It’s often said that you have to “walk before you can run,” and this holds true when prepping your dog to be your jogging companion. Once your dog walks well with you (keeps up with your pace, ignores distractions and stays to one side), you can introduce short spurts of jogging or running into your routine. Simply give a cue, briefly increase your pace, then reward with treats, toys or praise.

While most dogs enjoy and benefit from regular runs, brachycephalic (short-nose) breeds like Pugs, Boxers, Bulldogs and Shih Tzus are more prone to breathing challenges and might be happier watching from the sidelines than jogging for long distances. If your dog is up for a run, you’ll want to keep a few best practices in mind:

  • Just like humans, dogs need to build endurance, so start small and increase distance and speed over time.
  • Hydration is key. Monitor your dog for heavy panting, carry water with you and avoid running with your dog in extreme humidity.
  • Pavement can be extremely hot on paw pads in hot weather, so keep your dog off of asphalt in heat.
  • Puppies are still developing, and running can be hard on their bones and muscles. Wait until your dog is about 18 months old to introduce running.
  • Make sure your vet examines your dog and gives the “ok” for running, and always stop when your dog shows signs of fatigue.

Looking to add some more excitement to your dog’s jogging routine? You may want to consider canicross, which blends cross-country running with exercising your dog. Canicross originated in Europe, where mushers introduced it as a way to exercise their sled dogs during the off season. Today, any dog that’s healthy, fit and able to run is also able to participate, but working breeds tend to pick the sport up particularly quickly.

In canicross, a dog is attached to a human by a harness and bungee-cord leash, which is designed to minimize pulling and shock. While the dog is in front, the human issues commands from behind – commands like “go gee” (go right), “go haw” (go left) and “on-by” (keep going).

To try canicross for yourself, you’ll need the right gear. Canicross harnesses are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased online. Get your dog used to being tethered to you by walking short distances while gradually increasing speed and length. Like any cross-country sport, canicross is primarily off-road, so you’ll also want to invest in the right running shoes for the terrain.

Whether it’s canicross or jogging, your dog’s ability to perform will come down to training, body condition and nutrition. Once your dog is ready to run, consider Eukanuba™ Premium Performance 26/16 Exercise, which was made specifically to deliver the nutrients that running dogs need.