together. There is little doubt that he is “getting high” with me when we run together based on his expressions and overall body language. You could even go as far as running had saved Jack from a life in a cage. He was poorly behaved, fat, and essentially unadoptable when we rescued him and proper exercise and diet have transformed him to a happy and healthy dog.


What about you? Does your dog get high on your runs? Have you ever noticed their expressions or mood changes before and after a bout of intense exercise? Share your experiences in the comments below.


References and Further Reading

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  1. Anyone who has ever been around agility dogs, flyball dogs, dogs just out of the field from herding, etc, has seen the smiling “high” faces of those happy fit dogs!
    Bethany recently posted…Hiking The Bow Tie and Corona Arch Trail With Three Fabulously Fit DogsMy Profile

  2. I noticed that Easy is very satisfied after a run and he never pulls on the leash when we run together (even when I mostly run like a lame duck), think it’s a special kind of “work” for him what he likes.
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog TAKE YOUR DOG…My Profile

  3. Mom and Bailie will be hitting the road for a run in a few minutes. Bailie really loves it, I have to be in the mood, but Mom says running with just one dog is easier anyway, so it works. Even when Mom isn’t in the mood to run, once she gets out there she loves it and is glad she is running. Going for walk with Katie and I after is also a great cool down for her muscles. Happy trails.
    Emma recently posted…How To Do A Vehicle Search In Nose WorkMy Profile

  4. Hi Y’all!

    Suppose that’s why race horses love to run? They’ve even been known to run off with their exercise riders in the morning.

    Y’all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog
    Hawk aka BrownDog recently posted…Parade Your Fitness!My Profile

  5. Thanks for the great information on running with your dog! We do believe it’s a great activity to share but we have to stick with walking! Love Dolly
    Dolly the Doxie recently posted…Theo’s Successful Dog Weight Loss on #HillsPet with No StarvingMy Profile

  6. Interesting post!
    I have noticed that when me and the huskies get back from a good long walk/jog they always have huge smiles on their faces and just look like they have visited paradise!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Kurgo Zippy Bowl – #nohotpetsMy Profile

  7. Rocco seems to self-regulate his occasional “crazies” (where he looks like he’s about to explode from the inside out!) with a good zoom around the backyard. After a few minutes of zooming, he’s content and happy to come back inside and relax. If the weather’s bad, he’ll get his zoomies on inside the house running figure eights between the dining and living rooms!
    Diane recently posted…Take Your Dog to Work and to K9 Kamp! Coming Next Week!My Profile

  8. I haven’t really noticed this yet, but we’re still working up to going further. Though I did notice one time that we made it to two miles, where I intended to stop and just walk, but I found that I really wanted to run more, and Cricket was willing to keep going too. Is this similar, or might I just been having a good day?
    Jan K recently posted…FitDog Friday – First SwimsMy Profile

    • That’s the first sign…and I’ll tell you, I usually start feeling it at about that 2 – 2.5 mile marker…so if you can get past that, it kicks in.
      mkob recently posted…Running with your Dog to Feel GoodMy Profile

  9. Mr. N definitely gets a runner’s high. Either that or zoomies.
    Tenacious Little Terrier recently posted…FitDog Friday #35 – Random TidbitsMy Profile

  10. I agree that a well exercised dog is a happy dog. Ava is the only dog at our house that is able to run with intensity for any period of time, and the joy is noticeable. Especially when she starts weaving in between the trees and running in circles. So much fun.
    Mark at DBDT recently posted…My Favorite Posts About Hiking With A DogMy Profile

  11. Getting a natural high from running is the best feeling – for pets and humans!

  12. This is fascinating to me. I dislike every moment of running. I’ve never experienced a runner’s high. This is probably because I’ve never pushed it hard enough. My dogs would probably feel better!
    Peggy Frezon recently posted…Ike’s world revolves around Planet DogMy Profile

    • I’ve found you have to run for at least 20-30 minutes before it kicks in and it doesn’t happen every time – at least not for me.
      mkob recently posted…SlimDoggy |Sepia SaturdayMy Profile

  13. Great information. Gambler gets high when he runs around the yard he gets so high when he jumps over glory when racing around. Lol but seriously I can see how happy he is when running!
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Nothing But Norman #49My Profile

  14. Maybe that is why dogs break into zoomies? They like the feeling of intensive running. 🙂
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…It’s About TimeMy Profile

  15. yep. you want to see Scooter’s face when he sees the bike coming. Then he knows he’s going to get a proper run. Definitely a happier pup after his runs.
    Paws and Pedals (Scooter & Kate) recently posted…Dog Trainer Gary Jackson pays FNQ a visitMy Profile

  16. I have experienced runner’s high, but I run several times a week and I only experience runner’s high a few times a year. I consider runner’s high those times when I feel like a feather, and I can run faster and easier than usual with little effort. When this happens, I usually end up smoking my usual pace. It’s an awesome feeling! Wish it happened more often. Usually, I feel pretty slow and I have to force myself to get out there 🙂

    The dogs … yeah, most of them seem pretty happy to be running!

  17. My dog loves to run, especially to fetch his ball, so I totally believe in dogs having runner’s high. He’s a small dog so I can only take him running for a short period of time, but he does love it!
    Jamie recently posted…What’s The Best Face Wash For Acne?My Profile

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