5 Steps to Turn Your Rescue Dog Into Your Running Partner

One of the best ways to bond with your dog is to get them into a routine of running with you. There is a process if your dog has never been out on a run for any length of time. Make sure to first check with the Vet first to be sure to rule out any health concerns first. 

Make sure to follow these 5 steps to getting your new rescue to become your new running partner for life 

  • Talk to your dog’s Vet
  • Train on a Leash To Start
  • Plan Your First Run 
  • Mind her paws
  • Establish a Regular Running Plan

    Talk to Your Dog's Veterinarian 

  • You must make sure she’s all checked out, has a good weight, no breathing or heart troubles. As long as you and your dog get the OK, you are ready to get started.  According to Dr Duerr, Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, “Just as with people, the gradual approach to training works with dogs, too. Using a training concept similar to humans—slowly building up mileage and ensuring there aren’t any setbacks or issues that cause pain or injury—applies to our four-legged friends as well. As long as the dog is cleared by a vet to run, and doesn’t have any orthopedic issues, like problems with their elbows or hips, then the pooch should be fine to serve as a running buddy.” 

   Leash Training

  • Before any real running begins make sure you and your dog both feel very comfortable walking with a leash to start with. If there’s any walking difficulty, imagine the issue you’ll have when running down a street. If there’s any pulling or strain at all, stop walking. Also, make sure you are walking your dog, not the other way around. Once you both feel confident with leash walking you are ready for the next step

   Plan the First Run 

  • Always start with a walk to make sure he takes care of business before the run. Do make your first run a short one to help establish a routine and a cadence. It will be awkward at first. Might also be good to try to run relatively close by to home.
  • For the first run, keep it to less than 3 miles and mix up running and walking. Which ever side you usually have your dog walk on, keep that same side during the times you go from walking to running. Don’t confuse her by switching from side to side -or it could cause you might trip over the leash, which could be really problematic and embarrassing.  
  • Don’t get discouraged if you feel the run didn’t go well. The key to all dog activities is persistence and repetition. Make this a daily or weekly habit - soon enough you’ll both find a rhythm and you’ll both end up having a great time. 

   Mind The Paws

  • Running on overgrown nails is not only painful, but can damage their eyes or ears as they scratch themselves. If you hear clicking on your bare floor, the nails need to be clipped. Best to run on a dry path, avoid running on really hot macadam or an icy street, as those surfaces can really be painful. I wouldn’t recommend running in those dog booties - while they are great for a walk in very freezing snow, they aren’t a good choice for street running

   The Established Running Plan 

  • After a few weeks of solid regular running, you and your dog will find that running becomes easier and more fun over time.
  • Start increasing the miles, look for new trails to run together or look for a local dog running program in your area and run with other runners and their dogs.  
  • Anytime you and your dog are off on vacation together, don’t forget to bring the gear with you and enjoy running no matter where you find yourselves. 

Pro Tip: 

Always have some spare doggy poopy bags with you - making sure to keep the trail clean for others behind you. I used to hike, and run with my dog he enjoyed a lightweight dog backpack - anytime he’d have to stop for #2, I’d clean up and put the doggy bag in his pack - he’d carry his own for the rest of the run. 

What if Your Dog Hates Running? 

Always take it slow, many runners have a tendency to push their dogs hard and force them out. This is not going to encourage anyone to run. Also, he might have some foot or leg pain you might not be aware of. If it’s been a while since he had a check up, it might be a good idea to head back to the vet to get another thorough check up to make sure everything is in good working order.

Try to make the runs fun. Don’t bark commands at him or pull him out if he’s feeling unmotivated. You might want to restart the training again. Bring some treats along, stop for more frequent breaks. In time she’ll be focused on running and not the treats part of the run.

You might also want to check the harness fit. If it’s too tight, you dog just might feel uncomfortable when running. 

Need to avoid the lunge at cyclists and other runners?  It’s only natural, but this can be trained away. Make sure you redirect the urge to chase or lunge  and this should be caught during initial leash training. 

If you need some training help - you might try this method:

Try to take your dog to an open area with a friend who is willing to ride or run past your dog. At first have them pass around 15 feet away, have them get slightly closer and closer. Kneel down beside your dog, while having a tight grip on a short leash.

When the dog reasons to the bike or the runner, simply tug on the collar gently, but firmly, and use the command, Down. Repeat this process until the dog is controlled without any correction. Remain patient. It may take some time, but he’ll learn soon enough.

Never hit the dog, never shout - these are not tactics any dog owner should use to correct a bad behavior. 

This behavior can be very dangerous if left alone. If you find this kind of behavior continues without any success during our own training, it might be time to bring in a professional to help. 

Related Resources:

Running with a Dog That Pulls - A clear sign that you need to back to step 1 and work on leash training. The walking calmly on one side next to you should be a standard way for your dog to walk. If the dog’s excitably walking with you, the behavior will only continue during the run. When the dog pulls you, he’s walking you, not the other way around. Always train your dog to walk next to you on one side at your pace. 

Trail Running with Your Dog - Always use a leash, and keep trail etiquette  in check - make sure to allow others behind you the ability to pass if they need to. Keep in mind the potential hazards of the trail which might include excessive heat, lack of hydration, plants or other hazards like encountering a gopher or rattle snack. Check the trail ahead to make sure its a dog friendly trail. 

Looking for a Race for You and Your Dog?  If you and your dog are up for it there are loads of races you and your dog can participate in. Here’s a link to REI’s 8 Races to run 

Benefits of Running With Your Dog - The benefits of running with your dog are aplenty. You both develop a solid bond during this time. Exercise for you both in an aerobic mode is great to keep both weight and energy levels in check. Dogs and running are a great way to help him remain active and fit for a long time. 

Running Gear for Your Dog -  There’s a few items I’d recommend.

  • Dog booties might help protect your pooch’s paws from sharp rocks, thorns, snow or icy conditions.
  • Having a front range adventure harness or hands free dog leash would come in handy, but only after you both are in a regular running routine and feel confident and comfortable running for long periods of time. 
  • A safety light for any pre-dawn or after sunset runs is important so you're both in view.
  • A dog backpack like the Ruffwear single track dog backpack is a great way to have some handy poopy bags to carry, or hydration.
  • Another piece of gear i’d highly recommend and one I’ve used with my Weimaraner in the past was the Dogtra Remote collar. If you are running in unknown trail territory and you encounter a snake or other critter and need to make sure your dog avoids this, having that training collar is a God send!  

The 5 Best Types of Dogs for Runners

  • Weimaraners - They enjoy being right by your side, good for long steady runs
  • German Shorthaired Pointers - Quick and durable runners, loads of speed
  • Vizslas - Great trail runners, best for any type fo running, and very versatile
  • Pit Bulls - Great for short brisk runs
  • Golden and Labrador Retrievers - Brisk short runs, slow runs 

About the Author Janet

I'm Janet, avid rescue dog fan, and parent of two rescues - training them to run, hike, and enjoy their new forever home

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