Fun fur miles— A guide to running with your pooch

So, you’re a runner and you’d like to take your favorite furry friend along. Before you lace up the sneakers and hit the trail or road, there are some things to consider — your dog’s health, size, and temperament among them. And while your potential four-legged running companion could be either male or female, to keep things simple, we’ll refer to the running dog as male in this blog.

1) Assess

Is Rover cut out for running? Let’s be honest, not all dogs are created equal when it comes to running. Those with short legs – think Chihuahuas, Corgis and Dachshunds – may struggle to keep up with their humans. Particularly large breeds – like Newfoundlands, St. Bernards and Great Danes – are prone to hip dysplasia which makes running problematic. And short-nosed, flat-faced breeds – like Pugs, Bulldogs and Chow Chows – simply can’t breathe well enough at high exertion levels.

Another consideration is temperament. Even if your pet is a good running companion on remote, solo efforts, consider how he is around other people and other dogs. If he is aggressive or non-social, don’t run through populated neighborhoods or parks. If you’ve got a happy-go-lucky fellow, try a doggie fun run like the one hosted by Reno Running Fest this September.

RELATED: Best Types of Dogs for Runners

2) Get the right tools for the job

While you need good shoes for a successful run, your dog needs a few items to help him succeed as well.

  • Leash – Ideally, you should use a hands-free leash that goes around your waist and your dog’s neck or chest. You can also use a regular 4 to 6-foot leash.
  • Treats – According to animal behavior pioneer Dr. Sophia Yin, dogs learn best with positive reinforcement, so bring some treats you can carry in an easily accessible pocket.
  • Dog Shoes – Not all dogs will need shoes, but if you end up running a lot with your dog, particularly long distances on pavement, he could benefit from these paw protectors. They protect from cuts, excessive pad wearing, burns, and snow build-up in the winter.

3) Prepare well

Just like you, your pet needs training for running events. First, you’ll want him to walk next to you on a leash without pulling, with his front feet even with yours, or slightly behind. It’s best to choose one side for him to stay on – both for walking and running – and stick with it to avoid confusing your pet. 

Start with the leash hanging long enough to form a “U” when your dog is next to you. With the dog sitting by your side, give him several treats in a row until he’s sitting stably and not likely to get up on his own. Then start walking forward at a power walking pace.

RELATED: Avoiding Running Injuries

If he’s walking well next to you, reward with treats periodically. Dr. Yin advises stopping immediately when he gets ahead of you. When you stop, keep your arm glued to your side rather than extending your arm forward which will teach him to pull. Reward with treats when he turns and focuses on you. When you’re ready to go, move forward briskly and decisively. Repeat until he understands that getting ahead causes you to stop.

Dr. Yin’s tactic for training your dog to turn is to walk forward on a straight line, turn 180˚ to your right so that the dog is on the outside, and then head back on the same line. Do this turning to the left as well. He will need to pause as he is on the inside. You can use a treat in your hand right in front of his nose to stop or encourage his progress.

Once your dog has mastered the attentive walk, try running. Start with a walk/intermittent jog and repeat the training techniques you used. Work up to a block of jogging at a time and keep building when he can perform without treats.

4) Follow etiquette

Don’t be a road hog. Keep your dog near and don’t stretch your leash across the entire path, trail or road. If you’re running with a group, make sure he doesn’t clip the heels of runners in front of him. And if the path is crowded, shorten up the leash to ensure you don’t get tangled with other pets or runners.

With dogs, poop is bound to happen, be ready. Arm yourself with bags so you can clean up responsibly after your dog whether you’re on the street or the trail.

5) Safety first

Keep your dog safe by paying attention to weather and road conditions and to how he’s responding to the exertion.

Hydration – If you’re running a few miles and the weather is cool you probably don’t need to carry water. But if you’re doing a run where you require a water break, plan on the same break for your dog.

Heat – Summer in Nevada is hot! Bear in mind, your dog cools himself off by panting. If your dog is panting with his tongue outside of his mouth and his mouth wide open, slow down and let him cool down. If his breathing resumes to normal, you can resume running, if not, end the run.

RELATED: Good pain. Bad pain.

Running on dirt trails is easier on your dog’s joints and paws than asphalt. Just be sure to check any trail signs for rules about dogs.

Paw check – After your run, check your dog's paws to make sure there are no cuts or injuries. Take extra care in the heat, since their feet are susceptible to burns, and when you're on the trail, where you'll come across rocks, sticks, and uneven terrain.

Not every dog is bound to be a good running companion. Give your pooch time to learn and adapt, but recognize when it’s just not working. There’s always the dog backpack.

Whether you like to run long or short, run with your dog, run with your friends, or run against Reno’s top racers, Reno Running Fest has an event for you. Great Basin Orthopaedics is proud to sponsor Reno Running fest in support of a healthy, active Reno lifestyle and great family fun. And if you find yourself sidelined by a bone or joint injury, trust the team of surgeons and physical therapists at Great Basin Orthopaedics to get you back on your feet.