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How to Start Running with Your Dog

man running with dog on a mountain trail

Ready for your best friend to be your four-legged running buddy? It’s a great way to get out of the house, have fun and stay fit together. Here’s how to prepare and what to do on your first run together.

Get Ready

Before you start your dog running journey, think about your pooch’s breed, age and health. Larger breeds like huskies, retrievers and Dalmatians are born to run. But smaller breeds like schnauzers, terriers and shelties make surprisingly great workout partners, too. Short-nosed dogs though, like pugs and bulldogs, should stay home because they can overheat and may struggle for air.

Don’t run with puppies under a year old because their bones and joints are still forming. And if your dog is a little white in the muzzle, visit your vet first to check their overall health and rule out hip dysplasia.

Get Set

You and your dog both need the right running gear. We recommend a chest harness and a nonretractable leash that’s 3 to 6 feet long. If you want your hands to be free, try a cross-body leash or a running belt — preferably one with a spot for a water bottle, collapsible bowl and waste bags.

You can even buy boots for your dog! But if your pooch turns his nose up at those, just apply paw balm before and after a run to protect their paw pads from salt, irritating chemicals and hard surfaces. And if you go trail running with your dog, don’t forget to check their feet for injuries from sticks or rocks.

Go!

illustration of paw prints

1. Pick a Paw-friendly Route


Grass, woodsy soil and sand are best for your pup’s feet. But if you have to stick to sidewalks and streets, start with short runs until your dog develops calluses on their paws, and be sure the asphalt isn’t too hot in the summer.
Speaking of heat, we generally don’t recommend running with your dog if it’s over 70 F.

illustration of human stretching

2. Follow a 5K Training Plan for Beginners

After a good stretch and a few minutes of brisk walking, alternate walking with short bursts of running. It’s the perfect way for you and your dog to start slow, build stamina and progress at a safe pace.

illustration of walking dog on leash

3. Keep Your Dog Close

To prevent your pup from pulling or tripping you up, it’s important to train your dog to stay close by your side when you’re running together. Ideally, your dog’s nose should be near your knee, and your arm should be comfortably straight down holding their leash — especially when they’re getting used to running next to you. Also, if you’re on the road, run on the left side with your dog curbside, away from traffic.

illustration of human shouting

4. Work on Your Cues

Verbal cues are crucial for teaching your dog to be a good running partner. We recommend being consistent with your commands, like “Let’s go” for beginning your warmup, “Go faster” when it’s time to start running and “Whoa!” when it’s time to slow down or stop. Behavioral cues like “No” or “Leave it” will also teach your dog to ignore the tempting sights, smells or animals they encounter during your run.

illustration of dog running on leash

5. Pick up the Pace

Halfway through your run, push yourself and your pup. During one of your running intervals, turn up the jets and sprint! It’s a great cardio boost, and it’ll help both of you build up your speed and stamina.

illustration of dog panting

6. Know If Your Friend Needs a Break

If you see signs of exhaustion like rapid panting, excessive drooling, a red tongue or gums, a lowered tail, lagging behind or refusing to run, take a nice, long break. Get your dog to a shady spot if possible, and give them water. Oh, and a nice pat won’t hurt.

illustration of pedigree food back with full dog bown

7. Refuel Your Furry Jogger

Think about stopping every 15 minutes or so until you have a good idea of how much water your dog needs, especially if it’s hot.

And when it’s mealtime, give your fitness pal fuel for their next run — and all the runs after — with delicious, nutritious PEDIGREE® High Protein. (Just wait at least an hour after running before feeding your friend.)

We hope you and your dog have fun together on your first run!

  • The Serious Benefits of Play

    dog carrying a frisbee in its mouth

    Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.

    The benefits of play

    Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:

    • Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
    • Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
    • Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
    • Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
    • Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.

    How to play with your dog

    There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.

    When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.

    When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.

    Playtime tips

    • Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
    • Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
    • Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
    • Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
    • You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
    • If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!

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