To maximize health, safety and fun, dog trainer Jill Freifeld of Happy Hound Pet Care in Silver Spring, Md., offers these suggestions:
Have your dog checked by your veterinarian to be sure it’s fit and healthy enough to run.
Puppies should not run long distances while their bodies are still developing; it could stress their joints and damage forming bones. Older dogs with any physical limitations that make running painful or unsafe also should not run (again, check with your vet).
Take your dog’s breed into account; smaller dogs and brachycephalic dogs (those with short noses and pushed-in faces) will tire more quickly than larger dogs and those bred to hunt or herd.
To avoid accidentally yanking on your dog’s neck and to maximize comfort, try a harness rather than a collar.
Never run your dog when the weather’s too hot; dogs have poor temperature self-regulation and overheat easily (plus, they have fur coats on).
Ease your dog into running. It needs to be conditioned just as you did when you began running, plus its paw pads must be toughened gradually.
Always bring water.
Familiarize yourself with signs of overheating to avoid a potentially life-threatening situation.
On hot days, stick to grass, earth and shade, because pavement can quickly reach paw-searing temperatures. When in doubt, hold the palm of your hand to the pavement for five seconds to check.
Make sure your dog has an ID tag with your phone number in case you get separated.
Use a regular five- or six-foot leash to keep your dog close by.
Train your dog to stay by your side by first teaching loose leash walking and/or “Heel,” then work up to varying your pace.
Teach your dog the “Wait” cue and reinforce attentiveness to you to help prevent trip-ups and other potential dangers.