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One of the greatest perks of raising a dog is having a best bud to tag along with you - anytime, anywhere, and as often as you’ll let them. The fact that they’ll eagerly join you for exercise or daily runs is just a bonus.
No matter what your reason - whether exercise becomes monotonous, you need a little extra motivation to get you going, or you just want to kill two birds with one stone by getting everyone’s exercise in together - your pup will always be there, happily waiting.
If you’ve yet to test to waters on duo exercise outings or haven’t quite nailed the art of teaching your dog the running essentials, keep reading for 5 commands your pup should know before logging any miles. Once they’ve mastered these, all that’s left to do is lace up and hit the road (or trails!).
1. Sit and stay
We’re doubling up on these two basics because there’s a good chance your dog already knows them. That being said, as simple as they might seem, they could end up saving your dog’s life.
When you’re running, there are lots of fast moving parts coming into play. Cars, people, and other animals are constantly being thrown into the mix. If your pup can’t sit at a stop light without pulling on the lead to keep going, their safety is at risk (and so is yours).
Teach basics like sit and stay at a walking pace before ever attempting a run. Pick up the pace slowly to make sure you’re both still in control at a jog. Once your dog gets up to running speed for the first time, they might get over excited and forget to listen, so practice until you’re both comfortable.
2. Heel, or “pace”
This is another potential life saver you should never overlook.
You might have already taught your dog to heel, which is an excellent start. When running, it becomes even more vital by acting as a reminder for your pup to keep pace and avoid drifting ahead or to the side.
Your dog doesn’t necessarily have to stay behind you while running, but they shouldn’t be pulling on the lead, and they should stay close by you at all times (imagine someone getting caught in the lead between you and your dog at a running pace...ouch).
Again, start by teaching this one at a walking pace, and slowly pick it up once your pup no longer pulls ahead or to the side.
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3. Right, left, and stop
If you’ve never attempted to jog with your pup, giving them “right” and “left” directions has probably never crossed your mind.
When you’re both traveling at running speed, you approach a corner, and end up heading in opposite directions, though, you’ll be faced with a bit of an issue.
Unless you follow the same route everyday, your dog will never know which direction they’re supposed to turn when you approach stop lights or corners. When running, they easily switch into a “work” mentality. That means, if you see a red light and know to stop, they might keep plowing right through in an attempt to keep up the pace (or they might enthusiastically go right when you go left).
4. Leave or drop it
Training your dog to run distraction-free is tough. It’ll take time. In the beginning, they’ll likely want to stop and sniff every single tree, curb, and water fountain you pass by.
They’ll also want to grab sticks or other fun things off the ground. And on occasion, they might even try to pick up something dangerous or harmful, like trash that’s been left out on the sidewalk.
Teaching your dog to “leave” or “drop” something is useful all the time, but even moreso when running. Not only will it make your jogs smoother and more enjoyable, it’ll keep your dog safe.
Fortunately, this is a command you can work on at home; you don’t have to be out walking to train it. One of the best ways we’ve found to teach a dog to “drop it” is by using small treats as training tools and rewards (be sure to take some out on your runs, too).
This one’s an all-encompassing cue for your dog to hone in on what you’re saying.
It’s easy to get lost in a run - to let your thoughts drift away and simply focus on the task at hand. You and your dog can both easily lose your awareness, especially on long stretches of uninterrupted trails or paths.
But while you might drift off from noticing what’s going on around you (and only focusing on what’s ahead), your dog is the opposite. They’re more likely to lose focus on what’s ahead, while becoming acutely aware of what’s going on around them.
If you’re approaching a turn, stop light, group of people, or other animals, train your dog to “focus,” or, in other words, give you their attention and get ready to listen for commands to come.
This “trick” can make all the difference between your dog reacting to your commands, and your dog reverting to old habits and forgetting everything they’ve learned.
Teaching your dog to focus can be intertwined into all their training. Anytime they get distracted, remind them to focus and listen. Once their eyes are on you, reinforce the good behavior with a treat or praise.
Extra Running Tips
Only run with your dog once they’re fully developed and it’s safe to do so (check with your vet first).
Know whether your dog’s breed, age, and health history are safe for running.
Keep them hydrated, especially on hot days or longer runs.
Be careful with the pads of their feet; let them toughen up before increasing the mileage.
Be on the lookout for signs of dehydration or heat exhaustion.
Always use positive reinforcement with treats and praise while training.
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