Going for a run? Don’t forget about your four-legged fur baby! Dogs are great running companions, and we’ve got pro tips to prove it. From expert dog trainer Bryan Bailey, here some top tips for running with your dog.
Q. In your opinion, what are the benefits to running with your dog as opposed to solo or with a human partner?
A. Ha! Dogs don’t complain about running or make excuses not to run! On a serious note, dogs are great motivators because most dogs can run at a faster pace than their human counterparts. Training with a well-conditioned dog can help you achieve your next PR. Dogs also serve as protectors of sorts. It has been proven many times that human attackers avoid runners and walkers with medium to large sized dogs.
Q. You’ve mentioned not all dogs are conditioned for long runs. How would you suggest people go about finding the right pace and distance for their dog?
A. You will have to experiment by starting with shorter runs and slower pacing and then slowly increase both the distance and the pace. Because your dog won’t yell at you to slow down, you will have to keep an eye on the location of your dog at all times. Dogs that stay out ahead of you tend to have no problem with the distance or the pace. Dogs that lag behind you are most definitely having a problem with either or both. If your dog lags, it may be time for a short water break or you will need to slow the pace. If the pace slows significantly and the dog still lags, then it’s time to think about finishing the run. If you have a long way to go to finish, you will need to walk the rest of the way for your dog’s safety.
Q. Dogs pant a lot (for example my dog seems out of breath when he gets excited). What are some ways you can tell your dog has reached its running limit?
A. Refer to question 2 for most of the answer. However, keep in mind that it will be difficult to tell if your dog is panting too much while running. My sled dogs in Alaska would run 70 kilometers at a blistering pace with their tongues hanging out the entire time. The position of your dog (in front vs. behind you) is a more reliable indicator of the dog reaching its limit.
Q. How do you feel running with your dog can improve the overall human/canine relationship?
A. Dogs are domestic wolves and still share the instinct to run and chase that is typical of a hunting wolf pack. By running with your dog, you are essentially going on a hunt together and anything we humans do to resemble what wolves do in the wild, the stronger our bond with our dogs will become. As a bonus, a tired dog is a much easier dog to live with!
Q. My dog is super distracted by other canines when walking/running. How do you suggest helping your dog overcome this ‘excitement?’ i.e.: choosing less crowded time of day
A. It is best to train your dog to remain under control when encountering any distractions, to include other dogs, along your running route. By doing this, your dog’s behavior will not dictate the time or location of your runs; you will. I would suggest training your dog to switch sides, in relation to your body, upon command when running. This will place your body between your dog and the other passing dog and help deactivate any aggressive behaviors that may develop by putting you in the middle and in control.
photo: Bonnie Pfiester
Q. Humans eat certain foods pre/post workout. Do you have an opinion on the best dog foods/treats for long distance runs?
A. The multi-billion dollar pet industry will try to convince you that your dog needs the equivalent of Gatorade, protein shakes, and other supplements to help them run and recover better. However, your dog will do just fine on premium dog food and clean, fresh water. Wolves do not have the benefit of food or water for days at a time, and yet, they are able to run over 100 km per day over rough terrain.
Q. We don’t want to discriminate against any breeds, but what dog breeds are known for, or best for being a running partner?
A. Breeds such as, Siberian Huskies, Vizslas, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Weimaraners, German Short Hair Pointers, and English Setters, make great long distance partners that can easily accommodate distances up to half marathons. Labradors, German Shepherds, Border Collies, and Australian Cattle Dogs, are good choices for the 10k or less runner. Bassett Hounds, Dachshunds, Pugs, etc., make terrible running partners, and they should only be made to run outside to go potty. In the wild, the pursuit of food/game often requires wolves to run distances of over 100 kilometers per day to accomplish a successful kill. They are the ultimate extreme athletes! However, our domestic wolves (dogs) have been fed from bowls that have not run from them for hundreds of years. This has resulted in genetic drift which has left most of our dogs with the physical ability to travel 100 kilometers only by way of an S.U.V. That being said, it is very important that you choose a running partner that has retained the physical abilities to run the distances you desire.
Photo: Bonnie Pfiester
Q. What is your advice for dog owners who want to be active with their dog, but don’t necessarily have the best breed for a running partner?
A. You can try walking or hiking with your dog as an alternative. You can also pursue other active outlets such as dog agility, dog obedience competitions, or rally sport. All of these can create a fun, social activity that would require lots of practice and movement.
Bryan Bailey is a nationally-recognized, award-winning animal behaviorist, who has shared his expertise with Fox & Friends, WGN Chicago, SiriusXM, SheKnows.com, Dog World, At Home Mid-South Tennessee, Bloom Magazine, and Fox News, along with veterinarians, dog owners and celebrities.
Bailey’s unique qualifications also include: nationally-certified Master Trainer and Pharmacotherapy Behaviorist, decorated veteran of the U.S. Navy, working extensively as a supervisor and trainer for the U.S. Navy’s dolphin and sea lion projects, honor graduate of the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy with duties including training supervisor of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department K-9 narcotics detection, and search and rescue teams, and trainer for the Indiana Department of Health and Social Services to train service dogs for children with Muscular Dystrophy. He has also studied canine problem solving and pharmacotherapy at Cornell and Tufts University, wolf behavior and social dynamics at Battleground Indiana and Ely Minnesota wolf conservatories, is a certified Veterinary Technician, and has professionally shown dogs in AKC Obedience, Conformation, Schutzhund and Ring Sport. Bailey and his wife, Kira, reside in Memphis, TN, with their children, dogs, and cats. Together, they own ProTrain Memphis and Taming the Wild.
Learn more about Bailey at www.TamingtheWild.com.