Trail Running Tips for You and your Dog

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In our last post, we discussed the many benefits of trail running with your dog when compared to running on pavement and other flat, even surfaces. Yet, all of those benefits notwithstanding, trail running presents some challenges and other risks that you need to be prepared for. Use these tips to keep you and your dog safe on the trails so that you can fully enjoy the experience for many years to come.



Trail Running Tips for People

The first thing a pet parent needs to do to ensure that their dog will experience the many benefits of trail running is to make sure that they themselves, the pet parent, learn to navigate the trails safely. After all, if the pet parent gets hurt from a fall or ankle sprain, the dog will not get much trail time. Here are a few key things to keep in your mind when you hit the trails:

Slow down. The uneven and unstable surface of trails means you need to be less focused on speed and more focused on control. Slow down a bit from your normal street pace and don’t get stressed out about time and pace.

Keep your head up and scan. There are many potential hazards on the trails. These include holes, rocks, tree roots, and of course, wildlife. Focus on the trail 10 feet in front of you, scanning for obstacles. Every few strides, scan the overall landscape for wildlife hazards as well.

Shorten your stride. With loose footing and hills galore, trails can challenge your balance. By shortening your stride, you will ensure that your body is more centered and this will definitely help with your balance.


Trail Running Tips for your Dog

Now that you are well prepared to handle the trails, there are a few important things to keep in mind in order to keep your dog safe and maximize their enjoyment.

Use “off leash” wisely. One of the cool things about trail running with your dog is that you can usually let them off leash since there are no cars (and often few other people and dogs) to worry about. With that said, don’t be fooled into thinking that your off leash dog is safe from trail hazards. Besides the potential for wildlife encounters (e.g. coyotes, skunks, snakes, and bobcats/mountain lions), your dog can easily pick up a scent and bolt off trail, which can make it very difficult for you to corral them.

Choose trail segments with natural barriers and only let your dog off leash if they have decent recall skills. In any case, “stuff happens” so be prepared to chase after your pet through thickets and other obstacles in the event your dog decides to explore on their own.


Bring water for runs of greater than 30 minutes. Unless your trails runs through streams or other water spots, make sure to bring some water for your dog. They will spend a lot of energy between the running and exploring the various scents. Give your dog a chance to drink along the way to ensure that they stay properly hydrated.

Watch for gait changes or lameness. If you notice that your dog’s gait changes during the run, you should stop immediately and see if there is a problem. One common reason for a gait change is that something gets stuck in their paw. It could be a rock or a ‘sticker’ of some sort from a plant. Examine the limb that is bothering the dog and check in between their pads as well. In most cases, removing the impediment will fix the issue and you can continue on your way. Another reason for a gait change could be dehydration or fatigue. Use common sense on both of these. If your dog is not used to running on a trail, build up distance over time so that their bodies are well prepared.
SlimDoggy Maggie

With these tips in mind, you are now ready to tackle the trails with your dog. Give trail running a try as a way to mix up your routines or as a permanent part of your regular workout schedule. I guarantee that your dog will thank you for it.


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  1. As you know, I am not a runner, but I do work hard to mix up the terrain that the dogs and I spend our fit dog time on. It is good for all of our feet and joints!
    Bethany recently posted…Oh The Weather Outside Is Frightful, But Holiday Decoration Admiring Fit Dog Time’s DelightfulMy Profile

  2. Hi Y’all!

    Oh that looks like a fun place to run…my Human isn’t so sure about that bridge though!

    Y’all come on by,
    Hawk aka BrownDog
    Hawk aka BrownDog recently posted…Fun Friday! Another Week Closer to Christmas!My Profile

  3. In Germany, Mom did lots of trail running with her last dog who could be off leash and they both loved it. Katie did trail running too, but not too often without a leash. Running on the beach was the big thing for her and that was off leash. Wish there were more trails super close to home here, but we usually have to drive and then it turns into a walk/hike and not a run.
    Emma recently posted…Emma’s Top 10 Reasons To Walk In The WinterMy Profile

  4. Excellent tips. Even on cooler days we make sure to bring water for the dogs when we are hunting them.
    2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…Our Senior Dogs Take Their Turn Hunting PheasantsMy Profile

  5. thanks for your tips and for encouraging me and my lazy momma to a trail run. it’s the best way to remove all the christmas sins :o)
    easyweimaraner recently posted…easyblog Freaky FridayMy Profile

  6. Great tips! Trail running is the best kind! Always an adventure and plenty of sites to see!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Huskies and snow; is there anything better?My Profile

  7. Great tips. I always give Eko a quick one-over after our regular runs, but with trail runs I also like to check for ticks, cuts or the like.

  8. Thanks, Slim! We’re going to go for run today! Right now! *wags*
    Gilligan recently posted…Vaccines for WeensMy Profile

  9. Great tips but not much running for us as lots of mud, snow and ice and my knees are too bad. However do love walking through the ravine and I got the 20′ leash so Kilo can sprint a little if safe. As a pug, he is not much of a jogger, but he can run like a bullet short distances.
    Have a great weekend.

  10. Looks like a great workout for both! It’s so important to mix up the terrain.

  11. I cannot lie – Harley and I will not be doing any trail running soon. This urban diva wouldn’t even know where to find a trail LOL #justbeinghonest
    Groovy Goldendoodles recently posted…DOGMA GOURMET DOG BAKERY AND BOUTIQUEMy Profile

  12. I do mostly trail walking/hiking with Ace, but that is just as much fun as running. There are some trails for horses by us and we get to use those pretty often, but I don’t feel comfortable letting him off leash. Over Thanksgiving, we drove to an area where we got to go hiking with Ace off leash. Always fun! For our usual off-leash adventures, we head to the dog beach.
    Lindsay recently posted…Do you let your dog play in the house?My Profile

  13. We usually hike trails but if the dogs get the chance to be off-leash, they usually run it. Several times lol.

  14. Bringing water is especially important so your pup doesn’t go sniffing out bad, stagnant water on the path that might cause them all sorts of stomach distress. I’ve got to watch Rocco closely, he’ll eat or drink anything he finds!
    Diane recently posted…This Land is #OurLand: Atlanta’s Piedmont ParkMy Profile

  15. great tips, the dogs look like they are having a blast on that trail. Steve looks pretty happy too. 🙂
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Nothing But Norman #74My Profile

  16. I admire people who have the guts to run on trails; I am not one of those people. We stick to a nice brisk pace and the uneven terrain and hills around here definitely gives us a decent workout. These are some great tips – “stuff” will always happen no matter where you are.
    Jen Gabbard recently posted…Would You Clone Your Dog?My Profile

  17. I’d much rather run on woods trails than the boring old road, and I don’t mind an excuse to go a bit slower and more cautiously. 😉
    Jan K recently posted…Black & White Sunday – O Christmas TreeMy Profile

  18. Great tips for runners and walkers/hikers alike. It can be interesting when you stumble over a tree root hidden by leaves in the fall or when you’re hiking somewhere new and suddenly you come across a cliff or steep dropoff when your dog is off-leash. I always keep Haley on-leash or close by when hiking a trail for the first time.
    Elaine recently posted…How to Celebrate Your Dog’s Birthday – Dog Style!My Profile

  19. I’ve found a really valuable cue for Honey when we’re exploring trails–behind. She usually stays close. But if we’re coming around a bend and I don’t know what’s ahead, I like her behind me.

    I notice your pups were behind you in the picture too. It’s tough for some dogs to follow. But it can be safer.
    Pamela recently posted…Holiday Songs Are Better With DogsMy Profile

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