Ah, running. There’s nothing like the rush of endorphins, the wind in your hair… and your pup pacing along at your heels. Here at Atlas, we believe that lacing up and hitting the road is infinitely more fun when your four-legged best friend is by your side. Here, our essential tips for getting your kicks in with your favorite canine.
Rules of the run.
Before you even consider teaming up for a trot, your dog’s leash manners should be on point. Your pup should be comfortable staying at your dominant-hand side with a loose leash; if he’s a puller or a bunny-chaser, first try some training walks or slow jogs with high-value treats to bring his attention back to you when he tries to bolt. Then you can work up to a run as he gets the hang of things - without risking crossed leashes and skinned knees.
At crosswalks, practice stopping and bringing your pup’s attention to you, either with a verbal command or training treat. You want him to get in the habit of looking to you for the “okay” to cross before darting into the street.
As a rule, it’s best to give other runners, walkers, and dogs a wide berth when you pass them on the trail. Even if your dog is friendly, you can’t control how other humans or pups will react to oncoming foot traffic and sudden movements. Although we think they’re crazy, remember that not everybody loves dogs. Erring on the side of caution will save everyone some undue stress.
Tip: Our Lifetime Harness is awesome for runs because it puts less stress on your dog’s neck and provides more stable control than a collar would. Slower dogs who lag behind a bit can stick to the front-clip option; more powerful pups who tend to pull do best with the harness reversed and readjusted so it clips at the back.
Find your pace.
Dogs live in the moment and are driven by impulse - the concept of “going out too hard” is totally lost on them. It’s up to the human to find a pace that’s comfortable for both of you.
Ideally, your dog should be comfortable running at your side, panting, but not gasping. Although it might be motivating to have your pup gunning full-steam ahead in front of you, don’t let him push the pace much - getting burnt out or injured ruins the fun for everyone. For more athletic dogs, this might mean that your “run” is more of a trot for them - less of a challenge, but still lots of fun.
If your pup has trouble keeping up, consider taking him on your “cool-down” jog instead of the whole loop. That way, you can still spend quality time outside without compromising anyone’s comfort or fitness goals.
Bumps in the road.
So you’ve brushed up on leash skills and are striding together like pros - you’ll be racking up miles in no time, right?
Not so fast - there are still some hurdles to consider.
Never underestimate the weather. Extreme conditions can be harmful at best and fatal at worst.
For summer heat, try this quick trick: before hitting the pavement with your pup, place the back of your hand against the asphalt for five seconds. If your paw can’t stand the full test, neither can his. Not only will running on hot pavement burn his pads, but absorbing heat through his paws increases the risk of dehydration and heatstroke.
Freezing temps carry their own hazards. Salt and ice on sidewalks are brutal on dog paws, while chemicals in de-icers can cause sores when stepped on and nausea when licked. Winter is a good time to consider shortening your runs to minimize exposure to the cold, and investing in some water-resistant boots can make snowy runs more enjoyable for sensitive paws (as well as provide some belly-warming laughs while they learn how to walk in them).
Tip: a waist pack or hydration pack are good spots to stow all of your canine running essentials - poop bags, training treats, and a cell phone for emergencies. Collapsible water bowls are useful for runs over 30 minutes, and non-negotiable during hot summer jogs.
Enjoy the journey.
Dogs have the magic to turn a routine activity from a chore into a bonding, blissful experience. Running should be a joy - a wagging tail and trotting paws are the best reminder of that.