Guest Post: Running With Your Dog – What You Need To Know

Oct 14, 2014

Running With Dogs – What You Need To Know

By the North Carolina Veterinarian Medical Association


There is a reason that dogs have earned the prestigious title of man’s best friend. One is they are known and loved for their loyalty and natural athleticism, qualities which make them great exercise companions.  However, not all dogs are suited for running. A dog’s size and build, age, and medical condition, as well as the local climate, are all important factors to consider in deciding if your dog can be a good running partner.

Basic Considerations About Your Dog And Running

Most dogs have the ability to run at least some distance, but certain breeds have greater natural running ability than others. Dogs with a medium build can run longer distances than smaller or heavier dogs.  Leaner dogs are fast runners, while dogs with larger bodies usually run more slowly but for longer distances.

Veterinarians recommend walking puppies and waiting until they are older to begin running. Small dogs can usually run around six months, but in order for full joint formation, larger dogs usually need to wait until they are 12 to 18 months old. Dogs between ages 7 and 10 should run less or walk instead. Always check with your veterinarian when starting to run with your dog to make sure that it is safe for your pet to do so.

Keep In Mind Weather Conditions

Run with your dog only in the early morning or evening during hot weather. Extremely hot pavement can hurt their paws. Dogs do not dissipate heat as fast as we can, which makes heat stroke a real possible danger, so avoid hot and humid conditions particularly. During cold weather, make sure to consider a time of day when extreme conditions be avoided for the dog’s health and safety as well.

Caring For Your Dog During Your Run

Make sure your dog is hydrated throughout your entire run. This may mean carrying enough water for both of you or running where water is readily available, for instance, a public park or designated running trail. If your dog is looking for puddles to drink, that is a clear indication that he or she needs water immediately.

Observe your dog’s behavior. Foaming at the mouth, making heavy panting, sporting glazed eyes and slowing down indicate that he or she is tired. Always give your pet a rest when they need it.

Check your dog’s paws during and after runs for cuts or damage. Clean the pads with a warm, soapy rag following your run to get rid of any debris that could hurt his or her paws.

While it might be a pain for you to have your dog on a leash, it is safer for your dog. Choose a 3- to 6-foot leather leash rather than a retractable leash. This will keep your dog closer to you, making your running experience safer overall. Leash running also becomes easier when dogs are trained with certain cues that tell them when to run and when to walk.

Even if you or your dog is not a long distance runner, it is easy to keep your pet in shape. In addition to providing your pet with a healthy diet and plenty of water, dogs can stay in great shape with daily exercise opportunities, such as playing fetch, climbing stairs or taking power walks.

Just like humans are advised to consult their doctor before starting a new exercise program, dogs should also visit their veterinarian before beginning exercise. Dogs that will be running should especially have their heart, lungs and joints examined.

The North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association (NCVMA) is a professional organization of veterinarians dedicated to compassionate animal care and quality medicine. For more information, visit, follow us on Twitter at @NCVMA, or call (800) 446-2862 or (919) 851-5850.