Tips for Running With Your Dog

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Jack and Steve running

Jack and Steve running

I love running. Even more, I love running with my dogs. I have been running with my dogs for almost 20 years now, starting with Sweet Sally Brown, then Tino, Becca , and now Maggie and Jack. We are fortunate that since we moved to the West Coast, we have lived near great parks and trails, which make it easier to bring your dog on a run. There are so many reasons why you should run with your dog: 1) you get fit, 2) your dog gets fit, and 3) it helps build a lasting bond between you and your dog.

Of all of our dogs, Jack seems to be the best and strongest runner. He is able to run for miles with little ill effect, he is always excited to go and wears a constant smile during and after the run (no doubt his Endocannabinoid system taking effect!). Not bad for a Senior Dog! However, this was not always the case—when we first rescued Jack in the summer of 2011, he was borderline obese (at 105 lbs) and on the anti-depressant medication Prozac for behavioral issues.

Jack on Track
We learned a lot from our running experiences with our previous dogs Sally and Tino and that experience, along with some good advice from our orthopedic vet, helped us formulate a smart program that allowed Jack to build his fitness base safely and without an injury setback. We started Jack on a daily walking program and quickly built him up to an hour. Within 2 weeks, Jack was ready to start running.

We increased his running mileage by about 20% per week, more than some human fitness experts suggest, but not so much that we felt Jack was at risk of injury. We also ramped the intensity of his runs, starting slowly (10 minute + miles) and building to 8 minute miles or faster paces within 4 weeks. The key for us was to adjust his activity level and observe his reaction. Was he limping? Did he seem sluggish after or the next day? How was his overall enthusiasm compared to before we increased his mileage? We also programmed his workouts to alternate higher intensity/mileage days with lower intensity/mileage days- very much like my own fitness workouts. For example, he would rarely run two days in a row and when he did, one of those runs was very slow and short.

Now, Jack is one of the fittest senior dogs that I know. He weighs about 85 lbs and can still run a 5 miler like it is nothing, which we do 3 days per week as part of his overall fitness routine. For those of you that haven’t tried to run with your dog, or those who want to get back to running with your dog , we have created a list of tips to help you make running a regular part of your dog’s (and your) exercise routine.



(Note: we are newbies at this whole video thing so bear with us – they will get better 🙂 )

Tips on Running with your Dog – The First 5

Here are the first 5 tips– we will provide the rest in next weeks post.

  1. Start at the proper age. Let your puppy’s bones strengthen and set first before starting a running program. Eight months to 1 year is the minimum age your puppy needs to reach before starting a running program. We believe that we started running with Sally a little too early and that may have contributed to some of the orthopedic issues that she developed as she matured. I can’t stress this enough—do not start a running program with your puppy until their frame can support it!
  2.  See your vet. You should check with a vet before embarking on an exercise program and keep them up-to-date with any changes in your dog’s activity levels or symptoms that might indicate a health or orthopedic issue. They can also advise you on a safe age where your puppy can start.
  3.  Build a base and “taper up”. As with people, dog’s need to build a fitness base gradually or risk over-training injuries. Start slowly and with short distances and gradually build distance and speed. Try using the 10-20% rule — don’t increase mileage more than 10-20% from week to week. For example, if you run 6 miles with your dog in week 1, plan on extending that by no more than 1/2- 1 1/4 miles in week 2. Many people use a 10% weekly increase as the cap but I have always used 20% depending on the dog’s reaction. If your dog seems extra tired or sluggish around the house during an increase in mileage phase, back off a bit and re-evaluate next week’s plan.
  4.  Program your runs like an athlete would. Almost important as the total weekly mileage is the distribution of the weekly mileage. Like we did with Jack, alternate hard and easy days to ensure adequate recovery.
  5.  Adjust the program based on the weather. Dogs don’t sweat nor can they wear jacknsteve2layers of outerwear to protect them from frigid conditions.
  • In the summer, I never take Jack running later than 8 AM. Even still, I often notice that his pace is just a little slower than when it is cooler and that is perfectly OK. Don’t push it in the heat. Furthermore, if you run your dog on the pavement, be aware that the blacktop can get every hot in the summer and make it very uncomfortable for your dog to run. If you live in places where there is no relief from the heat or your schedule simply doesn’t allow for early morning runs, consider using a dog treadmill (indoors) which will enable your dog to maintain their fitness despite the weather.  Always make sure there is plenty of cold, clean water available throughout the day.
  • In the winter weather, be aware of the wind chill and the effect that wet conditions can have. Watch for ice patches and slippery spots to avoid the possibility of one or both of you falling. Again, consider an indoor treadmill for those brutally cold, wet days.

Next week we will provide MORE tips.  Be sure to check back.

