Trail running with your four-legged friend can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Not only will you get some exercise for yourself, but your canine companion will also get the chance to stretch their legs. Canicross – the act of running with your dog – can be a great way to get your heart rate up and make the most of your outdoor adventures with your furry friend. It’s a great way to bond and explore new places together. And the best part is, all you need to get started is a good leash and a pair of running shoes. In this blog post, we’ll provide tips on how to leash up and lace up to make the most of your runs with your canine companion. We’ll discuss how to find the right gear, training tips, and safety measures for running with your pup. So let’s get started!

The Benefits of Trail Running with Dogs

Running with your dog offers a multitude of benefits for both you and your furry friend. First and foremost, it’s a fantastic way to get in shape and stay active. Running is a great cardiovascular exercise that can help you improve your endurance and burn calories. Plus, it’s a lot more enjoyable when you have a loyal companion by your side, eagerly keeping pace with you.
In addition to the physical benefits, running with your dog also strengthens the bond between you two. Spending quality time together, and sharing the exhilaration of a run, creates a deep sense of connection and trust. It’s a shared experience that strengthens the bond of companionship.

Running can also help to alleviate behavioural issues in dogs. It provides an outlet for their energy, helping to reduce anxiety and destructive behaviours. Regular exercise can also lead to improved overall behaviour and a calmer demeanour.
Lastly, running with your dog allows you to explore new places and enjoy the great outdoors together. Whether it’s a neighbourhood park or a trail in the countryside, running with your dog adds an element of adventure to your fitness routine.

Before You Start

Let us start by stressing that you shouldn’t run with a puppy. It is recommended that you wait until their growth plates have completed development. For some dogs, this can be sooner than others. Some dogs don’t fully develop until they are 18 months old. Smaller dogs may also be ready to run sooner than larger breeds.

Also, consider the breed of dog. Small dogs like Dachshunds have little legs and can’t go as far as those that are built for more vigorous exercise. Brachycephalic dogs such as French Bulldogs and Boston Terriers also aren’t built for running. Examples of dogs that make great running partners are:

  • Australian Shepherds
  • Border Collies
  • German Short-Haired Pointers
  • Hungarian Vizslas
  • Rhodesian Ridgebacks

If your dog has a health condition such as hip dysplasia, or arthritis or is older in age, you should avoid doing too much exercise with them. It is a good idea to check with your vet if you have any doubts.

Choosing the Right Equipment for Your Run

When it comes to trail running with your dog, choosing the right equipment is essential for a safe and enjoyable experience. The most important piece of gear is a reliable leash. Look for a leash that is comfortable to hold, sturdy, and long enough to allow your pup some freedom of movement while still keeping them close by your side. A hands-free leash that attaches around your waist can be a game-changer, allowing you to have both hands free for optimal running form.

We ordered a simple one from Amazon when we started out. Once you are confident that your dog likes running, and that is an experience you want to enjoy further, you can look at more expensive options.

running with dogs

A Well Fitting Harness

Another crucial item is a well-fitting harness for your dog. A harness distributes pressure evenly across your dog’s chest, preventing any strain on their neck or throat. Make sure the harness is adjustable and secure, ensuring a snug and comfortable fit.
Consider investing in a hands-free running belt or a running vest with pockets to carry essentials like poop bags, treats, and a collapsible water bowl. It’s also a good idea to have a few reflective accessories to keep you and your dog visible during low-light conditions.

Lastly, invest in a pair of comfortable running shoes for yourself. Proper footwear will provide support and cushioning, preventing any injuries or discomfort during your runs. We can offer lots of advice on the best trail running shoes if you prefer to take your dog off-road, away from traffic and other distractions. We must stress that you follow the rules of the trail and keep your dog on lead when in fields with livestock.

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Prepping Your Dog for a Run

Now that you’re all set with the right equipment, it’s time to prep your dog for a run. Before heading out, it’s important to ensure your dog is physically ready and comfortable to hit the pavement with you.

  • Start by gradually increasing your dog’s activity level. Just like humans, dogs need time to build up their endurance. Begin with shorter walks or jogs, slowly increasing the distance and intensity over time. This will help prevent any injuries and allow your dog to get used to the idea of running.
  • Make sure your dog is properly hydrated before heading out. Offer them water about 30 minutes before your run to ensure they are well-hydrated. During longer runs, carry a collapsible water bowl and stop for frequent water breaks.
  • Also, be mindful of the weather conditions. Running in extreme heat or cold can be dangerous for your pup. Avoid running during the hottest part of the day, and in colder weather, consider getting a doggy jacket or booties to protect their paws.
  • Lastly, don’t forget to warm up your dog before your run. Start with a brisk walk or some light stretching to get their muscles warmed up. This will help prevent any strains or injuries.

