A blog by runners. For runners.

Running with dogs: How to get your pup into race shape

How to get your dog in racing shape.

We are dog lovers here at WalkJogRun. We’ve already covered the best dogs for runners, how to start running with your dog, tips for racing with your dog.

Now we bring you how to get your dog in race-ready shape. Follow these training tips with your dog, and your furry friend will be set for his or her first 5K:

  • Assess your dog’s current fitness level. Can your dog already run several miles alongside you or does he take more of a run-walk-stop and sniff approach when you attempt to run with him? Just like people, dogs who are already used to running a few miles won’t need as much time to train as pups who aren’t as fit. If your dog isn’t used to exercise, get him active by walking with him and playing fetch in the backyard. Then slowly help him work his way up to running. Follow a run-walk approach. Start by adding short spurts of running to your walks. As your dog gets in better shape, he’ll be able to increase the frequency and duration of the running intervals.
  • Follow a smart training approach. If you train for races, you know the basic rules: gradually increase the length of your runs and number of miles you run per week throughout training, only do one or two speed workouts per week, do easy runs regularly, and take enough rest days. You don’t have to follow a set training program with your pup (though we do have “Dog Training Plans” on our app if you’re interested!), but keep these running rules in mind when training with your dog. Be especially careful not to over-train your dog. If he looks especially tired, let him take a few extra rest days and consider slowing down the pace of your training runs.
  • Run on the same surface as the race. If it’s a road race, find a paved path to train on. If it’s a trail race, make sure your pooch trains on trails. This will get your furry friend’s paws used to running on a certain surface.
  • Keep training positive. If your pup wants to stop running every 10 seconds to sniff trees, don’t reprimand him. Rather than punishing bad behavior, praise good behavior. This way, your dog will see running as a positive experience.
  • Run with others. Find a popular trail or running route, and train with your dog there. If your pooch isn’t used to be surrounded by other people – and dogs – when he runs, then the race day crowds may make him feel uneasy.
  • Run with your dog on a leash, even if there are no leash laws in your area. Your dog will most likely need to run on a leash on race day, so training using a leash will get you both used to it.
  • Have fun. Animals are unpredictable. Go into the race without any expectations. Even if your dog is in tiptop running shape, he may freeze on race day or want to sniff every shrub you pass on the race course. Expect the unexpected and have fun with your pup.

Have you raced with your dog? What was the experience like?

Written by Jen Matz.