If you lead an active lifestyle — especially when you want to keep your dog healthy too — running together is a great option. But, much like taking a good picture or trying on makeup, it’s best to do a little homework before you take the plunge. With credit to GQ’s conversation with Tom Moroney, from New York’s Team Running Paws, and backed by our friends Dina Fantegrossi, a licensed veterinary technician, and Shelby Semel, professional dog trainer, here’s a checklist of things to keep in mind before you start your jog with your dog:
1. If you have a Bulldog (or a Pug, or a Frenchie)- Slow down!
Brachycephalic dogs have breathing troubles and short legs. They’re not the ideal breeds for taking on a long run. Moroney recommends that if you’re taking one of these dogs out with you, stick to a fast-paced walk. You can also try interval training – jog for a block, walk for two.
2. If you have a puppy (or a wildcard)- Don’t run!
Puppies need at least eight months of bone development, so go easy on them! You should wait until your dog is at least a year old before you take her on a full-on run. Additionally, Shelby suggests that you perhaps shouldn’t run with your dog if they’re easily excitable and prone to dodge off course. In this case, your dog might need some more training before they’re ready to be your new running buddy.
3. So, which dogs *are* best for running?
Moroney points out that the key factor isn’t the size of the dog, but the relative length of their legs to their body – with relatively longer legs making for better running partners. Moroney’s top five breeds for running: German Shorthaired Pointers, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Border Collies, and Huskies.
4. Use a regular leash and think about your harness & collar
Moroney suggests a regular leash rather than a retractable leash, because a retractable “teaches the dog to always ask for more length.” And a regular walking harness should be fine, but if you’re running regularly, you might consider going with a special running harness instead- to reduce your pup’s risk of chafing. Shelby points out that you better go with a collar that won’t tighten, when you’re running- ruling out a slip, a choke, a prong, or a martingale, for instance.
5. Take care of business first
Dina recommends taking your dog out for a short walk before you go on your run, so that bathroom breaks don’t interrupt the rhythm of your dog’s workout (or yours).
6. Learn your dog’s language
Moroney recommends you pay close attention to how your dog is behaving and reacting over the course of the run. If he’s lagging behind, tongue wagging, he’s probably tired, so slow down a bit! If his hair is standing up and his ears and tail are perked, he might be anxious about another dog in the area. The better you know your dog’s mood, the better you’ll run together.
7. You can bring treats, but it doesn’t have to be the focus
For a lot of dogs, the run is all the treat they need.
8. Vary the length and duration of your runs together.
Your dog should get probably get about an hour of exercise daily (some breeds more, some less), but that can take many forms — playing fetch, or tug of war, or just rocking out for hours. If you’re running every day, Moroney recommends a 5-mile max for your dog’s run, any given day. And if you run daily, follow up a 5-mile run with shorter runs for the next few days after.
9. Remember, it helps keep your dog on her best behavior.
Running helps your dog get her energy out. When she gets a chance to run, she won’t be so tempted to get her exercise digging up the yard or chewing up everything you own or driving your car into a lake.
10. Play It Safe!
Shelby suggests reflective gear on the dog or the leash if you’re running at night. And Dina reminds us that if you have any other questions and concerns about starting to run with your dog, you should check with your veterinarian first.