Updated: Jul 28
I'm lonely in quarantine and I'm thinking about getting a dog. Is a dog a great running partner or will my new four-legged friend drive me crazy?
~ Don G.
Our answer, a.k.a., My Liberal Stance on Running with Your Dog
from Chaski Coach Maggie Fox
Running with your dog can be the best! I know this from my personal experience with my Alaskan Malamute, Molly. I consider myself a normal middle of the road person, so if you are an extreme rule follower it might be best for you to stop reading or take what I say with a grain of salt. My mentality is a more laissez-faire approach in that I follow most of the rules, but like to remember that this is supposed to be fun for both you and your dog. In the risk vs. reward spectrum I aim for the higher return.
I’ve compiled some key points to take into account below. Some are rather obvious, some not so much.
1. Take your Dog’s Breed into account.
The average dog is capable of running 2 to 5 miles, but make sure your dog’s breed can handle longer distances before attempting anything farther. Some of the best breeds for long distance running include, but aren’t limited to, Border Collies, Australian (and German) Shepherds, Weimaraners, Vizslas, Huskies (and Malamutes), and Labs. Terriers are great for short quick runs of 3 miles or less. But don’t be held back by stereotypes, maybe your dog just loves to run.
2. When can you start running with your dog?
Molly’s Vet told us that she could start easing into runs once she was 8 months old. I had heard all these stories about how larger breeds are more likely to develop hip dysplasia and arthritis so I was a little paranoid at the beginning and decided to wait longer. I elected to spay Molly after she had her first menstruation cycle to make sure that she was really done growing (this ended up being at about the 1 year mark) and we didn’t start running seriously until afterwards.
I’m glad I waited and in general I would say if you intend to do some serious running with your dog later on, it’s worth the wait. I’ll also add here that your dog should know some basic commands while walking before attempting them while running. At bare minimum, “Leave it”, “Come”, and “Stay” are good ones. I am also VERY glad that I taught Molly “Left” and “Right”. This was easier than I thought. I started when she was a puppy helping her to differentiate the different sides of her body by asking for her “Left Paw” and “Right Paw”, by pulling her left ear and right ear while saying the side out-loud, and then by announcing “Left” or “Right” every time we turned on a walk.
3. Ease into mileage.
My aunt was a runner, so one day she took her sister’s 200lb Saint Bernard for a run. A very long 6 miles later he returned home, drank a ton of water, and fell asleep. The next time my aunt tried to take him on a run they didn’t make it to the end of the driveway before the pooch laid down and wouldn’t move. He had decided this running thing wasn’t for him and I don’t blame him!
You wouldn’t have someone who has never run before go on a 6 mile run. You would have them ease into their training and increase mileage and frequency gradually, everyone needs rest days. Well do the same for your dog. I suggest using the 10% increase rule since you want them to LOVE this!
4. Throw your watch out the window…metaphorically because those are expensive!
Expect your run to take longer than normal. Depending on your dog, they will have to pee several times or 100 times to mark their territory. Either way it means stopping a ton. Just go with the flow 😏and enjoy being outside with your dog. I usually save runs with Molly for easy days in my training or have her join me on my warm ups and cool downs. When she was little she would howl every time I ran by on the track, but she’s gotten used to it and a good treat usually does the trick.
5. Pick up your dog’s poop.
Seriously. Please. These days there are plenty of trash bins along routes to toss it, and if there aren’t maybe this is the perfect opportunity to plan a new route. I tie about 3 bags around the leash or if we’re off-leash around her remote (I’ll get to that in a bit). However, I do have a caveat here. IF you are in the woods, standard good ole fashioned woods, not conservation lands, wildlife sanctuary, or reservoirs, then as long as your dog poops off the trail you’re good to carry on in my book.
6. Follow the Rules.
If dogs are allowed then you’re golden…and extremely lucky since these places don’t come around often. If however you drove by a sign saying No Dogs on your way to the parking lot, saw one in front of your spot, and then walked by one on the way to the trailhead, don’t be a dummy. Leave your dog at home or, as I would do, drive to another venue.