An energetic dog will chew up your sofa, eat your shoes, and wreak general mayhem on your household, but with a little bit of training, he could also be your perfect running buddy.
Running is both a stress-reliever and a form of exercise, and when you let your dog join in, you’ll both reap the benefits of this cathartic activity. Running is a great way to tire out an energetic dog or give your pudgy pup a much-needed bout of exercise.
But even if your dog is a born runner, running on a leash doesn’t always come naturally. Here are a few tips that will get Fido from the front door to five miles.
Start with Leash Training
You can’t learn to walk without first learning to stand, and your dog can’t learn to run with you if he doesn’t first know how to walk with you. If your dog pulls on the leash in his excitement to keep moving, your run could turn into a full-on sprint into traffic. To stay safe, it’s important to start with general leash training.
You want your dog to walk either calmly by your side or a few paces in front of you, so to start, put him on a short leash. Start walking, and if he stays with you, reward him with a treat every few minutes. If he tries to pull away from you or puts any kind of strain on the leash, stop walking.
The goal is to get him to understand that if he pulls, you don’t walk. But if he stays by you, he gets to walk and he gets treats. Win-win!
Talk to Your Vet
Once your dog is walking nicely by your side, you’re almost ready to go out on your first run. Before you grab your sneaks, however, it’s important to check with your vet to make sure your pup is up for the physical challenges associated with running. Your dog’s physical abilities will depend on his breed, age, and fitness level.
As a general rule, dogs younger than one year should not be taken on runs. Their bones and ligaments are still growing at a rapid pace, and excessive exercise leaves them vulnerable to injury. If your dog is older, knowing he’s in good health will give you peace of mind when you’re both huffing and puffing.
Your First Run
For your first run, alternate walking and running to get your dog accustomed to running by your side. It’s important to not have too high of expectations and to realize that learning to run with you is the same as learning his basic commands. It will take time and patience. If he pulls, remember your leash training and immediately stop.
Because many young dogs associate running with playtime, it’s also common for dogs to think you’re trying to play a game. If he turns around to play with you, simply say “No” in a firm voice and stop running. Remember that this run is about your dog, not about you. If you end up missing out on planned exercise, don’t take that frustration out on your dog.
Take it Slow
If you’re already an avid exerciser, you know the key to fitness training is to do it in increments. You can’t expect a new runner to reach the 10-mile mark on their first go, and the same goes for your dog. Your dog will need proper conditioning before he’s ready to join you on long runs.
Continue with alternating between walking and running and gradually start lengthening the runs and shortening the walks. Pay attention to his body language to be alert for signs that he needs a break. If he’s lagging behind or panting heavily, it may be time to stop. Remember to provide your dog with plenty of water and never push him past his limits.
Develop a Training Plan
Once your dog is running either by your side or in front of you without any issues, it’s time to kick the training up a notch. Make running with your pup a regular activity by either starting a new training program or including your dog in your already set up running regimen. If you’re new to running, make it a point to run every other day, and add minutes and miles each week to reach your goals.
Having an energetic dog is one of the best exercise routines you could ever ask for. Dogs offer motivation and support, and you’ll never have to worry about them skipping out on runs like you do with other running partners. With the right kind of practice, you’ll be able to enjoy running with your best friend by your side.
Do you take your dog on runs? If you have any tips to add, do so in the comments below.
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