Tips on running with your dog


Mohawk is now 14 months old and as of last week we started to introduce him to running with us.

💪 Exercise needs to be carefully built up! He’s an active dog so is already fit, but running at our pace may inhibit self-regulation (sniffing, checking in, slowing down).

We started with 3k for his first run, today was a hilly 4K so he got lots of opportunity to slow down when I had to walk some of the uphill.

👃 💦 Before we set off the dogs are given the opportunity to sniff, wee and poo and warm those muscles up for a few minutes.

We also give them a few minutes to slow and wind down before we load them in the car.

🌳 I free run my dogs so equipment doesn’t affect their gait. Consideration needs to be given to livestock, especially if your dog has a big range or is a hunting breed- we run our dogs well away from livestock. Your dog should stay in your sight at all times if off lead.

If you’re going to run with your dog on lead- ensure the lead is clipped to a comfortable harness so not to cause them to run in an imbalanced fashion (which is often the case when they are run with a lead attached to a collar). I rarely see dogs running on a loose lead. High impact/high intensity exercuise on a tight leash attached to a collar is a big no-no! Not only does it affect gait, but it may also cause repeated pressure or impact on their neck (where the thyroid gland, optic nerve, jugular, oesophagus, trachea etc all are- so lots of delicate things vulnerable to damage).

My dogs wear Haqihana harnesses, available online:

🌲 We trail run, so they run on soft ground which is better for their joints. Road running is harsh on my joints, which can be eased by wearing road running shoes. Dogs don’t get a choice of footwear (I’m not convinced dog boots don’t alter gait!).

🌊 We try to include water in our routes for them to hydrate and paddle to cool down. On our walks I work on my dogs being sent to swim spots on cue and recalling away from water (even after I’ve cued them to go to it!) just incase there was a reason it wasn’t safe, such as blue green algae or a dog needing space having it’s own paddle and refreshment.

🐕 We either give other dogs a wide berth or slow right down to pass in more narrow spaces- but overall try and avoid narrow paths.

If we are coming up from behind I talk to my dogs or call out to say ‘hello’ to make our presence known- so we don’t startle the other dog (I do this with people also). The other day we turned round on a woodland walk to see a runner and spaniel a couple of metres behind which startled my dogs and resulted in Kanita doing a little defensive charge (nothing major, but easily avoided by alerting others to you approaching from behind at speed!).

Remember- many dogs perceive another running in their direction as a potential threat. Don’t accidentally force your dog into a challenging situation. Help them stay polite and pass dogs at a sensible distance and speed, or give them time to interact if the other dog approaches them. I observe other dogs from afar and read their body language, looking for signs they are anxious and need a wider berth.

I also look for dogs who may rush over to mine- triggered by their running they may want to play chase! I try to avoid this so not to put my dogs in a challenging situation where they may react, or I slow down.If i get caught out and a dog has rushed over I slow immediatly down (unless both dogs seem super relaxed with the situation and are running together).

If you want to maintain the pace- take your dog on routes where giving a wide berth and keeping yourselves to yourselves is always an option.

Having a good recall is crucial to running with your dogs so you can call them away from others (people, dogs, cyclists etc) so they don’t trip up or startle them! I encourage my dogs to come close to me as we pass anyone but also to slow or stop on cue.

👀 I keep my eyes on my dogs so I can spot them pooing easily. If they get too far behind I will slow to let them catch up.

It’s horrid to see dogs struggling to keep up, sometimes because they’re in pain or unfit….or other times being left to navigate passing dogs unsupported (most sensible dogs will understand there is a risk in running at and by other dogs and will slow or veer around to stay safe). Too often I see these dogs looking anxious and conflicted- wanting to keep up with their owners but not trigger a charge from dogs by rushing past them.
Other times I see dogs pooing and the owner running ahead with their head down, totally unaware. So often this is at the start of the run/walk by the car park- which is really where most owners should expect their dog to toilet!

👍 I tend to run just once a week with my dogs, twice max with 3-4 days in between. Since finishing his run midday, Mohawk will now be rested until tomorrow- allowing his muscles and physiology time to wind down.I want the majority of his walks to be dog-led exercise and about interacting with the environment- not rushing around at speed.

😔 If my dogs don’t like it, they don’t get taken running. Kanita hates running!

Sadly Roo is now too old to run. He absolutely loves it and I haven’t yet told him that he’s retired from running. If he seems particularly Spritely one day, I may take him on a very short one!

👩‍⚕️ I monitor my dogs carefully for signs of pain. Any gait abnormalities and they don’t come running! Adrenalin and pressure to keep up with their owners will make dogs continue despite pain.They also get routine physio therapy.

When running with dogs your focus should divert away from aiming for personal bests or strava achievements! Sometimes they’ll help you run well, but you need to be prepared to slow down to keep them and other dogs safe and happy.