Why Run With Your Dog?

Personal training for dogs. You’re kidding, right? Actually, no, we’re not. Research suggests up to 40% of our dogs are overweight, and they suffer from the same health complications that overweight people do. Veterinarians (including myself) are becoming more and more concerned about the increase in joint pain, heart disease and other obesity related illnesses in dogs. Hence, Pooch to 5k. Dogs can’t lift weights, or use the gym. If you’re going to increase their fat burning, you need to increase the intensity of their exercise. This means that a daily stroll just won’t cut it any more, it’s too laid back. The Pooch to 5k program will help you get your dog from doing nothing much to comfortably running 5km, over a period of 12 weeks.

Because you’ll be running with your dog, you’ll also get a great workout three times a week, as you train yourself to run 5km. Why not subscribe to our dog health and fitness newsletter and grab your dog, and you’re ready to go!

Aug
03

At What Age Should You Run With Your Dog?

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This is something I’m asked often. There is no cut and dried answer to that question. It depends on so many variables.

Some breeds of dog are bred to run. A fine example is my Australian Working Kelpie, Guinness.  He was raised on a sheep station, and those dogs are mustering sheep in the paddock from quite a young age. I started running with Guinness when he was just under 12 months old.

Some breeds have inherent orthopaedic problems, and in those breeds, I’d hold off a while until their body is more physically mature.

Smaller breeds of dog are physically mature before larger ones, so it’s safe to say you can start running with a Jack Russell Terrier before you can start running with a German Shepherd Dog.

Veterinarians recommend that growing pups and dogs don’t participate in “forced exercise”. That is basically any exercise that they wouldn’t participate in with dogs of the same age. One guideline to consider is that a 5-6 month old dog is physically comparable with an 8-10 year old child. How much forced exercise would you allow your pre-teen child?

I think it’s a matter of plain common sense. For most breeds, 12 months is a reasonable age to start a running program. Start gently, don’t run too often, and keep him on soft terrain such as grass and trails. Make sure you watch him, because a lot of dogs don’t want to stop when they should. It’s up to us to keep their enthusiasm in check.

Photograph of the gorgeous puppy by Normanack

Categories : Dog Health

21 Comments

1

My jack Russel has been running at least 5k every day since he was a year. Me on the bike and him running by the side. He loves it and his behaviour improved soooo much. A tired out dog is a happy dog!

2

Jack Russells are the best little dogs. A huge personality in a compact muscly body. Love them!

3

I have a 6 month old German Shepard puppy. My last German Shepard was an excellent running partner, but I can’t remember the age at which I started him running. They are known for having orthopedic problems, and my last dog had to have surgery on his hip. I’ve already started my puppy on joint supplements. I should wait until he is 12 months to begin a running program?

4

Hi Lauren, definitely wait with your German Shepherd and perhaps even wait a little longer, until he is closer to 18 months old. He’ll be more physically mature then. Have fun!

5

I have a Labrador and was told no forced running until at least 18 months.

6

Thanks for the comment, Kim. We always recommend asking your vet what’s best for your individual dog.

7

My Austrailian Shepherd, Lily, is 9 1/2 months old. Are Aiuatrailians prone to joint problems and is it too soon for her to run shorter distances. I’m trying to improve my own running and wouldn’t be taking her further than a mile- which she typically walks daily already? Suggestions?

8

Aussies can have hip dysplasia, but the Aussie breeders I know are meticulous about x-raying their breeding stock so they produce sound puppies. I think at that age, you can start something gentle like Pooch to 5k because Aussies are a working breed and designed to be active. Let us know how you get on :-)

9

I have a harrier beagle. He’s very energetic and we are active owners. I think running would be good for him as he rarely tires. He’s currently 7 months old and we go on lengthy walks. Do you think 12 months would be a good time to take him running or wait longer?

10

Hi James, if your dog has been built up and is comfortable with long walks, I personally don’t see any problem with starting at 12 months. Just keep an eye on him and run at his pace and ability level. I’m sure he’ll enjoy it :-)

11

We have a beagle and she is 5 months old. We read somewhere that you should only exercise her 5 minutes per month of age. This was not working she is too full of energy. We are taking her on a couple of mile walks and she is trying to run the whole time. Are we doing her any harm? What conditions would she be prone to? And would she be ok to take on very gentle jogs ( as tried just faster than walking pace for a mile and everytime I slowed she was on her back legs pulling in the lead). Have to admit we did walk her 4 to 5 miles, when we let her off the lead she ran around for 10 to 15 minutes at full pelt, before she settled for a nap, but worried we are exercising her too much and what can we do to calm her down.
Many thanks
Louise.

12

Hi,

I have a 10 month old beagle x Jack russell, Winnie! She’s very energetic and was bred from farm working beagles.
I’ve just been given a mouthful from a stranger whilst jogging with Winnie saying that she shouldn’t be doing anything like until she is 18 months old. She’s off lead so is free to potter when she wants and keep up with my chilled pace if she wants too. We alternate jogging and power walking as I am mindful of her joint development. But we go on good walks every day which has been gradually built up over the last 6 months.
Now I’m feeling incredibly guilty, that I’m damaging her joints :-( She loves it and I cant even put my trainers on without her getting excited. Should I ease off the jogging for a few months or continue with the relaxed pace that we do at the moment until she’s older?
Apologies for he super long post but this woman has really irritated me especially if she’s right.
Thanks

13

Hi Jane, sorry you had that unpleasant experience. :-( I’ve been unable to find any firm scientific evidence that indicates there’s a specific age for starting running; 12-18 months seems to be the arbitrary age given by most people, which ties into when the growth plates in the legs close.