Have more tips?  Please share them in our comments.

fitDogFriday_avatarPlease 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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22 Comments

  1. That was a GREAT video! Jack looks so happy! Great tips too. Happy FitDog Friday!
    Your pals,
    Diane and Rocco
    Diane recently posted…A Dog Walk Through the Newest Piedmont Park ExpansionMy Profile

  2. Living in CA you have a majority of good weather for running. Mom n I run in the morning or late afternoon and wearing PAWZ helps a lot especially when the pavement is HOT. Senior Dog Rocks!!! The video is good … Happy Fit Dog Friday. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar
    SUGAR: Golden Woofs recently posted…Shoe Dog Adventure: Finding The Right Fit and ShoeMy Profile

    • I bet your PAWZ help a lot. We’re going to get some for Maggie who seems to be getting sensitive to the pavement. Thanks for joining the Hop!
      mkob recently posted…Tips for Running With Your Dog My Profile

  3. As you know, mom loves running with dogs! It is such a great thing to do together!
    emma recently posted…And The Secret Code Is? | GBGVMy Profile

  4. I loved seeing Jack in action! He looks pretty happy when he’s running. Probably because he gets to do it with his best friend.
    Peggy Frezon recently posted…Jumping KellyMy Profile

  5. I should really take mummy running, she could really do with the exercise!
    Misaki recently posted…Friday 🙂My Profile

    • Get her out there Misaki…you know how to be persuasive – use that Mallie charm!
      mkob recently posted…Tips for Running With Your Dog My Profile

  6. I really wish I could run because I know Gizmo would love it but my knees just don’t allow running…I do try to add some speedy 1 minute intervals to our walks and Gizmo can easily exceed any pace I may set…Our walks are usually in the dark (before 6 am) so that we can enjoy the coolest part of the day
    GizmoGeodog recently posted…Oooh That Feels Good! Canine Massage on FitDog FridayMy Profile

  7. Great advice. Since we are just starting out, we need all the advice we can get! Things have been a bit off track for us, as you know, but we are trying to get back into our routine now. Sheba and I had a good run yesterday and we increased our distance. I’m glad you gave a guideline on increasing….not that there’s much chance we’d overdo it! 🙂 Because Sheba is a senior also, I want to be very careful with her, being sure that we increase slowly. How old is Jack? He looks great in the video, and really looks like he’s enjoying himself!
    Jan K recently posted…This ‘N That ThursdayMy Profile

    • Jack loves to run, that’s for sure. He’s a rescue, so we’re not really sure of his age, but probably in the 8-9 range…maybe even a little older. Glad to hear you are getting back into the swing of things…take it at your pace.
      mkob recently posted…Tips for Running With Your Dog My Profile

  8. Thank you. These are great tips! I’m always especially worried when temps are high. We take long walks but play a lot of fetch and sometimes Kayo will find shade and run in the the shade to bring the ball back. These are all important reminders. Thank you!
    BoingyDog recently posted…Historic Ruling in Spain for Man Who Killed DogMy Profile

    • It’s tough when it’s hot out and dogs will just go and go. Maybe give him a sprinkler to run under!
      mkob recently posted…Tips for Running With Your Dog My Profile

  9. You know I’ve tried to jog with Leroy in the cooler months, not a long jog but a little one, and he gets so goofy. He’ll try to jump on me 1/2 way through the run. I don’t know if its his endorphins or what but we had to do some retraining and it didn’t seem to help much. so now we just walk.
    Jen recently posted…That Awkward Moment At The Doctors Office When You Have Some Explaining To DoMy Profile

    • Hi Jen- maybe you should run faster, so he can’t jump on you 😉

      Seriously, that is odd behavior- jumping on you mid-way through. I wonder if he is sending a message: “mom, I am big guy and running is exhausting”?

      Assuming that your vet deems him ‘fit’ for running, I would start over with him.

      Begin by doing walk/runs- break out into short jogs in the middle of your walk (think Fartlek). See how he reacts to that and then gradually increase the jogging component and reducing the walking component. As you build up your running time, pay attention to his breathing and behavior- does he appear taxed, bored, or like he is having fun? As you gradually build up the running time, he in turn, will build his cardio endurance which should make him more comfortable with this activity.

      Let us know how Leroy does!
      steve recently posted…Tips for Running With Your Dog My Profile

      • Great tips and thank you! He would run in the show ring just fine, but out on the sidewalk it’s a different attitude he has. I think he’s bored when he runs, he’s rather be running off leash, maybe? but then he would get way to distracted! I’ll try out the tips you offered and see what happens! Thanks again!
        Jen recently posted…That Awkward Moment At The Doctors Office When You Have Some Explaining To DoMy Profile

    • Hey Jen,

      I used to do that sometimes to my Mum too when I was learning, she would tell me know and I had to sit and when I was calm we could carry on – I just kinda got over it over time and I don’t do it anymore! 🙂

      Hope this is helpful

      Your pal Snoopy 🙂
      snoopys recently posted…Monday Mischief – Do you have an embarrassing friend too?My Profile

  10. What a great post! I just started to be diligent with daily walks with my kids. We have done them every night after the heat of the day has passed for the past week. We have to start somewhere, right? 🙂 My lab is about 5-7 pounds overweight at the moment, so transitioning from walks to runs with him sounds exciting for us both! I know I could use the exercise, too. Thanks for sharing!
    Laura recently posted…It Could Happen to You: Part 1My Profile

  11. Hi Y’all!

    My Human and I used to run all the time. The hottest part of the summer we usually spend in the mountains. We used to “run the mountain” trails all the time. Then in the cut backs they closed the mountain and removed the forest rangers. It is only open a short while now and then mostly for tourists to view the spring (that comes in late June) unusual flora and fauna.

    Here at the shore I do most of the running, then cool down in the water. My Human tends to walk more these days…imagine that!

    Y’all come back now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog
    Hawk aka BrownDog recently posted…Sunrise, SunsetMy Profile

  12. Excellent tips. I think number 1 is very important. Too many people expect puppy to be able to keep up and they can’t. We spend a lot of time conditioning our dogs through the summer. We don’t necessarily avoid the hottest part of the day when training, but do water training instead of land when it is really hot out.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Blind Work For FreighterMy Profile

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