Should You Go Running with Your Dog?

When you think about it, dogs just might be the perfect running partners: Most dogs naturally love to run, you never have to wait for them to show up at the meeting place, and they won’t talk your ear off like some human running companions.

And there’s no denying the motivational boost your furry friend provides. It's easy to skip your run when it's just you, but it's much harder to bail when your dog is relying on you for a daily dose of exercise.

If you’ve been thinking about taking your pup with you on runs, here are a few questions to ask yourself before putting paws to pavement.

1. Is your dog fit for running?

Dogs may seem like they were designed for running, but there are a few factors to consider when determining your dog’s unique capabilities.

For example, young puppies (under six months old) experience pretty rapid growth, so it’s important to not put lots of stress on their joints until they’ve gone through their biggest growth spurts. Similarly, older dogs may need special accommodations in order to safely and comfortably join you on your runs.

Dog breeds with short snouts (think boxers, pugs, bulldogs, etc.) generally are not suited for running because it’s too taxing on their respiratory system. Your veterinarian will best be able to assess your dog’s individual fitness for running or other athletic endeavors, so be sure to get their approval before letting your pup engage in running or any other vigorous exercise.

2. Is your dog well-behaved?

Just because your dog walks well on a leash doesn't necessarily mean running will be smooth sailing. The increased speed of running makes it a riskier endeavor in terms of accidents and injuries. A crucial part of keeping you and your dog safe during a run is making sure he or she has excellent leash manners and listening skills.

Work extra hard on your pup’s leash training and recall abilities before venturing out into a world full of temptations and distractions. Make sure your dog can comfortably and calmly pass other dogs and people on the street, and make sure he or she won’t try to chase down every squirrel or bird you encounter. If you’ll be running in urban environments, make sure your dog doesn’t get too freaked out by loud vehicles, sirens, and other city noises.

3. Do you have the right collar and leash?

The right collar and leash are priceless when it comes to ensuring your run is both enjoyable and safe. There are many styles of collars out there that can make it easier to handle your pooch during your run. Over-the-snout collars and chest harnesses both offer more control of an excitable dog without the unnecessary pain/negative reinforcement of a pinch or choke collar.

You have a lot of options when it comes to leashes, as well. If you’d like to run hands-free, you can get a leash that you wear around your waist. Bungee leashes are a great option if your dog is prone to darting after wildlife as they can absorb a bit of the impact so your arm doesn’t bear the brunt of it.

Make sure you’re not using a retractable leash on your runs because many of them are not built to withstand much force, so if your dog sprints after a tasty-looking leaf, the leash could break. Additionally, folks tend to let retractable leashes out too much, making their length a tripping hazard for pretty much everyone they encounter—including themselves.

man running with dog on waist leash

4. Do you have the right supplies?

Always have plenty of water for your pooch, especially if your dog has a thick coat or you’re running on a hot day. Dogs can’t regulate their body temperature as easily as we can, so it’s imperative to keep them hydrated and let them cool down when they start to show signs of being overheated (excessive panting, slowing down/lagging, etc.).

When going for a run, it’s a good idea to pack extra poo bags too. You don’t want to be “that guy” who leaves dog poo on the sidewalk. No, seriously: Don’t do be that guy.

Another great thing to toss in your pack is a mini first aid kit for your dog. Some antibacterial wipes, “vet-wrap” self-adhesive tape, and a little bit of liquid or powdered styptic are all great to have on hand. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is another great thing to have in case your pup encounters something that causes an allergic reaction.

woman giving dog water

5. Are you prepared for the terrain?

You have the benefit of footwear to keep your feet safe from the elements, but your dog is not so fortunate. Hot pavement, broken glass, sharp rocks, and hazardous materials are all things that can seriously hurt your dog’s feet if you aren’t careful. If you know you’ll be facing one or more of these elements, consider getting paw protectors (okay, so they’re basically dog booties, but safety is important!) or applying a protective balm to his or her foot pads before starting your run.

If your current shoes aren't cutting it when it comes to protecting your feet, check out our full collection of men's running shoes and women's running shoes and keep your feet safe!

6. Did you check the weather?

Obviously, it isn’t safe for anyone to run in a thunderstorm, but even without thunder it may be unwise to run with your dog in the rain. All that water (and the mud that accompanies it) will leave you with a substantial mess to deal with. Plus, many dogs don’t love being out in the rain, not because they dislike being wet but because the sound is quite overwhelming for their sensitive ears.

Other weather to keep an eye out for includes hot or cold temperature extremes, snow and ice, and high winds.

7. Is your pup having a good time?

The most important thing you can do is pay close attention to your dog’s behavior and body language on a run. Most dogs are happy to be included in any activity with their favorite humans, so they may try to keep going even if they’re tired, sore, or thirsty. Make sure you’re taking lots of breaks for water and rest as your dog acclimates to running.

Add to your distance slowly to make sure you aren’t overexerting your pooch. Watch for signs that you need to scale back like extreme lethargy afterward, limping, difficulty getting up and down from a lying position, and a general reluctance to leave the house for a run in the first place.

Just like people, not all dogs love running so if your pooch isn’t having a great time, it might be worthwhile to consider an alternative form of exercise like fetch or a more leisurely stroll.

dog running on sidewalk

Note from Holabird Sports Copywriter Jess: It's quite possible my dog likes running even more than I do.