10 Rules: Running with your Dog


My dog, Rodney, turns nine years old this spring. In “dog years,” this makes him an old man. But Rodney, who is a Weimaraner and weighs about 100 pounds, is fit and fast, healthy for the most part and still able to run for miles without a break. As a runner, Rodney has been my main training partner for years. Since 2003 — when he was a pup and I was a budding marathoner — the dog and I have run side by side collectively for thousands of miles and on harsh training days up to two hours straight. I’ve learned a few things along the way. From the experience, I offer these “10 Rules of Running with Your Dog.” Follow my tips to get the most out of training with a pooch leashed at your side.

1. Your Run, Not the Dog’s — As a serious runner, I think of my training runs as my own time to get in shape and practice my sport. The dog happens to come along. In other words, I am not “taking the dog on a walk.” I am going for a run (and my dog is coming with). There’s a fundamental difference.

Running with your Dog.jpg

Weimaraner dressed up and ready to run

2. Don’t Stop to Sniff — Continuing on the above “control” theme, don’t let your dog rule your run. Don’t let him or her stop to sniff fire hydrants and trees. That kind of activity can be reserved for walks. On the run, the primary activity is. . . running. You want to keep your pace and maintain a steady rhythm. Your dog will learn to love it, don’t worry. They are born to run, and all the sniffing and marking of territory can be saved for another time.

3. Be the Alpha! — Teach your dog to run at your pace and follow your lead. Don’t let him pull you or drag behind. Teach him to heel and observe your pace, your starts and stops, and your commands. This is your run, not the dog’s. You’re in control. Dogs love to follow the Alpha in the pack. Be the Alpha!

4. Keep Your Hands Free — Set up your leash system so that your hands are free. You need to be able to pump your arms and run naturally, so holding a leash in hand is a no-no. I wear a thin nylon belt with a plastic clip buckle. An end of the leash is looped around the belt, keeping the dog close and at my side. My setup is homemade. But companies like Ruff Wear Inc. and Stunt Puppy make belt-type leash systems ready to buy.

Running with your Dog - stunt puppy leash.jpg

Belt leash from Stunt Puppy

5. Short Leash — Your most natural running stride will be accomplished with the dog heeling close and running at your side. My dog runs about two feet to my left, and he’s on a short leash that does not allow him to wander. It takes some training, but most dogs can learn to run at your pace right along side. It is an efficient system for both runner and dog.

6. No Pull — Dogs love to pull, but on a run this is super annoying (and detrimental to the human getting maximum exercise). Do not let your dog get in front of you and pull. Establish this as a rule with your dog early on.

7. Corrective Collar — If your canine cannot resist pulling, look into a corrective collar. I use a “choke chain”-type collar on Rodney with short, dull spikes. If he pulls too hard off course, there’s a “corrective sensation” that quickly gets his attention and puts him on track.

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Posted by kuan - 01/06/2011 10:35 AM

My advice would be to train your dog using skijor and dogsled commands. This way when it comes wintertime your dog doesn’t get confused between pull/don’t pull.

Posted by Editor - 01/06/2011 11:05 AM

Re skijor commands. . . great point. I do that to an extent. Also, when I put the skijor harness on my dog he switches modes. He knows then that it’s time to pull!

Posted by Kate - 01/06/2011 02:57 PM

Excellent point w/ rule #1! It’s very important for your dog to have his own walks, but equally important that your dog learn to cooperate w/ your running plans. It means more fun and exercise for everyone!

Posted by Patrick - 01/07/2011 11:44 AM

I’m not so down with the hip leash because of the possibility of a squirrel or cat that might cross our path. I don’t want to end up face down on the concrete from the unsuspecting jerk that might come.

Also not cool with the metal barbed collar. They also make “choke” collars that are all cloth that give the same results but more humanely.

