4 Steps to Start Running with Your Dog

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4 Steps to Start Running with Your Dog

Do you ever wonder how people get their dog to run right behind them? It’s really not as hard as you may think. Here are some easy tricks to train your dog to jog with you, as well as tips to make sure you keep your jogging buddy safe.

To start your training, stay around the house or in a low-distraction area; you will get more success and less frustration if there are fewer things for your dog to get distracted by.

Step 1: Establish the “Heel” Position

The first thing to work on is body placement; teaching your dog to position himself behind you in a heel is very important.

When you start the heel position, pick the side you are most comfortable walking your dog on and stick to it during the training process. You can eventually teach your dog to heel on both sides, but in the beginning, just pick one. From now on, when you reach for a treat, whether you are on a walk or in your house, give it to your dog only when he’s in the heel position. You are no longer rewarding without intention. Your dog will learn when he hangs out at your side, treats flow, including when you are on a walk (or jog).

One thing to note is if you have been rewarding “sit” or “down” when your dog is in front of you, it might take time for him to figure out this is a new game. You are simply changing things from a front position to a side position. At first, you might have to turn your own body so your dog goes from being in front of you to being at your side in the heel position. Then give the treat. Your dog will eventually learn that the heel position gets him the most rewards, and he will seek out your side. Treat placement is a clear way to convey what you want without a constant battle of wills.

Placing dog in heel position

Step 2: Get Moving

Once you have your dog positioning in a heel, start adding movement. By walking around and making random turns with your dog by your side, your dog learns that regardless of what you do, he should stay in the heel position. This also helps him stay engaged with you; we are much more exciting to our dogs if we stay interactive and in motion.

Step 3: Pick Up the Pace

Now that you have him turning with you, you can start teaching him to pace with you. Pacing is very important for both the runner and the dog. To help your dog understand changes in speed, try this simple game:

Start by walking at your normal pace. Then start to speed walk, making sure you are giving your dog treats for staying in a heel and pacing with you. Go back to your walking pace, giving treats as you slow down to make sure your dog doesn’t just run past you. If he does end up in front of you, just reposition him back into a heel and continue the game. He will realize the game only happens when he is in the proper position. As you reinforce your dog’s ability to follow your change in pace, your dog will realize that this is part of the game and stay engaged while anticipating your changes in speed.

Moving with dog in heel position

Step 4: Run!

The goal is to go from a walk to a run with your speed varying in the transition, all while having your dog stay in that heel position. Have fun with it! I’ve had many training sessions in the park where I run around with my dog in varying patterns and speeds, all while keeping her in a heel and engaged.

Running with dog in heel position

Some More Tips for Jogging with Your Dog

A few things to keep in mind when jogging with your dog:

  • Make sure you slowly increase your distance so you don’t to hurt his paw pads.
  • Watch out for the hot summer temperatures. Make sure your pup has plenty of water and it’s not too hot to run.
  • Sidewalks and asphalt can get dangerously hot and can burn paw pads. I always take a shoe off and put my bare foot on the surface my dog is walking on. If I can’t handle it, neither can he.

Get the right gear:

  • Use a shorter leash, which is easier to manage when running. I start all my dogs on four-foot leashes.
    Keep your dog fueled efficiently, especially on longer hikes and runs. I use PowerBones, which are a high value, nutritious and transportable.
  • Find the right pouch ideal for delivering treats while running. The typical clip-around-your-waist-big-treat-pouch doesn’t really work when you are in motion. Here are a few things you can try: a small waist pack, the flip belt, or a low-profile hydration pack that has pockets in the front (I use the Ultimate Hydration Jenny pack). You need to make sure we can effectively reinforce even while running.
  • Don’t forget a portable water dish to ensure your pup stays hydrated.

Your dog can be your best running partner if you take the time to teach him what you want him to do. Remember to always use positive reinforcement and enjoy this time together. Happy trails!



About the Author

Amber Pickren, Gentle Canine

Amber Pickren, BA, CPDT-KA, is the owner of Gentle Canine in Durango, Colorado. After earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology, Amber found her passion working with dogs and has never looked back. With a specialty in behavioral issues, she has been training dogs since 2004 and easily handled over 10,000 dogs in the span of her career. Amber and her husband Matt share their life with dogs Lilly, Imogene, and cat Dyno. They love getting out into the mountains and enjoy rock climbing, trail running and hiking with their four-legged adventure buddies.
Amber Pickren