The Pains And Joys Of Running With Dogs – How To Make The Most Of It

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Running with a dog can be both amazing and horrible. I spent many years trying to train my dog to run with me.  He managed to pull me through streets on my knees chasing birds, and he broke his collar in order to get at other dogs. He even nipped a few people and got in dog fights at a local trail.

I dreamed of having an easy running companion that would not attack anything he felt was a threat. But I came to understand that his love for me made him want to protect me from all of the horrors out in the world.

Soon after I learned how to run with him, he started slowing down with age and could no longer run with me. I miss the miles he ran by my side and the joy on his face when I brought out his leash.

I believe that you can run with any dog (with the exception of flat-faced dogs whose bodies are not capable of running) as long as you understand their personality and can adapt your running to avoid threats. The more you run with your dog, the better they get.

Well, I should add a caveat to that. You do have to find a dog that wants to run with you. I borrowed my in-law’s dog to run with, and he just plain gave up after two miles. He laid down in someone’s yard and wouldn’t move. So, he hasn’t run with me again. You can’t run with a dog that only wants to run on his own terms.

Making Running with your Dog Easier

Harnesses

I have never used a harness with my dog. In hindsight, it would have been more comfortable for both of us. The harness wraps around your dog’s chest and back to aid in controlling where they go and protects their necks from any fast adjustments you have to do. Or if you have a dog like mine—when you have to wrench on the leash when they take after another dog or cat.

Waist leashes

I purchased a waist leash and I loved it. It is a bungee-type material that clips around your waist and then attaches with a least to your dog’s collar or harness. I hate holding anything while I’m running, so this made it more enjoyable to run with my pooch. I didn’t get hung up in the leash when he ran behind me because the leash would swivel around my hips to match where he went.

Training

I feel like this might go without saying, but the better trained your dog is, the easier your run will be. But this also depends on your dog. While my dog knows commands, he only responds to them if it’s in his best interest. He has always been extremely stubborn. If he wants something, he will focus ALL of his attention on getting that thing. Be that cat or be that food.

Why Running with a Dog is Amazing

Companionship

The bonds you make with your dog through running are much like the bonds you make with your human running friends, but so much stronger. While my dog thought I was cool before I started running with him religiously, he preferred my husband over me. Not so after our long runs together. He now won’t ever leave my side. He will follow me all over the house all day long. He is an old man now and sleeps most of the time. Wherever I am, you can usually find him sleeping at my feet.

Protection

I always felt safer with my dog running next to me. I knew that he would give his life to protect me. While this made me sad to think of, it also made me feel a swelling of love for him and comfort that he was with me. This didn’t mean I put us in danger while running, but I had to worry less about running trails or running past semi-creepy neighborhoods.

He was also great at protecting me from cats. You can never trust those roving cats!

How to Protect Your Dog on the Run

Hydration

Never neglect to hydrate your dog while running. This isn’t only important in the summer months. Share your water with them by pouring some in your cupped hands, or stop and let them drink from puddles or streams. If they are panting hard and their tongues are hanging droopy from their mouths, they could probably use a drink.

Your dog needs about twice as much water as you do. Make sure you don’t forget to bring them water. They don’t sweat as we do, so they have a harder time cooling themselves down when overheated.

Feet

You will also want to keep an eye on the pads of their feet. Running on the pavement too much can leave their feet tender and sore. Use caution when only running on roads. Don’t push your dog farther than they can run. If you have a long run scheduled, have your dog join you for the first few miles and then drop them back off at home.

Be careful with running on the pavement when it’s hot or too cold. Hot pavement can burn your dog’s paws; really cold pavement can freeze them. A simple Google or Amazon search can provide you with some great products to protect your dog’s feet. Some of them are pretty silly—like dog shoes. I’m not sure my dog would stand for wearing anything like that. But there are also dog paw moisturizers that can heal sore pads.

Check your dog’s pads after each run and moisturize with Vaseline or other paw care product as necessary. You will want to heal cracks or tears in their pads before they run with you again.

Dogs can get Injured too

Just like us, dogs can suffer from overuse injuries. Don’t push your dog too hard or make them run too many miles with you. Keep a constant eye on how they are acting. If they slow down quite a bit or are acting sluggish, it’s time to take them home.

As I’ve mentioned, my dog can’t run with me anymore, but he does enjoy chasing deer off our property. He forgets that he’s an old man and pulls a leg muscle every time.

Look for your dog’s signals that they are overtired or any limping or favoring a leg. Let them take some time off until they are walking normally again. When they start running with you again, take it easy with them for a while, just like you would do for yourself when coming back from an injury.

Puppy Care

It can be really hard to wait to run with a new puppy. By running with your new dog too early you can disrupt their growing joints and muscles, leaving them more prone to injuries or joint issues when they are older.

You should wait until your puppy is at least eight months old before running with them. Once they reach that age, only run with them a mile or two at a time to get them ready for years of running by your side. Increase mileage slowly.

The bigger the dog, the longer you will want to wait. Again, look for cues from your dog when running with them. Are they getting sluggish or lethargic? If yes, give them some rest and dial back the miles.

Running with your dog will provide you with a bond that will last the life of your dog, and will provide you with fond memories long after your pup has passed on to doggy heaven. Protect them from dehydration and injury, and they will happily run by your side for as long as they are able.

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About Author

Liz Ward

Liz Ward is a running fanatic, avid reader, and amateur farmer. She lives on the Oregon Coast with her husband, three kids, and a small herd of animals.

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