We scoured the internet, interviewed our very own clients, and worked together with the one & only, Charm City Run, to bring you a blog with all of the top tips and tricks we could collect to make running with your dog a walk run in the park (see what we did there? 😉). From preparation and recovery tips to product and route recommendations...if you're ready to hit the pavement with your pup, we have you covered!
Before The Run
Is your dog the right running partner?
Not all dogs are running partners, and that is okay! Here are some things to consider when deciding if it is safe to run with your dog:
1. How old is your dog? Our general rule of thumb (dewclaw, anyone?) is that the bones of most dog breeds are fully developed around one year - distance running should wait until after that! Your dog should also be overall healthy, eating normally, and enjoying physical activity to be considered as your new running buddy. On the other hand, older dogs may have joint problems that can slow them down or make running uncomfortable. Consult with your vet before beginning any sort of training if you aren't sure.
2. Consider your dog's build and breed. Dogs with short legs may not be able to keep up with the pace you'd like to maintain, while larger breeds are prone to hip dysplasia, an abnormal formation of the hip socket that can lead to arthritis. If your dog is a snort-nosed, flat-faced breed (also known as brachycephalic), running may simply require too much exertion. Their squished faces are cute AF, but they tend to have narrowed nostrils and partially obstructed airways, which make breathing difficult when exercising.
3. Think about your dog's energy levels and walking behaviors. If you think your dog won't take form into Baltimore's newest sled dog or, on the contrary, you won't have to encourage them to keep up only a minute into the run, then it looks like you've got yourself a new workout buddy! Just as a sedentary person can't just jump off the couch one day and run six miles, neither can a sedentary dog. Start slow to reduce the risk of injury and increase the likelihood that your dog will want to join you for another run.
Did you check the weather app on your phone yet? Be sure to plan ahead to avoid ever running with your dog in temps under 35 degrees, over 70 degrees, or in the blazing sunshine/humidity. Not only can temps like these really damage your dog's paws, but extreme heat or sun exposure can cause heat strokes! Our friends at Charm City Run want to emphasize that "dogs don't sweat the way that humans do so it takes them MUCH longer to cool off!"
If you're running in the summer, try to run in the early morning, late evening, or in shaded areas. If it's too hot for you, it's definitely too hot for your dog.
Running in the winter? That's some dedication...Make sure it's not too cold and protect your dog's paws with running boots or paw balm (more on that later)!
Got a Paw-Friendly Route?
The common household dogs aren't built to run extremely long distances like marathons or even half marathons. We understand mileage will vary by dog and how frequently they join their hooman in training, but on average, a 5K is an ideal distance for a dog to run according to Charm City Run's staff, who run regularly with their dogs! If you plan on taking your dog farther, we recommend consulting your vet.
Don't forget that dog paws are highly sensitive little things. Try to find routes that provide softer ground cushioning like soil, grass, or sand. We know that's not always possible in Baltimore, so be sure to protect your dog's paws in other ways (see below for product recs!).
Running along the promenade is a nice flat run for a dog or around Patterson Park for a few hills/grassy sections, but no matter where you are located, planning your route ahead can make a big difference so both you and your pup don't get stuck crossing too many streets or end up in highly congested areas! Plus, pre-planning great sights for you & smells for your dog will keep everyone motivated and happy!
Gather The Gear - for Both Hooman & Pup!
There's no better group of people to tell you how important a good sneaker is when it comes to moving your feet! With DOCC Pet Professionals clocking in ~25K steps each per day, we know a thing or two about good shoes...and that's exactly what you need! Invest in a comfortable, functional, and reliable (not to mention, stylish!) pair of running shoes like our personal faves, the HOKA brand. We've been really loving the HOKA Bondi 8 and for the winter, when icy (or if you plan to trail run), the HOKA Speedgoat Trail shoe is a great option! DOCC client, Noel, who loves running with her dogs, Bixby and Roary, said she "loves to wear a good pair of trail running shoes for times when I need to create some space for the dogs by moving off the sidewalks into the grass or dirt paths, or when we are out in weather that can create slippery conditions."
