How to Train Your Dog for Running

Running Training Plan for Your Dog

Your dog can be a great running partner. Just think: He doesn't call to cancel a long run, or talk your ear off when you would rather enjoy the peace and quiet. He doesn't even care when you stop frequently for water. Yes, your furry friend very well could be your perfect running partner. But just like you, he needs a little training.

Leash Training

Use a short leash (2-3 feet) to keep your dog at your side. Take along a handful of his favorite treats and, with your dog at your side, start walking.

If he walks next to you, reward him with treats. If he tries to pull, stop walking and wait for him to stop. He will learn if he pulls, the walking will stop. When he walks with you, he will learn that he gets treats. Leash training may take a few practice tries to perfect, so be patient as he learns.

You will want to aim for a loose leash at your side. A harness is also a good accessory to use when walking or running with your dog, so you're not pulling at his neck area too much.

More: Must-Have Gear for Running with Your Dog

First Run

Before starting a running program with your dog, check with your vet to make sure he is physically ready and mature enough to start a program. Most dogs need to be at least a year old to begin a running routine. Younger dogs can become injured if they start a rigorous program too soon.

Start with an average-speed walk with your dog, alternating a few minutes of running here and there. Be prepared to stop to correct him if he tries to pull or dart away. Keep the first run short (less than a mile). If your dog lays down in exhaustion, you may have pushed him too far.

Always make sure he has access to clean drinking water during and soon after running, especially in warm weather.

How Far?

Dogs need proper conditioning just like humans to build up endurance. Continue the walk/run exercise and work up to performing longer running durations and shorter walking segments.

Give your dog a walk break every 20 minutes, or as he needs it. Be sure to cool him down at the end of the run with a few minutes of walking.

5K Training Plan

It's your dog's very own Couch to 5K? plan. Let's say you're aiming to run a 30-minute 5K with your pooch. You should start a regular running program that includes a 10-minute run a few days a week. Also add in a three to five minute walking warm-up and cool-down. You can aim for a run every other day. Remember to alternate walking and running if needed.

The second week of training, add 5 to 10 minutes to your runs. Continue training with your pup every other day. The following week, add another 5 to 10 minutes to your runs. Continue adding a few minutes each week until you reach your goal time of 30 minutes.

More: 10 Races to Run with Your Dog

What to Watch for

If your dog is running with flattened ears and heavy panting, he may be exhausted. Give him water breaks as needed and fuel for especially long or hot runs.

Above all, make sure to not push your dog too far and too fast. Just like you, an injury can sideline your dog from running—and then you're back to running solo.

More: 5 Tips to Exercise with Your Dog in the Snow

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About the Author

Amanda Casanova

Amanda Casanova is a writer and journalist living in the Dallas, Texas area. She has worked for the Houston Chronicle, the Abilene Reporter-News and the Galveston County Daily News. She is an active runner and regularly competes in races in north Texas. She is currently training for her first half marathon. She blogs at and tweets at @acasanova10.

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