Right now is an ideal time to start prepping your dog for a spring race. Today I am sharing exactly how to prepare your dog for a race. A few years ago I trained for and ran a 5K with our rescue dog Lulu. It was a memorable and fun experience.
Today I’m sharing some of my tips to get you and your dog ready to run a race together. The tips will cover everything you need to know prior to training, during training, on race day and supplies that help you with training your dog to run.
How to Prepare Your Dog for a Race
My biggest and foremost tip is to start small. Even though many dogs are born athletes, your pet should slowly train and increase distance, just as you would for a race. Depending on your pet’s fitness level this might take some time. If you have any questions or concerns please consult your veterinarian for an overall fitness reading on your pet.
It is important, regardless of running or not, for your pet to maintain a healthy weight and to stay physically fit at least through walks and play. Running is an added bonus for you and your pet! When learning to run with your dog, if you are familiar with the Couch to 5K plan, consider this for your pet. They will need to start with short distances and work their way up slowly.
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Watch Your Dog Closely
As you begin training, pay attention to your dog while you are running. Is she panting? Is he lagging behind? These might be signs your dog is thirsty or already tired. Take it easy and be patient with your furry friend.
Dogs cannot have a conversation with us and tell us exactly how they feel during a run so it is important to be observant and err on the side of caution if you think your pet is tired, thirsty or not feeling well. This is an integral part of your dog running training plan.
Consider the Dog Breed
If you are an avid runner you might go as far as to consider the best dog breeds for running prior to getting your pet. If you are like me, running with my dog was a bit of an afterthought but we have made it work! Consider your dog’s breed.
Some dogs are meant to run long distances such as Huskies which are sled running dogs. I actually know several people who adopted a Husky without thinking much about the breed and have struggled to exercise the dog enough. One couple walked the dog up to 10 miles per day and the dog was still very energetic!
Our dog Lulu is a Lhasa Apso mix and really is not a “racing-type” dog but I have found given her age and energy level she can run up to 5 miles with me. I’m also a slow runner (usually 10 to 12 minute miles during a long run) and she does best when it’s not hot out. I would not run 5 miles with her in July.
Train Your Dog
I’m not talking about the training component of running. This is reference doggy behavior. Train your dog to “loose leash” walk. This has truly made walking and running with my dog so much more enjoyable. If you are unsure how to do this or struggle with training I would highly recommend investing in a good dog trainer.
And when it comes to racing you might be a hazard if your dog is pulling you down the street or generally “out of control.” You also risk injury to both yourself and your pet if you are running with a dog that pulls. I would love to see race organizers to continue embracing pet-friendly events. Polite, well-trained pups are part of this privilege.
Selecting a Race for Your Dog
Consider all race logistics and plan ahead as you figure out how to prepare your dog for a race. If possible start with a shorter race such as a 5K. Foremost make sure the race allows pets! Many do not allow pets or even strollers. It is important to respect race organizer rules and regulations.
The 5K I ran with Lulu was advertised as pet-friendly and even had this noted on the registration flyer. After the race organizers actually tweeted me photos they took of Lulu and I running! It was really an enjoyable and fun experience for them and us.
Before the Race
In terms of race day preparation, for me this meant bringing a water supply and bowl for Lulu. It also meant making sure she had an opportunity to relieve herself pre-race and in a discreet area.
We also showed up extra early so she could get comfortable with her surroundings. I already know Lulu was not socialized well with other dogs before we adopted her. Because of this, I kept a safe distance between her and other dogs when we arrived at the 5K. The last thing I wanted was to cause a barking scene.
Items You Will Need to Run with Your Dog
- Leash & Collar – A good leash and secure collar are paramount to running a race with your dog. I do not recommend a flexi-lead which are not only dangerous but do not allow control over your pet. I use a 6-foot nylon leash when I run with my dog. It keeps her under my control and it keeps us both safe.
- Collapsable Water Bowl – This can be secured to the leash or kept in your pocket while running. This will allow you to give your pet a drink wherever you are by using a collapsable water bowl.
- Deodorizing Pet Wipes – No matter the terrain, the race will likely leave your pup with some muddy paws or dirty and dusty paws after your run. I like using Nature’s Miracle pet wipes for quick clean up such as dirty paws instead of giving a full body bath.
- Dog Paw Balm – Another product I’ve had good reviews of, but haven’t tried with Lulu before is a paw wax or balm to help protect and moisturize dog pads. This would be especially helpful for winter training when salt, snow and ice may be present during your runs with your dog.
For a list of some local Cleveland dog-friendly races visit my post on that topic. I keep that post as up-to-date as possible. It lists many local races which welcome dogs including a few races designed just for pets. Also, here are some other websites with good information about racing with your dog: Runner’s World, Couch to 5K Doggy Edition, Dogs in the CLE.
Running with Your Dog
Running with your dog and learning how to prepare your dog for a race can be a really enjoyable time for both you and your pet. Exercise also helps you to stay healthy and keep your pet fit and trim as well. Start slow and work your way up, listen to your pet’s cues and keep safety first during your training. Most of all, have fun!
Do you run with your dog?
*This post was originally published in 2014 and has been updated and republished for accuracy and comprehensiveness.