The Ultimate Guide to Running with a Dog  2023 - Long Haul Trekkers (2024)

Running with your dog is a great way to provide regular exercise, prevent obesity and also bond with them.

Dogs are truly the best running partners, and as long as you approach the training correctly, they can join you for your regular runs without issue.

I’ve put in thousands of miles on the trails in the decade that I’ve been running with my canine companions. As long as they are physically able, my dogs will train right along with me for my ultramarathons.

Before your furry friend starts to join you on the trails, there are some important details to consider. The following tips will help get you started on the right foot and help ensure long term health and enjoyment for both you and your dog.

At the surface, running with your dog is as easy as putting on your shoes and heading out the door.

However, there are some considerations, like obedience training, health and fitness, and conditioning to be aware of before you get started.

The Best Dog Breeds for Running

While I personally believe that most dogs can run as long as they enjoy it and build up the stamina, there are some breeds are better suited for running long distances, while others should stick to shorter runs.

Among the best dog breeds for running include naturally active, high-energy dogs, like:

  • Australian Shepherds
  • Border Collies
  • German Short-Haired Pointers
  • Vizslas
  • Rhodesian Ridgebacks

Smaller dogs and those with short legs like Corgis, Terriers, Dachshunds and Papillons can still join their humans on runs, but may prefer to stick to shorter distances of 2-3 miles. That said, ultrarunner Catra Corbett famously runs long distances with her Dachshunds!

Great Danes, because of their extra large size should generally also stick to shorter runs.

Brachycephalic dogs, those with short muzzles, are not ideal candidates for running.

Their respiratory system does not allow for long term heavy exercise and they can overheat easily or may have difficulty breathing with intense exercise, however, that doesn’t mean that they can’t join you for shorter runs!

Short-nosed breeds include:

  • French Bulldogs
  • Boston Terriers
  • Pugs
  • Bull Terriers
The Ultimate Guide to Running with a Dog 2023 - Long Haul Trekkers (1)

Health Issues that May Prevent Running with Your Dog

Depending on the age and health of your dog, there may be some medical conditions that will prevent you from being able to run with your dog. Some may be reversible, while others may require you to find alternative activities to enjoy with your dog.

The following are a few common conditions that may mean that your dog is not the best candidate for running:

  • Obesity
  • Arthritis
  • Age
  • Hip Dysplasia

Make sure to do regular check ups with your veterinarian to rule out any medical conditions before you start running together.

When Can I Start Running with My Dog?

It depends on the age and size of your dog. If you have a puppy, the general rule is to wait to start running until the dog’s growth plates have completed development.

You may be able to do some shorter distances, but use this time for training to hone your dog’s obedience skills.

Depending on the size of the dog, this can be anywhere between eight and 18 months. Small dogs will be able to run earlier, whereas those with larger dogs will have to wait.

Before hitting the trail with your young dog, check with your veterinarian and get the green light. They’ll probably take some X-rays to determine whether the bones have finished growing.

Starting before a dog’s bones have not finished growing can damage a dog’s joints and bone development and lead to serious medical problems later in life, including early arthritis, hip dysplasia, and fractures.

Training Your Dog to Run

Before starting to run with a dog, the first thing you need to do is teach them how to walk nicely on leash. Running with a dog that pulls is not fun, and it’s dangerous if you are on trail.

Your first several runs should not really involve much running at all.

Start out slowly and increase speed and distance over the course of several weeks. Change your pace frequently during your structured training so that your dog understands that heel means heel, whether you’re walking or running.

Start out by jogging around a park with few distractions. As your dog becomes fluent in what you’re teaching, increase the distractions. Head to a busy park, a multi-use path, a popular running trail.

You eventually want to reach a point where both you and your dog feel comfortable running together without worry of distraction or reaction toward other dogs or people. The goal is to show your dog this is a version of walking, only at a faster pace.

Running with Your Dog Off-Leash

If your goal is to run off-leash with your dog, it’s important to ensure that your dog is trained and under voice control at all times.

Running (or hiking) off-leash with your dog is an earned privilege, not a right. Keep your dog on a leash until they prove to you that they are reliable off-leash.

It is not OK to allow your dog to approach other humans or people without permission, no matter how social they may be.

