Is Running Safe for Dogs?

Are you taking up running as your new year’s resolution? Or maybe you’re looking to stretch your legs during quarantine and COVID restrictions. No matter the reason, running never goes out of style. The question: is it safe for dogs? The short answer: it depends. While your pooch can be an excellent workout companion, there are some things to consider before signing you both up for the next marathon.

Factors to Consider

When deciding whether running is right for your pet, consider the following:

  • Breed
  • Age
  • Health
  • Environment

Breed

It goes without saying that some breeds are better suited to strenuous activity than others. The general rule of thumb is: the longer the legs, the better the breed can keep up with a human running pace. The following breeds are well-suited for steady, long distance running:

  • Weimaraners
  • German Shorthaired Pointers
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Labradors
  • Siberian Huskies
  • Dalmatians
  • Vizslas
  • Rhodesian Ridgebacks
  • Poodles
  • Border Collies

These breeds were typically bred to work long hours alongside farmers, pulling sleds, or hunting making them excellent partners for long runs.

The following breeds are better suited for short distance running or sprinting. They were built for racing and speed, not necessarily enduring long-distance exertion.

  • Greyhounds
  • English Setters
  • Pit Bulls
  • Beagles
  • Belgian Sheepdogs
  • Pharaoh Hounds

Brachycephalic dogs – Pugs, French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, Boxers, Pekingese, and Shih Tzus – do not do well with any sort of long distance activity. Their respiratory system takes up a smaller amount of space, making it difficult for them to breathe. Because they cannot easily cool themselves, they are susceptible to overheating and exhaustion.

While small dogs, like Corgis and Dachsunds, are capable of running short distances, their little legs have difficulty keeping up with humans when it comes to running. Keep in mind that these dogs have to double, sometimes triple, their gait in order to keep up with a single human step. Keep their running distances short.

Age

Age matters. Running is not safe for dogs considered too old or too young. Due to their developing bones and joints, it’s recommended that puppies not be allowed to run long distances until at least 8 months of age. Puppies can suffer from permanent conditions if they start running too early. Remember that giant breeds develop more slowly; these breeds should be given even more time to properly develop before they begin to jog.

Senior dogs might have difficulty running, as well. Most seniors lack the stamina of their younger counterparts, and health conditions, such as arthritis, heart disease, or respiratory disease, can make running painful or even dangerous for older dogs. When in doubt, always consult your vet to see if your dog is healthy enough for jogging or running.

Health

No matter what your dogs age or activity level, always consult with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s exercise routine. Some breeds are more prone to health issues – like bone cancer, hip dysplasia, heart and respiratory diseases, muscle and joint issues – than others. Be on the lookout for these issues based on your dog’s breed.

Like humans, your pup won’t be an all-star athlete overnight; you’ll have to build endurance and strength first. Keep distances short, taking care not to increase your distance by more than five percent each week. Always warm up! This prevents you and your pup from future strains and injuries. Remember to stay hydrated with short, frequent water breaks with small amounts of water each time. Never exercise immediately following a large meal, and give your pooch time to recuperate after the workout – don’t feed them until they’ve had ample time to rest.

Environment

The environment you exercise in is just as important as your dog’s health. Keep in mind your dog’s ability to focus and keep up either on- or off-leash. Remember to do what is safest and best for the both of you. Dirt trails and natural terrain are better on your dog’s joints than asphalt. Just be sure to check the leash laws and local wildlife sightings.

Temperature is an important factor, as well. Hot weather risks include heat stroke, dehydration, paw burns or damage, and sunburn. Dogs overheat easily, so save your runs for the coolest parts of the day, like early morning or late evening. In warmer months, run in the shade when possible, and avoid asphalt, blacktop, or concrete which can burn your pup’s paws. Cold weather risks include hypothermia, frostbite, and antifreeze poisoning. When running in snow, avoid roads and paths that have been treated with salt. This solution can sting their paws or upset their stomach if ingested. Canine booties can help spare their paws, but if your pup isn’t too keen on wearing shoes, paw salve or wax can protect their feet. Depending on your pooch’s coat, they might need a jacket or sweater when outdoors.

Remember to keep an eye on your dog. It’s easy to get in the zone but keep in mind that you are your dog’s buddy, too. Pay attention! Jogging and running is a great bonding experience, and it helps keep you both mentally and physically stimulated. Be safe and be responsible.