Jogging with your dog can be great fun for you both, but you want to be safe. The following guidelines will help you gauge if your dog is ready to go on a run with you.

Skeletal Maturity
Your dog needs to be at least one year old before they start running with you. A dog’s skeletal system isn’t mature until a year or year and a half. You’ll risk injuries such as stress fractures and ligament damage to your dog if they run with you before skeletal maturity. When your dog is a puppy, encourage them to do self-paced short sprints to prepare them for your future runs together.

Breed Type
Some dog breeds aren’t meant for long-distance steady-state running. Do some research and consult with your vet to determine if your dog is able to run safely with you.

Running Training
Your dog will need to be trained through repetition and consistency to become a good running partner. My dog is two years old now and is just now getting better at running with me. Your dog should be good on a leash if you run where dogs need to be on a leash. You want to establish dominance and train your dog to run beside you or behind you. You don’t want your dog running ahead of you.

Potty Break Routine
Establish a routine for your dog to relieve itself. I have my dog pee before we start running. Then a half-mile into the run, I have him relieve his bowels. It gives him a chance to be active and get his bowels moving. Then he doesn’t need to go for the rest of the run. If you establish a routine, you won’t be stopping all the time.

Get Your Dog in Shape
When you start running with your dog, start slow, then ramp up. Start with a one mile run for a few sessions and then slowly increase the distance. You wouldn’t go out and run ten miles if you were out of shape. Your dog has to get into shape too.

Bring Water for Both of You
Remember to take water for both you and your dog if you are going for long runs. Or find a place on your run where water is available for your dog. Have water readily available for your pet when you get back to the house.

Prevent Overheating
Consider your dog’s coat of hair and weather conditions. A dog with a lot of hair may do better exercising in the cold weather where a short-haired dog may need to wear a cloth coat. In warmer weather, be cautious of exercising a dog with a lot of hair. Watch for signs of heat exhaustion, including excessive panting, lack of urine, lethargy, and weak legs.

Dog Stretches
If your dog is prone to hip arthritis (breeds like Labradors), a good exercise is “sit pretty” or “beg,” where your dog sits on its hind legs vertical with its front paws up. This exercise can help keep your dog’s hips strong in order to be a good strong runner and prevent hip arthritis.

If you do it right, jogging with your dog can be fun and good exercise for both of you. One morning, I was going to take my dog jogging in the afternoon instead of our typical morning time, but he went to my drawer and pulled out my workout pants. He was ready to go!

By Dr. Laurel Mines, PT, DPT