Your Guide To Running With Your Dog

Running with a dog can be one of the most rewarding experiences. Trail runner Sue Ullyett has been doing it for years…


Sue Ullyett |

Running is good for us, we know that; but it’s also good for our four-legged friends. The best way to stay motivated is to have someone reliable to run with – so why not your dog? They’re always happy to see you, they get really, really excited to head out the door, and they won’t let you down like a training partner might on a cold winter’s morning.

You get your fix, and your pooch gets some exercise at the same time. No, not all dogs are built for running; but most healthy dogs love it, even if it’s only for a couple of kilometres. Still, whether you’re a parkrun newbie or a committed marathoner, there are a few things you need to think about first.

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1. Make sure your dog’s up for it

You can’t go from the couch to a half marathon in one session, so don’t expect your dog to. They need to be eased into it.

Start off short and slow – perhaps around the block, or to your nearest park – and gradually build up to longer runs once they get fitter. The average dog can run between three and 10km, so keep that in mind when planning your routes.

You may also want to check with your vet first, just to be certain. Dogs such as bulldogs, pugs and most Kardashian-handbag breeds are better off going for an easy walk rather than a run. And be careful with older dogs, as they can develop injuries and joint pain just like we do.

On the other hand, shepherds, terriers and retrievers love to run, and some breeds (such as vizslas and the Africanis) can go for days. Use common sense: if you’re heading out for four hours on the mountain, don’t take your sausage dog!

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2. Choose dog-friendly routes

I always head for the forest or park, and minimise time on the road – for both of us. Running on the road can hurt your dog’s paws, making them raw and sore.

On a warm summer’s day, too, it helps to stay off the road and stick to grass and dirt paths. Dogs overheat quickly, and will often keep going even if they’re hot or exhausted. They also only sweat through their paws, and cool down through their tongues.

Plus, they’re running in a fur coat – so don’t take them with you on a hot day. Always run with water, or make sure there’s lots around for them to drink (or plunge into, as is the case with my Roxie).

Sue's dog Roxie
Sue’s dog Roxie

3. Pack runs and leashes

Make sure your dog is well socialised and used to other dogs and people, particularly if you’re running in a group or an organised event. Check your dog can walk properly on a loose leash before you take it running with you. Make sure the leash is comfortable, and doesn’t cause chafe – a chain leash is not a good idea.

I’ve trained Roxie to run on-lead, and it works well, apart from when she’s tired or when she spots a squirrel – then I either run with my arm way behind me, or have it almost dislocated from its socket.
It’s way more fun for both parties if you can take them to a place where they can run freely. But dogs are easily distracted by other dogs, squirrels, even smells; so make sure they will come back to you when you call or whistle.

4. Pick up after your dog

When you gotta go, you gotta go – and it’s the same for your pooch. Always have a few small plastic bags tied onto the leash, and pick up after your dog. There’s nothing worse than stepping in it, so be mindful of others around you!

Remember, the whole reason you’re doing this is to have fun – and to get fit, but try and learn a few things from your dog too. The joy, when they see you putting on your shoes – have that same enthusiasm for your training session. Roxie goes mental, and I can’t help but take some of that energy on board!

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