10 Tips to Turn Your Dog Into an Amazing Running Buddy

According to The Monster Milers, a Philly non-profit running group that takes shelter dogs for jogs.

The Monster Milers take adoptable shelter dogs out for runs in Philly. Photograph courtesy The Monster Milers.

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If you’re the proud owner of a new dog, you’ve probably already been on your fair share of walks. If you love running, you’ve probably thought to yourself how efficient it’d be if your dog could simply go running with you — the dog gets some exercise, and so do you. Win-win, right?

Well, running with a dog — especially one that’s early in his training — is easier said than done. That’s why we reached out to The Monster Milers program manager Alegra Halderman and her team for tips. The Monster Milers are a Philly-based non-profit running group that partners with shelters to take their adoptable dogs out for runs, which means their team knows all about turning untrained dogs into excellent running buddies. Below, find their top tips to turn your pup into your new best running pal.

Start with the right gear.

“We recommend Martingale collars, regular nylon leashes, a running belt to attach the leash, and a BIG pack of poop bags. Although many running belts will advertise that they are a ‘hands-free system,’ they should never be used as such! Consider it a back-up system while STILL holding onto the leash at all times for both the dog’s safety and for your own. Why so many poop bags? Well, running gets more than just the leg’s moving.”

Pay attention to your dog’s running style.

“Respect your dog’s athletic personality and abilities. We have worked with hundreds of dogs — all shapes, sizes, and breeds — and ALL of them have different running styles. It’s important to find out their style and focus on working with that. Keep in mind you will never know until you’re out there! Just like humans, running dogs come in all shapes and sizes and run at all paces.”

Watch out for signs of exhaustion.

“Be attuned to your running buddy at all times. Many dogs will run with you until they are ready to drop, just to be with you. Watch their breathing, their stride, and pay mind to their paw pads. If they slow down, you should too. If they stop for a break, you should too.”

And keep your environment in mind.

“Check the weather forecast and plan your runs accordingly. Remember that your dog is going to be even hotter then you are. Maybe even plan a route that passes through shaded areas or water bowls (many businesses in Philly put them out!) before you go. While on the run you need to be constantly aware of what is happening around you. Watch for cracks in the sidewalk, curbs, and cars!”

Be ready for sudden stops.

“While running with a dog it is quite common to be moving along nicely and then STOP suddenly for a sniff, a potty, or a squirrel. Many dogs will zig-zag in front of you and may not immediately run alongside of you. With practice and your training/support, they will improve.”

Give a shout before you pass someone.

“Always call your passes (as in: ‘Passing on your left with a dog!’), especially when approaching another dog or a child. Even if your dog is kid/dog friendly, the one you are passing may not be, especially when startled.”

Be prepared to deal with their energy.

“Keep your leash short-ish and your dog under control. If your dog starts the run with a sprint, don’t panic. They will likely slow to a more reasonable pace within a block or two. You will be surprised at how naturally most dogs will run by your side. If your dog starts to go wild, practice ‘body blocking.’ Place yourself between your dog and whatever is causing this reaction. This shows your buddy, ‘Hey, I got this. You can chill.'”

Be a good encourager.

“Reward and play with eye contact throughout your run. When a dog looks at you they are checking in. Praise them for it and reassure them with your eye contact from time to time as well. This will show your running buddy that you are right there, paying attention to them, and will help keep them calmer and build their confidence while out on the run. Your voice will also motivate and invigorate them throughout the run.”

Don’t freak out on them.

“Work on not reacting to every little thing and let your dog be a dog. They may stop suddenly, they may pull on the leash, they may want to sniff every darn thing. Don’t rely on yanking back, correcting, yelling, or getting yourself all worked up and tense. These things can all be counterproductive and anxiety-inducing for the dog. Try to stay calm, cool, and collected. Praise them as they trot by your side, or try giving massages or ear rubs when your buddy exhibits good behavior. We are working towards a well-behaved and well-adjusted dog, not a dog that obeys because of fear. In time, they will learn the rules of the road.”

Remember: This isn’t about getting in a good workout.

“Your dog is not interested in PR’s or gold medals. This run is about the time you spend together and the bond you are building. Focus on the dog and their wants and needs while running. Running with your buddy may be a great supplement to your training plan, will likely keep you motivated to get out there regularly, and is GREAT for the dog, but don’t force your dog to do the work that you want.”

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