The current state of our everyday life – social distancing thanks to Coronavirus – means no gym time either. Here are some simple tips to start running with your dog as an alternative, and advice from three dog owners who offer their own experience in starting out.
If you’re a dog owner looking for alternative physical activity because you can’t clock the gym or studio time (or a beginner runner hoping to use this time to get in shape), we pulled advice from three Gunner family members who are veterans when it comes to running with their dogs. Maybe they’ll inspire you – and Addison and the person writing this article, too – to pound some pavement or find some trails with your dog.
We talked to dog owners who run with their canine partner, and between their advice and our research from expert sources, here are the basics to start to run with your dog.
Owner: Elizabeth Walker, sister of Founder Addison Edmonds
Dog Name: Lilly
Dog Breed: Golden Retriever
Dog Age: 2 years old
What age was Lilly when you first start running with her? We have always taken her on walks since she was a puppy. When she was about 10 months old, I started running from one mailbox to the next mailbox, then walking to the next mailbox, then running on and off with her for our normal route we walked on. I really started running with Lilly when she was one.
Why do you personally like to bring your dogs on a run? Lilly LOVES going on runs. It’s so helpful to get her puppy energy out. I like having Lilly run with me because she’s always willing to run whatever pace I set. There will also be times in our run where she just looks up at me like she is smiling and that makes me happy.
Did you have to do any specific training with Lilly to begin running together? We did basic leash training as a puppy. I do try to run with her on my left side, as I run on the left side of the road, so that she is between me and the grass (not between me and the cars). We also got a dog harness for her. That way if she does pull she won’t be choking herself.
Did you and Lilly build up stamina together when you first started running, or was one more conditioned than the other? Well, I actually ran cross country and track in high school and college, so I do have a running back ground – but Lilly and I built up our stamina together, because I was out of shape after having our two kids. We just slowly built up our time we would run.
Any beginner’s tips from you, for others just beginning to run with their dog? Talk to them while you run. Praise them when they are running right beside you like you want them to. This can be helpful when you pass other dogs on the road. I can speak “Lilly” in a stern voice and she usually knows that means we just need to keep running.
Is this a family affair? Yes, when my kids want to go on bike rides we take Lilly with us! I am in charge of her, but she loves to run beside my bike. I still put her on a leash but she stays between me and the grass on my left side still. She actually does a pretty good job! When I don’t have tons of time and I know she needs to get some energy out (from all of this rain and being stuck inside) I’ll jump on my bike and let her run for 15 min or so while I ride my bike.
Before we had Lilly (and before we had children) we had a Great Dane. His name was Wallace and he was 170 pounds. We started running with him when he was one years old as well. He was a great runner and no one would come near us when we ran together! We did get a lot of people that starred at us though. My husband and I both trained for half marathons with him. Eventually he actually ran 10 miles with us a few times.
Start slow.. you don’t have to run a marathon the first day. Just set small goals for yourself. Example: 5 minute run/5 minute walk for 20-30 minutes, and then build up to 10 minute run/ 5 minute walk until it’s eventually all running!
Owner: Joe Graves, Gunner CEO
Dog Name: Maya
Dog Breed: Labrador Retriever
Dog Age: 10 years old
What age was Maya when you first start running with her? 10 months
Why do you personally like to bring Maya with you on a run? I originally started taking her because we were living in downtown Chicago and it was the only way to wear her out as young puppy so she wouldn’t destroy our condo. I kept running with her because she loves it as much as I do and I think we inspire each other to keep going even on the tough days.
Did you have to do any specific training with Maya to begin running together? We did a few different training classes as a puppy, including leash and voice commands, so she was pretty comfortable on a leash when we started, but I had to teach her a whole new set of commands (slow, right, left, etc.) to be able to run on sidewalks and in parks in a major city with a lot of pedestrians, bikes, and cars.
Did you and Maya build up stamina together when you first started running, or was one more conditioned than the other? She was in WAY better shape than I was when we first started. I was working crazy hours as an investment banker and in terrible shape and she had all the energy that 1-year-old labs possess.
I played soccer in college, but I had put my career ahead of my personal well-being at that time, so I can honestly say Maya changed my life in terms of health by getting me back into running.
Any beginner’s tips from you, for others just beginning to run with their dog? Definitely leash train and start slowly both in speed and distance. For it to be safe and enjoyable for everyone, you need to be in control, so start slowly and make sure your dog knows you’re the leader even if he/she is running out front. Similarly, don’t try to run 5+ miles your first time out. Start with a mile or less and see how your dog does physically and mentally and gradually increase to longer distances. Like any dog training, you need the right mindset going in and patience as they learn what you want them to do and you assess how much they can handle.
Don’t expect to set any PRs when running with your dog because they need to take breaks along the way. Sometimes it’s to go to the bathroom and sometimes it’s just to sniff around and smell the roses, which is something we should all do more often (roses, not bathroom). If you approach running with your dog with the right mindset, it’s one of the most fun and rewarding activities you can do together!
Owner: Patrick Richardson, Gunner VP of Finance
Dog Name: Molly
Dog Breed: Jack Russell Terrier/Dachshund mix
Dog Age: 9.5 years old
What age was Molly when you first start running with her? She was pretty young, probably around 6 months to a year.
Why did you start bringing Molly on a run? Her breed(s) have lots of energy. When I first got her I was in grad school at Ole Miss, and our house on Old Taylor Road did not have a fenced yard where she could run around for long periods of time. Running was a good way for her to burn up some of that energy – she loves it, and goes nuts when she sees the leash come out. It can also be good motivation to get yourself out to run and get in shape.
Did you have to do any specific training with your dog to begin running together? Not really, she already had the leash thing down so I just got out there and started taking her on runs. She picked it up pretty quickly, you just have to make sure they stay on one side so they don’t trip you or get in anyone’s way. She got used to being on the left side, so that is what we always did with her (my wife runs with her too).
Did you and Molly build up stamina together when you first started running, or was one more conditioned than the other? She always had way more endurance and stamina than I did. Even after periods of time of not running, she never lost a step while I would be huffing and puffing.
Any beginner’s tips from you, for others just beginning to run with their dog? Get them used to staying one side or the other, and stick to that so they aren’t tripping you up.
Be aware of the weather, especially heat in the summer time. Since dogs don’t sweat like we do to cool themselves down, it’s easier for them to overheat and can happen easier than you’d think. I still take her on runs in the summer, just not as long.
Our research on this topic lead us down a rabbit hole to some good stories. Check them out:
• Health benefits of owning a dog.
• This black lab has completed 18 half marathons and 2 marathons since being adopted.
• The 20 Best Dog Breeds for Runners
• Study finds dog owners walk more than people who don’t own dogs.
• If you have a short-nosed (“brachycephalic”) dog, such as a pug, boxer, mastiff or bulldog, running for them may too risky due to overheating.
• Want to Run a Fast 5K? Let Your Dog Pull You to Greatness
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