Running safely with your dog can be great pet exercise.Running with your dog is a great way to bond, get some exercise, and spend time outdoors. Of course, there are always some do’s and don’ts when it comes to any activity that involves your pet. Let the friendly team at Animal Kind Veterinary Hospital share some tips for running safely with your dog.

Before You Begin

Make an appointment. We recommend your dog have a physical exam before starting any new exercise program, and running is no different. Joint problems, cardiovascular health, and weight all play a factor in whether or not your dog is ready to run with you. A wellness exam is a great place to start.

Get in gear. Truth be told, you don’t need much gear to begin running safely with your dog. A collar and back clip harness are all you really need. Of course, safety items like reflectors and a belt with a clip (for you) are handy, but not essential. Don’t use retractable leashes, as these are unsafe at high speeds and offer little control.

Manners, manners, and more manners! Manners and proper form are essential to running safely with your dog. Make sure your pet knows how to heel properly, doesn’t pull at the leash, and is well behaved around other dogs and people. You should also teach them basic commands such as “turn,” “stop,” and “walk.” If you need help, talk to us about positive reinforcement training.  

The Do’s and Don’ts of Running Safely With Your Dog

Start slowly. If you’re already a runner, you may have heard the term “couch to 5K.” That’s the philosophy you want to stick to when it comes to running with your dog. Most dogs will enjoy running, but they need to start with a walk/run at first, gradually working up to longer distances. We recommend increasing your distance by no more than 5% each week.

Watch carefully. Since your dog can’t tell you when they’re tired, you need to watch their body language for signs to stop or slow down. Lagging behind, trying to find shade, or stopping altogether are cues that your dog may be over exerting themselves. Stop and wait for them to recover, get some water, and watch until your dog seems back to normal. The tongue should remain a pink color. If it’s blue or they have pale gums, call us. Remember, dogs dissipate heat by panting, and their fur coat doesn’t help! Consider running only during cooler times of day, like early morning or evening.

Don’t run with your old, brachycephalic, or very young dog. Older dogs might be able to handle running if they’re used to it already, but don’t expect them to have the same level of fitness as a young dog. Very young dogs should also be fully grown before running (the high impact on developing bones and joints can cause injury). Brachycephalic breeds, such as bulldogs and pugs, have a hard time getting enough oxygen while running, so stick to long walks for them instead.

Make your run dog-friendly. There are a few things to consider when deciding where to run with your dog. With good running shoes, you can run practically anywhere, but your dog’s pads are more sensitive. It will take time to build up a tough layer, so it’s best to stick to dirt paths or grass at first. These surfaces help cushion the impact, making it easier on your dog’s joints. Just watch out for uneven surfaces and slippery gravel or sand.

Warm Weather Tips

In warm weather, it’s important to follow safety precautions when running with your dog.  Consider the following:

  • Bring your own water, as well as water for your dog.
  • Stay off hot surfaces. If pavement is hot to the touch, it’s too hot for your dog to run on.
  • Watch for heat stroke. Like we mentioned earlier, keep a close eye on your running buddy for signs of stress.
  • Run during cooler times of day to keep your dog from overheating – early morning and evening are best.

We hope these tips have been helpful. If you have any questions or concerns about running safely with your dog, please contact us.