How to Run Safely with your Dog

  • By Caroline Denholm

Being a dog owner comes with a lot of responsibility, including making sure that your pet leads a healthy and active lifestyle.

Some people may choose to take their dogs running with them so that they can both enjoy their fair share of exercise at the same time. 

However, taking a dog on a jog can be extremely detrimental to its wellbeing if done irresponsibly.

When a puppy is young, the growth plates on the end of its bones will still be in the early stages of development. 

As the puppy grows older, these areas of developing cartilage tissue harden and become stronger, as explained by former veterinary hospital assistant Adrienne Farricelli.

Therefore, if a puppy is made to do particularly arduous exercise, such as going for a lengthy run on a lead along a hard surface such as a pavement, this can result in the dog sustaining long-term injuries.

According to Heather Loenser, a senior veterinary officer at the American Animal Hospital Association, a puppy’s bones will become fully developed at around nine months. 

While taking a puppy for a run is definitely a risky venture, jogging with your dog can be beneficial if done sensibly.

Here’s how to run safely with your dog, according to the experts:

Wait until your dog is the right age

As outlined above, it’s important to wait until your dog’s bones are fully developed before taking it for strenuous runs that can cause injury. 

Loenser told Tonic that pet owners should limit runs to less than a mile before their puppy has reached the age of nine months, avoiding hard surfaces such as pavements.

However, the ideal age for taking a dog for a run can vary according to its breed, as explained by animal behaviourist Sharon Wirant.

“You really should wait until a young dog’s growth plates [areas of cartilage near the ends of bones] have started to close, and that time frame really varies by breed and size of dog,” she said to

“A much smaller dog like a Jack Russell Terrier could probably start going on regular runs earlier than a larger dog, like a Great Dane, whose growth plates will take longer to seal up.”

Preparation is key

Just like humans, dogs need to warm up their muscles before they go straight for a run. 

“Warming up those muscles is a great idea for both you and your dog, and can protect you both against injuries,” said Wirant. 

Furthermore, you shouldn’t expect your dog to be able to run marathon-length distances from the get-go.

Your dog needs time to build its strength and endurance, so start off small before taking on those lengthier runs.

Keep an eye on the conditions

While older dogs may be able to handle running on harder surfaces, doing so frequently may not be the best idea for your pet's joints.

Furthermore, it may be preferable to take your dog jogging in an open space where they can run around freely off-lead.

“It’s important to remember that dogs jogging alongside people on-leash may be forced to move in an unpreferred gait pattern or speed,” said Chris Frye, assistant clinical professor of sports medicine and rehabilitation at the Companion Animal Hospital of Cornell University.

When a dog is running off-lead, this gives them the freedom to slow down or have a rest if they need a breather.

Therefore, if you do opt to run with your dog on the lead or don’t have the option to take them somewhere where they can go off-lead, keep an eye on how your pet is faring during the workout.

As spokesperson for the American Veterinary Medical Association Michael San Filippo explained, your canine friend may conceal an injury in order to keep up with their owner.

“Your dog will usually limit their activity when they’ve had enough, but sometimes they’ll go beyond their comfort zone to keep up with you,” he said.

“That’s more of a risk when running together, versus puppies playing on their own in the backyard.”

You’ll be able to recognise when your dog is acting unusually better than anyone else, so watch your dog scrupulously both during and after a run to check whether it's doing ok.

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