Running with your dog
Whether it's a new resolution or you're just trying to get fitter, running with your dog can be great exercise for both of you.
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.
Tailor exercise to your dog
Different dog breeds will be built for running more than others. Examples of dog breeds that are likely to be better at running long distances include:
- staffies (Staffordshire bull terriers)
Speak to your vet about the recommended level of exercise for your dog’s breed or any conditions that will affect your pet's ability to run with you. We would discourage running with brachycephalic (short muzzle and flat face) or overweight dogs.
Before you start running with your dog
- Always speak to your vet before you start training with your dog to get the all clear. This is particularly essential if your dog is older, overweight or has any existing health conditions.
- As with any new exercise programme, if you’re new to running then have a chat with your doctor before you get started
- Leave at least two hours after your dog has had a meal to avoid any stomach problems caused by exercising too soon after food
- Younger dogs should not be given too much vigorous exercise. Their bones are still growing, and, if put under too much stress, they may experience complications later in life. Your dog should be fully grown before running alongside you.
- Make sure your dog does not pull on lead and their recall is good so that you are confident they'll listen to you when you're out and about
- Find the right routes. Dogs don’t have the advantage of trainers. If you’re running on tarmac they could be prone to impact injuries, plus it can be very abrasive. Grass and dirt trails are good, and sand or woodchip are also better.
- Make sure you get the right equipment
Dog gear for running
It's likely that at least some of your run will be with your dog on lead, so there's some important equipment that you'll need to keep your dog safe:
- Lead – make sure you're never pulling your dog along and that the lead is not interfering with their movement or breathing
- Dog harness – instead of attaching your lead to their collar, use a well-fitting harness as this is often more comfortable for your dog if they occasionally pull or you have to stop suddenly. Some harnesses can interfere with a dog's movement and rub, so make sure you do your research and get the correct one for your pet.
- Waist belt – if suitable, you can attach a lead to this belt rather than holding it
- Camel pack – this holds enough water to make sure you and your dog stay hydrated
- Folding dog bowl for water
- Flashing dog collar if you're running in the dark
- Poo bags
Starting running with your dog
There are some key things to consider when beginning to run with your dog:
- Take it easy at first and build up slowly to avoid an injury. Alternate between walking and running, and run for short distances initially.
- If your dog is unfit, run at their pace, give them plenty of breaks and allow them to stop when they want. Give them plenty to drink and gradually increase your distance and speed over time.
- Watch your dog's body language. If they show signs of struggling to keep up or not wanting to run, stop straight away to give them a rest.
- If your dog doesn't enjoy it, don't force them to continue
- Make sure they have some fun playtime and plenty of opportunities to sniff during the day too. A run should not be your dog's only enjoyment.
Always make sure they've had the chance to go to the toilet before you set off. Running will often cause a bowel movement in dogs.
Running with your dog in warm weather
In warm or humid weather, choose to run in the early morning, find routes with plenty of shade and avoid long runs.
Heat exhaustion can kill, so stop, find a shaded place, soak their coat with cool water and give them water to drink if you see these signs:
- excessive panting or difficulty breathing
- excessive foaming at the mouth
- drowsy and uncoordinated
- shaking their head
- pulling to the side
- reddened gums
Dogs can overheat even in cold weather. Be particularly careful with dogs that have long coats and watch your dog's behaviour after a run to make sure they're not showing any signs of being too hot.
Remember that dogs will not always show signs that they are tired, so it's better to be cautious.
• 20 January 2023
• 19 January 2026