Want to Start Running With Your Dog? Here’s What You’ll Need

Enjoying the great outdoors with your dog is a fantastic way to bond with them—and running, with the right dog running gear, of course, will not only let you both get some fresh air but some healthy exercise, to boot. Dog harnesses, hydration essentials, and leash attachments to keep treats and poop bags handy, will all level up your standard dog walking setup to make running feel like a breeze. But, before you lace up (and leash up), here’s what you need to know about running with your four-legged friend.

Is your dog ready to run?

Samuel Franklin, DVM, PhD, DACVS, DACVSMR says it’s important to consider your pup’s breed, activity level, and overall health before taking them out on a run—these factors will help you better understand what they’re capable of. For example, if you have a mid-size hound or golden retriever in good health, you can expect them to be an eager running companion. But if you have a lower-energy dog, like an English bulldog or Great Dane; a dog with known health concerns (say, orthopedic problems); or a pup that doesn’t exercise regularly, they might not be well-suited to running for any real distance or intensity. “The duration, intensity, and type of runs one can start with their dog will vary widely depending upon the breed and current fitness status,” Dr. Franklin says.

If you want to know more about your dog’s ability to run, get in touch with your vet—or even a veterinarian who specializes in canine sports medicine. If you’re worried about your dog’s orthopedic health or notice them limping, Dr. Franklin says it’s immensely helpful to show their doctor a video of the concerning issues.

How can you start running with your dog?

Overall, it’s wise to ease into a running routine with your dog (you can even start by taking progressively longer walks, then working your way up to light jogging). Dr. Franklin recommends starting with runs on the shorter side and tracking how much time you’re spending out there. (Luckily, there are plenty of excellent running apps that will help log your time and distance.) He also notes that you will need to set the pace: “Dogs do not know how to ‘warm up’ appropriately for exercise. They often want to go 100 mph right out of the gate. Try and warm your dog up by keeping your dog on a leash and running with you for at least 5 to 10 minutes to ease them into running if you are then going to let them off-leash.”

From there, you can start to gradually ramp up into longer runs. Again, you can make this process as slow as you want: “If you want to be very safe, increase your mileage by only about 10% per week, although some dogs can increase more quickly,” Dr. Franklin explains.

Where should you run with your dog?

In the same way that road running feels very different from trail running for you, your dog’s experience will vary too, and you should prepare accordingly. On one hand, Dr. Franklin notes that mountain trails are usually rocky and uneven, which could hurt the digits of your dog’s paws. On the other, he adds, running on pavement could be harder on their joints. “My preference would be to run on dirt or grass trails but few of us have access to such trails consistently,” Dr. Franklin says. “It is important for owners to be cognizant of what surface they are on and try to modify the chosen activity accordingly.”

How will the weather affect your runs?

Running in the dead of winter or the height of summer can be unpleasant (and sometimes dangerous) for us humans, so it’s natural that extreme temperatures and weather will have an impact on your dog too. When it comes to cold weather, Dr. Franklin says most dogs should be able to run safely without risking hypothermia. “The concern with cold weather is actually the footing and their paws and pads,” he says, explaining that running on icy pavement or hard, frozen ground can lead to paw injuries. Dog boots aren’t a must-have for running, Dr. Franklin says, but they can help protect your dog’s feet from the ice if you’re worried.

Paw injuries, specifically burning them on hot pavement, are also a major concern with warmer temperatures. On top of that, Dr. Franklin says overheating and heatstroke, which can be life-threatening, are very real risks because dogs can’t regulate their body temperature as effectively as we can: “People perspire to help cool off while dogs cannot perspire. Consequently, you have to be far more cautious about running dogs in hot weather than in cold weather.” He says you should never try to push your dog to run when it’s hot out, and if they seem to be struggling or slowing down, stop running and head back inside.

When should your dog stay home?

Extreme heat, poor health, low activity, and injuries are the major deciding factors in whether you should run with or without your dog—they’ll be more than happy to greet you (and lick your sweaty face) when you return. 

With that in mind, we’ve highlighted some of the best dog running gear to pick up before you hit the trails with your trusty sidekick, from hands-free leashes to water bottles to waist belts. (And don’t forget to grab some new running shoes and running gear for yourself too!)

All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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