As for breaks, I’m not going to take my dog on a 2 hour run and never let her stop. I give her a 10 count. Once I reach 10 the break is done if she hasn’t already done or is doing her business. Of course she can try and abuse the ability to stop and so after I know she’s empty the rest opportunities stop.

Posted by Daniel - 01/12/2011 12:32 PM

Everything sounds great except the pronged choke collar. You talk about training your dog but use negative reinforcement with the collar. A better alternative would be a head halti. It fits over their mussel, similar to the way they “leash” horsed(minus the bit). If the dog pulls their head just turns around. The easiest way to control an animal or person is by their head. It also takes very little energy for the runner. I would also suggest using treats when you start out to let the dog know when they are doing what you want with a treat(positive reinforcement).

Posted by Josh - 01/13/2011 09:22 AM

that last picture is classic

Posted by jubrele - 01/15/2011 11:42 PM

“choke” collars are not at all more humane than “pinch” collars with the spikes. The intent is to correct the dog with a quick and strong enough sensation that will get their attention. Not to cut off their air supply by constricting their throat. Dogs have very tough skin around their necks – hence this is how their mothers lift them as puppies. The pinch collars do not harm them and are very humane for the most “enthusiastic” canines.

Posted by Henry Chinaski - 01/25/2011 10:48 PM

Short hair pup or not, the sweater needs to go. He’ll be fine.

Posted by Sandra - 01/10/2012 06:44 PM

The “Pet Zen Pack-It-Out Waste Containment” from Backcountryk9 is awesome for picking up after your dog on the go. I clip it to his harness and he can carry his own mess until we get to a trash can.

Posted by Jess - 10/27/2012 05:03 PM

I run with my dog EVERY TIME. She’s quite excitable but runs with a haltee on, She wears a BRIGHT ORANGE vest, in the winter she has a sweater just to whick up the sweat as she gets cold, and HIGHLY RECOMMEND HANDS FREE LEESH. on long runs she has her own backpack she carries. She has harley davidson poop bags to make her RUN faster and she drinks out of my water bottle I KNOW kind of gross.

Also WE USE a martingale NO a choke collar EVER!!!!!!

Posted by Rodney - 11/19/2012 06:22 PM

Make sure that your dog doesn’t have arthritis. It makes me even more cranky and neurotic every time you take me out for a long run, Stephen.

Posted by a veterinarian - 11/19/2012 07:22 PM

The biggest omission is this- Not all dogs are meant to run! And of those dogs that do run, not all of them are meant to run as far as serious runners may want to go on a regular basis. The most important thing is to know your breed, know what he or she can and should handle. A Golden Retriever cannot run 7 miles, while a Border Collie will hardly start panting at that distance. Get the right dog for your lifestyle and activity level and you will have a great, healthy running companion.
Oh- and don’t use a pronged choke collar. EVER!

Posted by Rodney - 11/20/2012 08:36 AM

I look so young in that picture above us. Those were the good ole days.

Posted by tony trapani - 03/28/2013 01:50 PM

I run with 3 dogs from 2-14mi. 2 off leash and 1 on no-hands leash and all with Houndgear harnesses. You have to know your dog and what sets them off. I’d love to put you in a choke collar!

Posted by Kirk (SpryFeet.com) - 04/28/2013 07:16 AM

If you want to take this to the next level, check out Running with Dogs: Dog-Friendly Races in the USA — http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CA5082I (You don’t need a Kindle device to read it.)

Posted by Claire - 01/21/2014 03:18 PM

I run my dobe in a harness with a waist belt with leg straps and attach to his harness with a line and bungee cord.

Keeping the belt low on your hips means you can anchor the monkey more easily and the bungee cord lessens the jolts

Doesn’t slow them down mind :)

Posted by Linda Dimet - 03/07/2014 06:47 PM

I have a Chihuahua/Daschund who loves to run. She chases bikes on the trail. I want to get a super light weight harness and leash, but cannot find any in local stores. Does anyone know where I can find some online?

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