I can’t recommend working with a professional dog trainer highly enough. It completely changed the way I run with my dog and I was able to train Sitka for off-leash reliability, thanks to e-collar training.

What are the Essential Commands Your Dog Should Know for Running?

Good trail etiquette will ensure that all users have an enjoyable experience out in nature.

Teaching your dog these basic obedience commands before you hit the trail will avoid any unwanted and potentially dangerous encounters with other people and dogs.

  • Heel
  • Sit
  • Place
  • Down
  • Come
  • No or Leave it
  • Follow Me/Back/or Behind – This is great for single-track trail runs or for those with reactive dogs

How Far Can My Dog Run?

According to my vet, dogs can run pretty much any distance, provided they follow a proper training program.

Even as a senior dog at age 12, Sora regularly joined me on my long runs, up to 20 miles. Sitka’s longest run so far is 23 miles.

To keep my dog’s joints in tip top shape, I give him a daily joint supplement from Wag Worthy Naturals that contains glucosamine and chondroitin as well as regular green lipped muscle powder.

The key is building distance slowly over time, just like you would for yourself.If you’re three months into marathon training, don’t take your pup out on that 20-miler just because they have endless energy.

Like any training, gradually build up distance, no more than 10% per week. Look for a training plan that involves running and walking, likeJeff Galloway’s training plansand pay close attention to your dog’s stamina as you begin. Take note of whether they’re panting a lot, limping, or slowing down after a certain distance.

If you’re just starting out with your dog, follow a plan like aCouch to 5k. Or, if you’re already training for a half marathon or marathon, have your dog join you on your warm up or on your easy days, starting with once or twice per week.

Be sure to incorporate rest days, especially after a tough run. These are crucial for recovery and longterm health.

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Gear for Running with a Dog

I have a fully detailed about mytrail running gear set up, but the list below includes basic items.

  • Hands-free running leash. I personally only run hands free for better balance and use of both hands. Avoid using retractable leashes for running, unless you are working on off-leash recall.
  • Running belt or running vest. I include several options in my hands-free running post linked above.
  • Poop bags
  • Updated ID tag. I use a Road ID.
  • Water + Collapsible bowl

Check the Weather Conditions

Depending on the time of the year, the weather may not be ideal for your dog. Extreme temperatures can cause medical emergencies in dogs, so be aware before you head out.

Running in Hot Weather

During the warm weather months, your dog is at increased risk for various medical issues, such as:

  • Heat stroke
  • Heat Exhaustion
  • Burned paw pads
  • Dehydration

To avoid veterinary emergencies in hot weather, follow these tips for keeping your dog cool. Pay attention to your dog and keep an eye out for any signs of concern, including:

  • Excessive panting
  • Lethargy
  • White gums
  • Excessive drooling
  • Unresponsiveness

Plan your runs for the early morning and, if you can, run near a river or lake so your dog can hop in and cool off if they like. Bring extra water along to keep your dog hydrated and avoid the pavement, which can burn your dog’s paw pads.

Running in Cold Weather + Snow

At the other extreme, winter cold can affect your dog as well.

Jackets – Dogs with short coats or who feel cold easily may require a jacket. When running in the snow, check for ice balls accumulated in your dog’s paws or snow balls on their fur. If you notice them limping, that’s probably the cause.

Paw Protection – There are a couple of ways to protect your pup’s paws from the winter elements. The first option is a boot, like theRuffwear Polar Trex booties. The Vibram sole provides traction, and the insulated softshell fabric offers breathable, weatherproof protection in cold and inclement weather.

If you don’t want to go with booties, a wax-based paw balm likeMusher’s Secretprotects the paws from ice, snow, salt, and chemicals used on pavement during the winter months.

Above All, Know Your Dog

Not all dogs are going to be as excited about running as you might be. Never force your dog into a sport they don’t enjoy.


The Ultimate Guide to Running with a Dog 2023 - Long Haul Trekkers (3)

The Ultimate Guide to Running with a Dog  2023 - Long Haul Trekkers (2024)


What is the longest distance a dog can run? ›

If the dog is in top physical condition and the weather conditions are also perfect, some dogs can easily run further than a marathon, even taking on distances of 50 miles+. Think of sled dogs, for example. My own running dog is a weimaraner, a hunting breed meant to run through fields all day long.

