As many as one in five of American Dog Obedience Center clients ask about running with their dogs. It’s a trend, gaining in popularity. Many distance running events have even begun to include divisions for people running with their dogs.

It’s understandable that people see their dogs running in the yard with so much joy and assume more running would be better and a LOT of running would be best.  We absolutely applaud everyone’s efforts to include your dogs in your leisure activities and to provide exercise for yourselves AND them. 

To most people, meeting “running” goals with a dog seems only a matter of skill: teach the dog its human’s choice of position and teach the dog to maintain its human’s choice of speed. No doubt, skill is VERY important. You want to RUN WITH your dog, not dragged behind your dog! By “running” people mean for sport or exercise, in human terms, not running with their dogs in the backyard chasing birds & balls. When you are running, YOU don’t want to stop and sniff the ground or chase squirrels but, without training, your dog might be inclined to explore those dogly activities along the way. 

But there is much more to this athletic pursuit than behavioral training. We want you to be your dog’s best advocate, so let’s dig a little deeper into the dogly issues that surround this new phenomenon we refer to as 6-legged running. Human runners know that to become the best runners they can be, just running is not enough. Even the most basic principles human runners apply to themselves can reveal important issues to consider before running with your dog.

  1. Running, as humans envision it, is a human idea, not your dog’s. S/he did not invent or suggest this activity. Be sure running with you is mutually rewarding. 
  2. Growth plates. Everyone who lives with a puppy under two years of age should research growth plates. In short, growth plates are soft areas at the ends of long bones. Growth plates close (thin) as bones become longer and they normally close at varying times 10-24 months of age. Your veterinarian can determine when growth plates have actually closed. The important thing to know is that until growth plates close, they are soft and vulnerable to injury. The most frequently referred to cause of growth plate injury is repetitive, concussive exercise with a young dog. Not too surprising, then, that NIH states the top reasons for growth plate injuries in human children as falling down, competitive sports, and recreational activities.
  3.  Running surfaces. Consider the impact of surfaces (concrete, asphalt, grass, dirt, sand)  as carefully for your dogs as human runners do for themselves. Consider carefully that dogs don’t wear shock-absorbing and protective shoes so surface temperature and items on surface tops (rocks, stickers) matter a lot to your dog’s bare feet. Agility dog handlers are known for their careful consideration of surfaces, to the extent that they rate “dirt” at various facilities. Their concern is for their dogs primarily, themselves secondarily.  
  4.  Core development. Human runners cross-train to develop more than their legs! They know that a strong core stabilizes their bodies while they run and supports proper form as they fatigue. To improve your dogs’ endurance and form, with an eye toward injury prevention, your goal should be to maintain an activated core with every step your dog takes. That requires a commitment to develop a strong core in the first place. We can help with that!

Just as we develop cross conditioning skills for agility dogs, we are also able to introduce you to fitness skills for your athletic running dogs. Refer to our Canine Fitness webpage for exciting video and information about our special brand of canine fitness skills training for super athletes and rising stars – including 4-legged running partners.  


Photos taken by or licensed to Kris Butler through Fotosearch,com.

Copyright 2017 Kris Butler, all rights reserved.