No one wants to be tethered to a partner who constantly pulls and sniffs, so it’s best to complete basic obedience training before putting in much mileage with your pup.
“If your dog doesn’t know how to heel, obedience classes will totally improve your quality of life with them,” Lee said.
In the beginning, your own training objectives may need to take a backseat as your dog learns to run at your side and builds endurance.
“We were very careful about increasing Baxter and Lucy’s mileage because there is wear and tear,” said Sherry. “We applied the same principles with their fitness as we would with our own.”
“It’s important to allow for that physical adaptation of bones and muscles,” Clough added.
Hand-held leashes will give you the most control in the early days of training, but many runners favor graduating to a waist leash once they have the dog fully under control.
With patience, a little consistency, discipline, and praise, you’ll have the ideal running partner for years to come.
For dog owners looking for a four-legged running buddy, note that dogs reach skeletal maturity a whole lot faster than humans. By waiting until your dog is fully grown to do any serious running, you can avoid a lifetime of problems.
While every dog is different and you should consult with your veterinarian, Lee’s recommendation often depends on the athlete’s own running prowess: “If you’re a 10-minute miler, you could start running with your dog when they are as young as six months for 1 to 2 miles,” she said.
Breeds with orthopedic issues, such as hip dysplasia, should wait closer to nine to 12 months. In general, the larger the dog, the longer it takes them to reach maturity.
If you’re a more fleet-footed runner, it’s best to wait until closer to the time your dog’s bones are fully developed to train together.
Once you hit the road, you should constantly monitor your dog. Lee’s general rule is not to run a dog at all if the combined heat and humidity numbers exceed 150.
Since dogs have sweat glands only in their paws, their main method of heat exchange is through panting. When it’s hot, they simply can’t cool their bodies down effectively.
“A dog that’s dragging behind, excessively panting, or foaming at the mouth is probably overheating,” said Clough.
Withholding food for a couple of hours before the run and keeping dogs hydrated play big roles in ensuring they stay up and running. Most experts recommend taking along water for runs longer than 45 minutes.
“In the summer we go running with the dogs in the early morning because the heat is so intense here in Flagstaff,” explained Sherry. “During monsoon season, we run along a stream so they can jump in and cool off halfway through the runs.”
Sherry also is careful to check his dogs’ paw pads since they can be prone to abrasions and blisters depending on the surface.
While the Iditarod sled dogs Lee works with run for hundreds of miles, she said that most domestic dogs shouldn’t run much more than 10 miles at a time, regardless of how cool the temperatures or soft the surface.