dog trail running

Tips for Trail Running with your Dog

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Trail running with your dog is a very rewarding activity that your pooch will absolutely love you for. Running with your dog is not only a healthy activity for both the owner and the dog, but adds a level of safety and an increased quality of life. However, it is an activity that requires a degree of planning, for both safety and enjoyment.

A dog, depending on the breed and age, can easily outpace a human, with breeds like a greyhound capable of reaching speeds in the 40 mph range. Some breeds are much slower than this, but almost any dog can outrun a person. It takes a little time and effort to train a dog to run at your side and not get ahead of you or pull on the leash, or worse, take off after some wildlife.

Things to Consider When Trail Running With Your Dog

Tips for Trail Running with your DogRunning with your dog on a trail takes a little more consideration than just going for a normal walk. This will take a little research and training on your part, but ultimately you will find it rewarding because it will not only increase your understanding of a dog’s behavior but give you a better ability to communicate effectively with your animal.

  • Understanding what prey drive is and being able to effectively manage it.
  • Understanding your dog’s physiological limitations.
  • Knowing what equipment will work best for you and your pooch when running.
  • Being familiar with the terrain that you both will be running in.
  • Having completed a fair amount of obedience training.

All of these points will factor into whether or not running with your pooch is a fun activity or more of a chore.

Equipment for Running with Your Dog

As stated earlier, your dog may not yet be conditioned to running outside at long distances. And you certainly don’t want to push them past their limits which could lead to an expensive vet bill. Or worse, losing control of your dog and having to prevent it from attacking wildlife or other runners.

Using a Running Harness

A harness over a collar will allow you to have greater control over your dog as some breeds can easily slip out of a collar.

Protective Footwear

You might want to consider getting some booties, little boots that help a dog’s paws from becoming injured by the terrain. This is something many people may not consider but definitely needs to be. Many dogs have paws that are used to carpet or grass and not sharp rocks or thorns.

Use a Running Leash

Getting a leash that attaches to your waist instead of being handheld allows you to have a less cumbersome run while still ensuring you maintain the maximum amount of control.

Get A Foldable Water Bowl

Be sure to pack plenty of water and a bowl. Dog’s can overheat much faster than a person can and sometimes the water available in the wilderness is full of pathogens that can make a dog sick, or worse. Snacks are also a good idea and can help with maintaining the attention of your dog.

Use a Reflective Harness if Running in Low light

If you happen to be running in a high traffic area, be it people or vehicles, then using a reflective harness or attaching a light to your dog will help to increase visibility.

Bring Poop Bags

Last but not least, bring poop bags. Trail running with your animal is about being able to enjoy the outdoors, be courteous to others and be sure to pack out your animal’s scat.

Using this kind of equipment and being properly prepared to understand and handle your dog’s needs will allow you both a highly satisfactory and safe journey while trail running.

Trail Running with A Dog

Prey Drive and Obedience Training

The first thing to take into account when considering going for a jog with your dog is whether or not they pay attention to you when there is a significant amount of stimulus in the surrounding area. This is where researching prey drive and doing fundamental obedience training comes into play.

Prey drive is the instinct of a dog to stalk and give chase, such as when a dog loses its mind over a squirrel or car. It is instinctual for a dog and absolutely part of its normal behavior and it manifests differently from one breed to the next.

Taking your dog on a run without learning how to manage this can lead to a nightmarish scenario. Imagine constantly trying to fight a 50 to 70 lb animal every time it sees another person or dog running or some animal.

Learning how to maintain your dog’s attention plays a huge part in whether or not a jog will be a satisfactory experience for both of you. Start with the basics:

  • Learn how to understand how your dog interacts with its environment and how its prey drive manifests. This is a task better suited to a fenced-in yard or park.
  • Learn how to get your dog to walk with you instead of against you and how to break its attention from objects that instill prey drive instinct in your dog.
  • While walk training with your dog you can increase stimulus that causes the urge to chase. This increased difficulty to maintain your dog’s attention will flex and condition your ability to control the innate instinct.
  • Be sure to train with verbal cues and teach them to heel. Also getting your animal to break its attention and make eye contact is very important in breaking a build-up of the prey drive. 

You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew here. Start small and increase the difficulty of training until you are thoroughly confident in your ability to control your dog’s attention before taking them into an activity like jogging where the amount of environmental stimulus is high.

Knowing Your Dog’s Limits

Something to care into consideration when going for a run with your dog is the difference in our physiology. Most people don’t know this but a human can outrun a dog. This may seem silly at first but hear me out. Humans are built to be endurance hunters, we can maintain a decent speed over very long distances.

Dogs can run very quickly, but only maintain this speed for a short period, the same as a deer. In some hunter-gatherer tribes of Africa, persistence hunting is still in practice. Where a group of hunters will chase an antelope over long distances until the animal is exhausted and simply cannot run or let alone stand.

Also, your pooch’s paws may not be conditioned to running outside over long distances. There are sharp rocks to consider, some sand is practically glass, and they are always barefoot, unlike most human runners. There are plenty of ground cover flora outside that produce very sharp spikes or spines that can easily injure your dog, particularly in the midwest.

So when preparing to go for a run:

  • You want to consider the terrain, understanding the geography of the trail such as slope, composition, and distance.
  • Knowing the health of your dog is very important. Knowing the age and condition will help you determine a safe distance of travel that is healthy for your pup. Also, dogs display sickness differently than a human, they can’t say they are sick so that’s on you to look out for and understand when going for a run is not the best idea.
  • Does your dog have a need for specialized equipment such as dog booties, as humans rely on, to protect them from the environment?

In ever in doubt about the capabilities of your beloved dog never be scared to drop by the vet to get their professional opinion. They see all manner of animals and will be very suited to help you understand the limitations of your dog and with what to expect when going for a run.


Remember, training and conditioning are highly important to ensure the best benefit and enjoyment of going for a run. It is just as much about training yourself as it is your dog. Be sure to be safe, considerate, and most importantly have fun.


Written for discountpetonline by Michael Minor.

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