We absolutely recommend getting fit for the proper shoe based on your feet and goals (especially if you are new to running) at Charm City Run Fells Point or at any of their other 7 Maryland locations. There, a running gear professional will take the time to evaluate your needs and fit you for a running shoe that not only feels good but looks good, too! 😎 Our DOCC staff can attest to this awesome fitting experience but warn that there is a high chance you'll leave with more than just sneakers...sorry not sorry. 😉
This all comes down to what works best for both you and your dog! We recommend your dog wears a collar or harness that is consistent with their good walking behaviors - there is technically no need to buy a harness that is specific to running. If your dog walks best with an EZ Pull harness, prong collar, or classic flat collar, it's best to stay uniform to their everyday experience (including if they wear a GPS tracking collar or e-collar). Don't forget to put your pup's dog tags on them too...safety first!
Just like some people like to run with a water bottle or phone in hand, and others don't...the type of leash you choose is a similar concept! Whether you want to be hands-free or not, it all depends on what is comfortable for you AND how you can best control your dog so they run smoothly next to you.
When DOCC client, Jennifer, is running with her Mini Goldendoodle, Kasha, she loves to run with a hands-free leash by MightyPaw. This leash wraps around your waist like a belt, freeing your hands and arms to effortlessly sync your steps. However, another DOCC client, Noel, when running with her two dogs, Bixby & Roary, prefers holding two classic leashes in her hands (with e-collar remotes) because she feels she has better control over her pups and can communicate which direction/turn is coming up next, which makes it a better personal running experience for her.
It's also important to pay attention to the length of a leash! Where some prefer a 4-foot leash to encourage your dog to stay right next to you, a 6-foot leash may be a good fit for dogs who walk just slightly in front of their owners. Remember, we're trying to simulate those normal walking habits...but just at a little bit faster pace.
Overall, we recommend experimenting with different techniques if your dog can handle flexible methods, but if you and your dog have put a lot of hours into structured walking behaviors, don't hesitate to do what you need to do to keep up your training!
The Paw Products
Now, what's on your dog's feet?! This can get overlooked but it's so important you protect those little toe beans! From different surfaces to weather and changing surface temps, to sharp items and even city grime, it's so important we keep our dog's paws healthy so they can continue on the running journey with you!
We love the Natural Dog Company's Paw Soother Stick! Apply this before AND after your run for max protection while running and moisturizing for post-run care.
If you want to avoid the paws touching the ground altogether? Grab your dog a pair of rubber-soled boots with trex! They may take some getting used to, but they're sure to provide the layer of protection your dog's paws need.
Some running routes might have drinking spots for your dog, for example, if you run by a store that keeps a bowl out or a park with a dog-friendly fountain. However, if you aren't sure water will be an option, we recommend bringing a handheld runner's water bottle and a collapsible bowl for water stops on long runs. You can purchase a running belt or fanny pack to hold these items, wear shorts/leggings with deep pockets, or even attach a vest with pockets to your dog so they can carry their own bowl!
Poop bags! Don't forget to pack the essentials even when running - you never know when they'll need to go!
Practice Makes Perfect
If you're just starting out at running with your dog - take it slow! Start with getting in a rhythm together and then picking up the pace slowly until you're at your desired jogging speed. DOCC client, Noel, reminds us to "make sure your dogs train alongside you: Your first run wasn’t 10 miles of speed work and your dogs shouldn’t be either."
This is also where you can play with the style of leash and collar you prefer to find what is most comfortable and avoid getting your legs (and paws!) tangled.
Jennifer and her dog Kasha recommend practicing pacing together because depending on the dog, it can take time to get into a rhythm. They personally started off slow - went a few blocks, then Kasha was quickly able to do a mile and now she is up to 3 miles easily!
Hydration Nation (and fuel)!
Make sure both you and pup are HYDRATED and fueled! You all know how important it is for us hoomans to be nutritionally prepared...and the same goes for your dog. Maybe you don't love to eat a big breakfast pre-morning run, but that doesn't mean your dog doesn't need their full serving (just be sure to let them digest, of course).
Get in the Zone!
