This guide covers everything you need to know about training your dog to start running with you.
Running with your dog is a fun (and healthy) way to spend more time together. And having a running buddy that is always up for a run is a great source of motivation.
If you haven’t ran with your dog before, it’s important to put in some practice. Don’t worry though, dog running training doesn’t have to be a chore.
Dog Running Training
To train your dog to be the perfect running companion, check out the following tips.
How to train a dog to run with you (Hint: teach basic commands)
When you are out and about running with your dog, it is vital you communicate with them. It goes without saying really that knowing some basic dog commands is vital.
Dog training can be summarised, very simply as:
- If your dog is doing something right: praise them.
- If your dog is doing something wrong: tell them.
- If you want your dog to do something specific: command them.
Your voice is one of the most powerful tools you have. Using it effectively will help you build you dog running partnership. There are a few useful commands to teach your dog if they don’t know already:
7 Basic dog commands
This is a simple one, but can be really useful. Maybe you need to pause for a break, wait at the roadside before crossing or stop to tie your shoelace. Whatever the reason, sometimes it will good for the whole running party to have a quick sit down.
2. Leave it
Often, there are strange things out there when out running, particularly if you are out running trails or going off the beaten track. Things like: leftover food, dead animals, feces and so. You don’t want you dog to pick up something dangerous or disgusting or both. Train your dog to leave things with the permanent command: leave it.
Bit of basic lead etiquette here, but it will help you no end if you are running with your dog on a leash, or even if they are off lead. Sometimes you are going to want your dog to come close to you and be by your side. Maybe you are on a narrow path, need to avoid some cyclist or walkers. Or maybe another runner who doesn’t like dogs.
4. Start and stop
This seems so obvious. Teaching your dog a specific command to start running helps them to tell the difference between a walk and run (hopefully). Likewise, stopping is vital, whether that be any obstacles you encounter or at the end of your run.
You’d be surprised at what your dog can understand. Teach a dog basic directions really helps to keep your runs smooth and as interruption free as possible. I like to keep it fairly simple with Left, Right and Forward.
6. Street Crossing
Its pretty likely that at some point you will need to cross a road or walk on a street. So it’s important you have a command for knowing when to cross the road. You don’t want your faithful companion to run in front of a car because they didn’t know they needed to stop. This doesn’t bare thinking about.
7. Emergency recall
If you are going to be running with your dog off lead/leash, this is incredibly important. You dog needs to have a single command which means: stop everything and come to me right away. Keep this command fresh in their mind, you’ll never know when you’ll have to use it.
Choose a running style
Depending on which running style you choose will alter how you run and the equipment you’ll need, so think about what will work best for your and your dog.
Just because you pick one doesn’t mean you can’t do the other. I find a mix of both off leash and on leash running works well.
For example, when near roads or busy trails, I will run with my dogs on a lead. But when I’m on trails which are quieter, I’ll let them run off lead and do their thing.
On leash vs off leash
Off leash or on leash, that is the question. So, what are the difference?
On lead running means your dog is attached to you via a special harness and lead, whilst off lead running means your dog is running free.
There are pro’s and cons of both. Ultimately, it is up to you. There is no right or wrong answer. If you are choosing to run with your dog off leash, you can probably skip this next section. Though I wouldn’t, as it is useful to know and might change your mind.
Running with a dog on leash
Why would you want to teach a dog how to run on leash:
Some people can be uncomfortable with unleashed dogs, they can chase other runners, approach individuals who are nervous with dogs and sometimes just cause general mischief.
Remember: just because you know your dog is a big softy, doesn’t mean other people do.
Keep in mind other dogs. Unfortunately, some people don’t bother to train their dogs. Dogs can be unpredictable. You don’t want any dog to be hurt if it could have simply been avoided by putting them on a leash.
Depending on what part of the world you are running in, there could be dangerous animals around. It doesn’t take much for a snake to bite a dog or a rabbit to lead a dog into the middle of a road.
Running without a leash
Why would you want to teach a dog how to run off leash?
That’s the main one. Obviously your dog is going to enjoy it more if they can run freely. Likewise, you will also be able to run without them attached to you.
Not only is it great physical exercise for your dog, it’s also a great mental exercise. Exploring while off leash stimulates your dog’s mind. Sniffing and working out routes improves their mental agility.
Running with a dog that pulls
When it comes to running with a four-legged furry engine attached to you, there’s a question that always comes up:
Should I let my dog pull when we run?
Whether or not your dog pulls when you run comes down to two things:
- What you as a dog owner want and expect of your dog
- What your dog’s natural inclination is.
Oh and by the way, these could be two very different things. You need to decide how you want your dog to run with you.
Some people want their dog being in front and ‘leading’ as a counter for everything we ask of our dogs as owners. While some people prefer to have them by their side so the pulling doesn’t affect their running.
Other people may like the dog pulling in front as you can see what the dog is doing and gives you chance to make quick decisions. Cani-cross runners in particular favour this. For others, having the dog up front sight with the lead tight is the preferable option.
What’s more, many runners find having a pulling dog helps to increase your running speed. Mushing type dogs like Huskies have a natural need to pull. Some dogs need the extra challenge of pulling weight behind them. Some need to burn off extra energy. On the other hand, some dogs may have never pulled and may never.
The point is: do what feels natural for you and your dog.
Training your dog to pull while running
If you want, you can train you dog to know the difference between walking and running. Training your dog to pull can be useful if you want to keep the two activities separate. No need to spoil a nice leisurely stroll by accidently sprinting away from loved ones.
Make the two activities feel distinct by using different leads and harnesses for running than you do for walking. Try and use specific running commands.
If your dog won’t pull, get someone to run or cycle in front for your dog to chase. Praise the dog when you feel the pull and reinforce your run/go command. Also, by keep using commands as you run, or simply just a bit of praise, it is possible to reinforce the idea that you are in charge. The dog may be in front, but it’s under your command.
A good tactic is to make your dog stop when not necessary, make eye contact and then resume the run. This further enforce the idea that you control the run.
It’s important to note: this only applies to running. At first, you dog may try to run when you are walking. So it’s good to reinforce good walking behaviour.
Different commands and different gear can help this.
Training your dog NOT to pull while running
Training your dog not pull, and to instead run by your side can be done in the same way you teach your dog not to pull while walking.
There are various ways to train, however you trained your dog to walk on a loose lead: do this when you run. Whatever you choose: make sure your dog understands not pull on lead. No exceptions.
Walk before you run, and establish a good loose leash. Gradually increase the speed from there until you are running. Correct your dog if there’s any pulling. You can try turning away from the direction your dog was pulling. This tells your dog that pulling forward means they don’t get to where they are going.
Be sure to give your dog whatever you are using as a heel command. Consistency is key here.
Like with all training, be sure to praise you dog if they get things right. You could use treats, but you need to be careful not to feed too much while running. This can cause bloat which is potentially fatal in dogs.
You could try using a no pull harness. This makes it uncomfortable for a dog to pull. When the dog tries to pull, the harness pulls them to the side. Dogs wearing this type of harness will naturally prefer to keep the leash loose. In theory anyway.