When can you start running with your dog? Here’s the Answer

Teach Rex the Ropes

Runners may assume they can haul their dog along on a run and the animal will just know what to do. If that works for you, thank your lucky stars, but dogs can be confused, crazy, even dangerous on a run if you can’t control them. Here’s how.

Smaller breeds of dog are physically mature before larger ones, so it’s safe to say you can start running with a Jack Russell Terrier before you can start running with a German Shepherd Dog.

Some breeds of dog are bred to run. A fine example is my Australian Working Kelpie, Guinness. He was raised on a sheep station, and those dogs are mustering sheep in the paddock from quite a young age. I started running with Guinness when he was just under 12 months old.

I think it’s a matter of plain common sense. For most breeds, 12 months is a reasonable age to start a running program. Start gently, don’t run too often, and keep him on soft terrain such as grass and trails. Make sure you watch him, because a lot of dogs don’t want to stop when they should. It’s up to us to keep their enthusiasm in check.

Veterinarians recommend that growing pups and dogs don’t participate in “forced exercise”. That is basically any exercise that they wouldn’t participate in with dogs of the same age. One guideline to consider is that a 5-6 month old dog is physically comparable with an 8-10 year old child. How much forced exercise would you allow your pre-teen child?

Some breeds have inherent orthopaedic problems, and in those breeds, I’d hold off a while until their body is more physically mature.

How much running should a puppy do?

It’s all about balance and common sense.

Personally, since my puppy is extremely high energy (explosive!) and too smart for his own good, I have always sided on getting him out and about for proper exercise, training and socialization. I said exercise first for a reason. He needs it.

For me, the risk of not exercising my particular puppy enough is a more serious risk than overdoing it. Keeping him exercised keeps him somewhat manageable.

Being a serious runner, I know that 1, 2 or even 3 miles really is nothing for an active, sporting breed. Even for a puppy.

I’m not taking my puppy out for 5-mile runs. YET. We’re not doing intense workouts. We don’t sprint. I don’t even throw the ball over and over and over.

These 2-mile, light runs are my way of taking it easy on him. We might go at a 10-minute per mile pace, tops. Usually slower.

And I still worry I’m overdoing it!

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When can you start running with your dog?

The Ultimate Guide to Running with Your Dog | Dos and Don’ts

I want to have an honest discussion on when it’s safe to start running with a puppy.

We cover more ground when running. Running seems to remove the need for training or leash manners. When I run with my dogs, we naturally ease into the same pace. Frankly, it’s one of my tricks for teaching “heel.”

Distractions that become a big deal while walking (other dogs, friendly strangers, interesting smells) seem to disappear while running. My young dog focuses on the task at hand – being with me.

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