Is 10 miles too far for a dog run? ›

How Far Can My Dog Run? According to my vet, dogs can run pretty much any distance, provided they follow a proper training program. Even as a senior dog at age 12, Sora regularly joined me on my long runs, up to 20 miles. Sitka's longest run so far is 23 miles.

Is 3 miles too far for a dog to run? ›

I did run with hundreds of different dogs through my business and almost all dogs could easily handle a nice, easy 3-mile run. They key is just to start slowly and very gradually build up their distance. Start with just a half-mile. Then increase the distance to 1, 2 and then 3 miles slowly over about a month.

Can my dog run a marathon with me? ›

Dogs with long, straight legs, like labs and border collies make great running companions.” To train for marathons or half-marathons, the two stick to a training plan, and depending on what they are training for, typically run 30 to 45 miles a week together.

How far is too far to run with your dog? ›

Use your discretion when running with a dog – I can't go more than 3 miles with my dog without feeling like I'm torturing him. Some hyper Labradors will run 10 miles longer than they should, and risk orthopedic injury, soreness, or heat stroke in the process.

Can a dog run 20 miles an hour? ›

In general, dogs can run about 15–20 miles per hour for short distances. However, some breeds are a lot slower than that, while others are capable of much faster speeds. A dog's speed depends on their physical composition, breed, and health.

Can I run 10K with my dog? ›

Hunting and herding breeds like German Short-haired pointers, Jack Russells, Border Collies and Kelpies tend to suit long distances (over 10km), while Greyhounds, Pitbulls and Golden Retrievers suit middle distances (less than 10km).

Can a dog run 100 miles? ›

"Breeds like the Siberian Husky can run well over 100 miles per day which is no surprise when you consider their work as sled dogs," says Phillips. Also, some hunting breeds, like the Weimaraner, were bred to chase game long distances and can put in several dozen miles a day with the proper training.

Is it safe for a dog to run 10K? ›

Labs, beagles and English setters are good for distances up to 10K, but if you want to spend more quality time with your pet, huskies, Goldendoodles, Weimaraners and Vizslas enjoy 10-mile-plus distances.

How long can a dog run safely? ›

With proper training and practice, some dogs can safely run for an hour, while others will fatigue after 15 minutes. Across the board, though, pet parents should hold off on running until their pup has reached 1.5 years of age. After that, their bones should be done growing.

Can a dog run a half marathon? ›

Ludivine's owner April Hamlin was surprised when she discovered that her pup had won a medal for her athletic skills, competing with over 160 participants. “I did not know that she had the discipline to run a half marathon. I know that she loves people, and she just likes to get out,” she said to Fox News.

Can you overwalk a dog? ›

Over-exercising a pup that hasn't finished growing can lead to development issues as they get older. At the other end of the scale, older dogs start to feel aches and pains. If they are stiff after resting following a walk, they are doing too much and may well need some pain relief to keep them comfortable.

What breed of dog is a good running companion? ›

The top five dog breeds for runners are:

Labrador retriever. German shorthaired pointer. Border collie. Jack Russell terrier.

What kind of dog can run a marathon? ›

Dogs that were primarily bred for work, on the other hand, are far more inclined to run marathons. Some good examples are German shepherds, German shorthaired pointers, Weimaraners and Dalmatians. (Note: DO NOT TAKE DOGS out for runs before they are a year or eighteen months old.

Is it okay to take dogs on long runs? ›

Running with your dog can be both healthy and fun for you and your dog. But it's important to ensure that it's safe for them and that you have the right equipment. Remember, not all dogs will enjoy running alongside you and it may not be right for your dog's breed, weight or temperament.

Can a dog run 45 miles in an hour? ›

The greyhound can run up to 45 miles per hour on average, making it the fastest dog breed globally, but not without some close competitors. The average speed for all dog breeds combined is between 15 and 20 miles per hour.

Can dogs run longer distance than humans? ›

There is simply no way that humans are the best long-distance runners on the planet. > The record time in the ididarod represents dogs running on average at close to that speed, through snow, while towing a load, for about 1100 miles.

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