Running should fun and enjoyable, especially with your furry best friend as your running buddy! This is a time to relieve stress, let out some energy, and get moving! However, it's still important for both you and your dog to get into the right mental head space before heading out the door so they can be calm, cool & collected on the run (remember what we said before... no sled dogs pulling you down the street). Take the time to get your dog in the right headspace - whether that be some pre-run crate time, down stay on their place cot, or cuddles on the couch so they have a clear mind to listen to and respect YOU. Running or not, we want our dogs to be aware of their owner, especially when moving at a fast pace. Don't forget...this may be a great way to exercise and get out energy, but it's also a chance for you to connect with your pup on a deeper level!
Empty those tanks!
What's worse than running when you have to pee...running when you have to poo 😂 (It's okay, we're all friends here)! It is an absolute must for your dog's physical health and fairness to give them a healthy amount of time and a chance for them to go to the bathroom. Especially when they don't have the words to express it and their normal poop cues might be hidden beneath running full steam ahead. So, before you start to pick up that pace, please factor in potty time!
During the Run
Be Mindful of Others, Distractions & Your OWN dog!
If you're running in the city, you're sure to bump into other people, dogs, cars, bikes, loud noises, and more! Running with your dog requires a lot of dedication from both owner and dog. Try to focus on your dog in congested areas and set your own pace or distance goals aside. Especially if this is a new activity for them, your four-legged friend might need all your attention. Does your dog seem like they enjoy it? Lagging behind you? Overstimulated? Stay in tune with your dog and be mindful of your surroundings for reasons as simple as creating a smooth run or as important as safety. Remember, just like humans, some runs will be better than others for them! Lastly, note that not everyone likes dogs (shocker, we know) so be sure to always maintain control of your dog's leash when running through tight areas in the city.
How to Know When They Need a Break
Give your dog plenty of short breaks during your run to help them rest, breathe, and drink water! This may depend on how used to running they are, the temperature, and the distance. Unlike humans who can run and take a sip of water at the same time or regulate themselves, dogs are connected to the leash that WE control so it is up to us to pay attention to any unusual signs - veering to the grass more than usual, needing to potty, foaming at the mouth, panting excessively, a dark red tongue, drooling excessively, limping or even refusing to run from the very start. If you notice any of these signs of exhaustion/injury, immediately take a longer break and seek vet care if any symptoms are alarming or persistent.
Tell your pup they are doing a good job if you like what you see! Whatever word you use to communicate this praise, don't hold back so your dog knows just what you're expecting from them! This communication will set you and your dog up for success during future runs. Carry soft treats that are easy for your dog to quickly chew while moving. Not only does this let them know they are doing a good job, but it will give them energy...just like we use energy chews or protein bites for those longer runs!
After the Run
More Hydration & Fuel
Our dogs might seem tough as nails, but much like human runners, they also need nutrients to recover! In addition to a big bowl of fresh water, give them a treat or two and maybe even a chew like a bully stick or pig's ear. For dogs who run constantly, ask your vet if they need any additional vitamins or bone/joint support so they can feel their best in their active lifestyle!
As for Noel's post-run routine for Bixby and Roary, she "makes sure to include a cool-down walk at the end of the run and allow her dogs some less structured 'sniff time' as a reward for their hustle. Then, she puts her dogs back into a 'down' stay as soon as they walk in the door for some R&R and to reinforce the expectations they have set for them. She makes sure they have access to water and, of course, gives them their favorite cookie!"
Jennifer's post-run routine for Kasha includes treats when they get home and plenty of space for Kasha to relax! She will often give her a bath after because "Kasha loves that!"
A Darn Good Belly Rub!
Every dog is a good boy or girl and deserves some pets but most certainly after a long run! You know what to do!
Does your Dog Still Have Energy?
Does your dog not seem tired after a run? That's okay - you still gave them fantastic exercise to keep them healthy! You might want to try out some mental enrichment to round out your dog's needs -- we've got you covered with some of our favorites here.
Does Your Dog seem Exhausted or Sore?
Just like humans, your dog's muscles can get sore too! If they are moving around slower for up to two days after a long run, it could mean that your pup is feeling some type of way. Give them the rest they require, and do not try to run with them while they are sore or tired...this could lead to some serious negative association with running! If any exhaustion persists or any injuries evolve, please consult with your vet.
NOW GO GET THOSE STEPS IN, FAM!
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