Running Safely with Your Dog

Running with your dog is not only a fun and healthy activity, but it’s important to prioritize safety as well. Here are some tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable running experience with your canine companion.

  1. First and foremost, always be aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye out for potential hazards such as traffic, uneven surfaces, or other dogs. It’s important to choose routes that are safe and suitable for both you and your dog.
  2. When trail running with dogs, it’s crucial to have good lead control. Make sure your dog is securely attached to their leash and that you have a firm grip. Avoid using retractable leashes, as they can be unpredictable and make it difficult to maintain control. They are also a trip hazard to others.
  3. It’s important to consider your dog’s limitations. Not all dogs are built for long-distance running, so be mindful of their breed, age, and overall fitness level. Take breaks when necessary and always listen to your dog’s cues. If they’re showing signs of fatigue or discomfort, it’s time to slow down or stop.
  4. In addition, be aware of the weather conditions. Avoid running during extreme heat or cold, as this can be dangerous for your dog. On hot days, stick to shaded areas and bring water along for both you and your pup. In colder weather, consider dressing your dog in a jacket or booties to protect them from the elements.
  5. Lastly, make sure your dog is properly identified. Ensure they have a collar with up-to-date identification tags, including your contact information. It’s also a good idea to have your dog microchipped, as this provides an additional layer of identification in case they were to become lost.

Tips for Making Runs Fun and Engaging for You and Your Dog

Trail running with your dog can be a fantastic way to bond and have fun together. To make your runs even more enjoyable, here are some tips for making them fun and engaging for both you and your furry companion.

1. Mix up your routes: Running the same route every day can get boring for both you and your dog. Explore new areas, try different trails, or even go on a running adventure to a nearby park or beach. Changing up your scenery will keep things exciting and stimulate your dog’s senses.

2. Incorporate games and challenges: Make your runs interactive by including games and challenges along the way. For example, you can play a game of fetch during a break, or set up a small obstacle course in a park for your dog to navigate while you run alongside. These activities will not only keep your dog engaged, but they’ll also add an extra element of fun to your workout.

3. Use positive reinforcement: Reward your dog with treats, praise, or playtime during and after your runs. This positive reinforcement will reinforce good behaviour and make your dog look forward to your runs together. It’s a win-win for both of you!

4. Practice obedience training: Trail running with dogs is an excellent opportunity to reinforce obedience commands. Incorporate commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “heel” during your runs. This will not only enhance your dog’s training but also keeps them focused and engaged.

5. Give your dog breaks and rest days: Just like humans, dogs need breaks and rest days too. Listen to your dog’s cues and take breaks when needed. It’s important to balance exercise with rest to prevent overexertion and injury.

6. Have fun and enjoy the moment: The most important tip for making your runs fun and engaging is to simply have fun and enjoy the moment with your dog. Let go of any expectations or goals and focus on the joy of being together, enjoying the fresh air, and embracing the bond you share.

Cool Down and Recovery

After a satisfying run with your furry companion, it’s important to take some time for cooling down and recovery. Just like humans, dogs benefit from a proper cool-down routine to help prevent muscle soreness and stiffness.

To start, gradually slow down your pace and transition into a brisk walk. This allows your dog’s heart rate to return to normal gradually. While walking, encourage your dog to stretch by gently massaging their muscles and gently extending their limbs.

Once you’re back home, give your dog some time to rest and recover. Provide them with a comfortable spot to relax and make sure they have access to fresh water. Consider offering them a healthy snack or treat to replenish their energy levels.

During the next day or two, monitor your dog for any signs of fatigue or discomfort. If they appear excessively tired or are experiencing any limping or difficulty moving, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian.

Canine Nutrition

When trail running with dogs, it is critical to ensure that they are getting enough nutrition. If a dog is burning more calories, they are going to need more food. Our top tips include:

  • Feed a complete balanced diet to ensure they are getting everything they need. We raw feed our dogs simply because we believe it is healthier for them and the diet that nature intended.
  • Add a supplement designed to give them all the extra nutrients they might need. We choose ProDog Revive and add it to their meals post-workout.
  • Don’t feed them an hour before or an hour after exercise. This can cause your dog to vomit
  • Avoid bloat by ensuring you don’t run with them when it’s too hot and that they don’t drink excessively. Take their water bowl away after they have had a quick drink.

If you want to discover more about trail running with dogs and how you can get into this outdoor pursuit with your canine companion, there are lots of Facebook groups you can join. Just search for one in your local area and you will soon be meeting like-minded individuals who can help you further. Another idea is to go along to your local park run – dogs are welcome and you may just meet some new running companions.