This paper lists the age at which growth plates close – https://s3.amazonaws.com/assets.prod.vetlearn.com/mmah/48/37155337d24e34963af2fc8e4cdce3/filePV0709_Von-Pfeil_P1.pdf

If you look at it, it says that they’re all closed around 12 months of age, and that’s in a 25-30kg dog. It also mentions that closure may occur earlier in smaller animals. I doubt very much that your mix weighs anything near 25kg! So, I’d assume the growth plates in a 10 month old smaller dog are very likely to be closed already.

If you check out the training regime for these sled dogs, they have their first run attached to the sled with the team at 6 months of age. I’d be prepared to bet that this isn’t the first run these pups have had, they are likely to have had free running. http://www.snowyowltours.com/training/

Looking at people’s growth plate closure, that doesn’t happen until late teens yet I’ve personally seen a 9 year old boy run a half marathon. Growth plates sure weren’t closed then. http://www.medhelp.org/posts/Orthopedics/What-bone-age-do-the-growth-plates-completely-close/show/996787

So, in a nutshell, if I owned a dog like yours, I’d be doing the same as you, but if you’re unsure, have a chat with your own vet who knows your dog better than I do.

14

Hi Louise,

Your question is similar to that from Jane, even almost the same breed :-) I agree, the arbitrary 5 minutes per month of age leads to a lot of frustrated dogs with too much energy. I have no idea where that number came from, but it seems to be accepted as fact now.

According to this site, Beagles are at risk of hip dysplasia, loose kneecaps and osteochondrosis dissecans. These are all orthopaedic conditions that can lead to lameness and chronic joint disease. It may be worth asking her breeder about the incidence of these diseases in her lines, because they all have a heritable component. It wouldn’t be a good idea to exercise a dog with orthopaedic problems unless advised by your vet.

http://www.yourpurebredpuppy.com/health/beagles.html

On the other hand, this study suggests that running a young dog may improve joint fluid and cartilage thickness – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3278079
This one found that “The opportunity to exercise daily in parks up until the age of three months reduced the risk of hip dysplasia”- http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120326112842.htm

Doesn’t make it easy to figure out what’s best for your dog, does it? I don’t see a problem with a couple of mile walks. In spite of the conflicting science, I’d be hesitant to do too much jogging/running in a 5 month old, purely because if there is any damage, it may affect the rest of her life. Running off leash is different because she’s in control and again, I can’t see an issue with 10 minutes free running.

One thing I found with Guinness is that mental exercise can be as tiring as physical exercise. Maybe try some trick training or teach her tracking, as well as keeping up the physical activity she’s doing. Do you have somewhere local where she can swim? That will allow her to exercise without putting any weight on her limbs. Depends on where you are; here in Aus it’s sweltering but not so nice in the northern hemisphere for beach or lake visits :-)

It’s not too long til her growth plates close and you can start running her a bit more.

15

Hi everyone,

I began to run with my female staffy when she was about 1. I think terrain and speed are also important factors. I run slowly, (about 9kph) in the woods with few hills. Undre those conditions the 4 yrs old staffy can accompany me at a mild trot and it seems she could go on forever. We did a 15k yesterday and she sped up really easily when she wanted to.

I think an important thing is to have a very well trained and obedient dog that will always come back when called. Like that you can have her off the lead and she’ll ajust speeding up, stopping to play with another dog, catching up after which makes it more fun for her.

Be careful if it’s hot, and if you’re packing water for yourself, you should have some for the dog.

My 3 cents

16

Hi there. I have a 10 month very active border collie who I would like to start running with. Being a Border do you think it would be alright to start him off slowly now?

17

Hi there, apologise for the delayed response. Your boy is now 11 months and I think it would be fine to start Pooch to 5k at this age in a working breed. The first few weeks are very gentle and shouldn’t be too taxing on his legs. Have fun!

18

I have a 6-7 month old Weimaraner (rescue so I am not sure of the age). I ran 2 miles with her yesterday (11 min/mile) and she loved it, then got home and she ran in circles with my Mastiff for 20 minutes so she had plenty to spare. I hate to think I should wait 6 more months to keep running her. thoughts?

19

It’s not so much the running when they’re young, but the forced running. Young dogs can be allowed to run freely when playing because they have the option to stop when they feel like it. I agree it’s not easy to wait when you have a young fit dog who is keen to run, but current veterinary recommendations are to wait til 12 months at least, depending on breed. It’s up to you where you go from here.

20

Hello ! It’s great to see your answering questions and helping people out, I know I seriously appreciate it.

I have a 6 month old Siberian Husky, this is not my first dog nor is it my first husky so I understand their problems with hip dysphasia and more, that’s why I’m wondering if it’s okay to start a few weeks shy of 12 months for that reason ? Or is there a chance she would be okay because she is part of the working breed aswell and 5 mile walks honestly feel like they don’t cut it sometimes. I’ve never ever forced her to run alongside me, I tested out biking with her a couple times just to see how she would react compared to my other dogs and she absolutely adored it. She runs beautifully next to me and honestly drags me to the bike sometimes. I just don’t know what else to do to help with that energy level for the next 6 months. She has a backpack she wears while walking and I’ve bought a treadmill and sled (+ classes we are planning on going too) but I’m guessing that has to wait as well.

Any ideas to help us out ? Thank you very much.

21

Hi Taylor! I don’t think a few weeks shy of 12 months is a big issue in a lean and otherwise healthy dog. However, 6 months early I think is a bit much. Do you know her breeder to ask about any history of hip issues in her lines? One thing I’ve found with my boys is if they can’t run for any reason, mental activity tires them out too. Have a look at clickertraining.com and see if there are any tricks that take your fancy. A tired brain can take the edge off an active dog for sure. Have fun!

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