Tips for Running with Dogs

If you're thinking of running with dogs, you may find that your canine friend makes an excellent fitness companion. Running with your dog will help motivate you to stay in shape, and it will make your dog happy and keep him healthy too. Follow these tips to run safely with your dog.

See Your Vet Before You Start

If you've never run with your dog before, or if your dog doesn't get a lot of exercise, he may be out of shape. You should see your vet before you start running with your dog, to make sure he's healthy and fit enough to handle it. Obese and overweight animals should be encouraged to lose weight before they start a strenuous running program. Even an apparently healthy dog may have underlying, unseen health problems that could make running dangerous.

Start Small and Work Up to Larger Runs

Your dog will need time to build up his physical stamina. Start out with small runs to allow your dog to build strength and cardiovascular endurance. If you see that your dog is getting tired, or if you see any signs of limping, pain or injury, it's time to turn back. Use a dog running leash to keep your dog with you and help set his pace.

Let Your Dog Warm Up and Cool Down

Don't ask your dog to start running hard right away. If your dog runs while his muscles are still cold and stiff, he could hurt himself. Allow your dog to warm up his muscles by walking him briskly for 10 to 15 minutes before the run. Do the same after your run to allow your dog time to cool down.

Take Care of Your Dog's Feet

Your dog will be running in his bare feet, and his paw pads may be soft and sensitive if he spends a lot of time indoors. This is another reason to start your dog out with small runs and work your way up to longer ones; not only does it give your dog the chance to build strength and endurance, but it also helps toughen his paw pads so that his feet can withstand more impact. Try not to run with your dog on concrete. Concrete doesn't absorb the impact of footfalls the way that dirt, grass and professional athletic tracks do, so your dog could sustain damage to his bones or joints over time.

If you run frequently with your dog, keep an eye on his feet for signs that his paw pads have become too worn. If your dog's feet seem sore or inflamed, or if they're raw, see your vet to treat the injuries.

Stay Out of the Heat

Dogs can't sweat, and as a result they're vulnerable to heat stroke. Run with your dog early in the morning, or in the evening, when it's coolest. Stay on grassy areas or dirt trails, since your dog can absorb heat through his paw pads. If your dog's paw pads become warm, his body won't be able to cool itself as efficiently.