How to train your dog to be a runner
Starting a running program with your dog isn't complicated, but there are some good things to keep in mind. Photo: Erianderson de Chaves.
Dogs are nature's exclamation mark.
Our furry amigos love to have fun anywhere but especially outdoors in any weather, which makes them a pretty great companion for an All-Season Runner. Getting active with your dog is a great way to bond, and since most breeds are quite eager, they can be a great motivator to lace up.
Now, if you like to run regularly and also like to pet dogs as often as you can, you’ve probably thought of: a) getting a dog, and b) training your pup to run joyfully alongside you as you navigate the trails or roads on your route.
That said, taking on a 10K is not a thing that dogs would go out a do on their own. And just like you needed to ease into it, your pup will require time to build mileage slowly and smartly.
With that in mind, here are some tips to get your dog run-ready.
Photo: Jayden Burdick.
Get a check-up
Before your first run, make sure your dog is healthy, and in good shape to start. This likely means a quick check-in with your vet. Dogs younger than 18 months should keep to a walk, as prolonged distance running could have an effect on bone growth in the long-term. Limiting your outside time during this period to long walks or hikes will ultimately help develop a strong base for future running programs.
Consider the breed
Even within breeds, every dog has its own personality, and some can take longer to run than others. In general: consider your dog's temperament, study the breed, and take him to the veterinarian if possible for a physical checkup to ensure that it's a healthy exercise for him.
Walk Before You Run
Your dog should learn loose-leash walking before you start training him to run beside you. A canine companion pulling on the leash is irritating while walking, but at higher speeds, it's downright risky. Keep in mind that nature is full of rewards (squirrels!) for your furry friend. So, if you want your dog to stick near you, you need to be equally rewarding. Use treats, toys, and encouragement to improve the dog's energy to hold leash slack.
It'll be crucial to have your dog on one side of you when you start moving together. If he runs from side to side in front of you or weaves, he will push you or tangle your legs in the leash. Which side you choose, left or right, it doesn't matter but chooses one, in the beginning, is perfect. Start training at a pace of walking and bear in mind reward selection. Frequently give your dog his treats in the position that you'd like to affirm, so if you want him on your left side, just give a treat at your left leg. When your dog is stable on one side, you can be ready to train for the other using another technique.
Speed It Up
Once your dog is politely walking by your side, then it's time to speed things up. It's nice to have a audible signal, such as "let's go", or a whistle, when you go for a walk, it tells your dog it's time to proceed on and get walking. Another different cue like "get running" or "move it" or even a different whistle, can be used to tell the dog that it's time to speed up the pace. The more information you can give your dog about what you think, the more responsive he will be. To keenly teach the running cue, divide the jogging or running with your normal walking pace. Just apply the cue instantly before you speed up, and reward your dog as he hurries to catch up.
Your dog may try to outpace you... or tend to lag behind. The latter may make it feel that your dog just doesn't like running. In either scenario, your dog likely is confused about expectations. With a mix of time, effort and consistency, you'll eventually start to hit your pace together.
Once your dog is consistently staying beside you and following your speed, it's time to get your distance in sync. We suggest beginning with a sort of couch to 5k approach, mixing short runs into longer walks. Then gradually increase the part of your time spent running with each following trip, and decrease the portion spent walking. Take your time here, and listen to your dog, who needs to adapt to running long distances after several weeks, like you did when you started.
Be Conscious Of How Your Dog Feels
To expound on that last point, it's your job to keep an eye on your dog for signs of distress. Being nature's exclamation point means that your dog will enthusiastically try to please you. She'll try to stay at pace, even though she gets overheated, exhausted, or injured. Water and shade along the route is fundamental on hot days – dogs can't withstand the same amount of heat, cold, etc that you can, you All-Season Runner.
Get to know your dog's running style, and keep a keen eye to confirm that it does not grow a mid-run stumble due to a rock or shard of glass in its paw. Signs that a dog fails may involve extended panting or laborious respiration, limping, and sudden stopping. Your dog will actually not surely be able to show impediment with you until it is too late, so it's your job to detect any early warning signs.
And when you're done, let him know when you are finished by walking for several minutes, and give that good doggo a treat or a nice big hug and pet.
From safety to companionship, dogs are a great pal when you go out for a walk or jog. Hopefully the tips above will help you to get your dog to run with you, and to stay running at top form for many miles.