Not All Dogs Are Born To Run

Photo by Patrick Danforth |

Photo by Patrick Danforth |

I'm a huge proponent for giving your dog proper exercise. As a dog trainer and pet behavior expert, I see firsthand the negative consequences that ensue when dogs aren't adequately exercised both mentally and physically. But the reality is that not every dog is born to run.

When should you exercise caution before engaging in vigorous aerobic exercise with your dog? And what are some alternative exercises?

1. Young puppies

A puppy's body is constantly growing and developing, so taking them on a run could lead to long-term damage to their joints. Large-breed puppies take an especially long time to fully mature. It's always a good idea to check with your vet to determine the safest time to start slowly building your pup's running stamina.

Alternative: Puppy playdates with one or several other healthy, vaccinated puppies or adult dogs are a great way to socialize and exercise your pup without exposing them to the hazards of the dog park or other potentially overwhelming settings. 

2. Senior dogs

While your dog may have been your running partner for many years, there comes a time when he just might not be able to keep up anymore. Although your dog may still love to run, recognize when it's time to slow things down.

Alternative: Short walks can provide great physical and mental stimulation for senior dogs. Make sure they don't get overheated, and vary the route you take so that your dog gets to enjoy new sights and smells. 

3. Dogs with joint issues

Dogs of all ages and breeds can develop joint issues like hip dysplasia, although some breeds are more prone to develop these issues early on. If you have a dog that suffers from joint pain or other similar health problems, you'll have to accept that your dog just isn't going to be able to be a running partner for you.

Alternative: Swimming is an awesome exercise for dogs with joint and mobility issues. Many areas have specialized dog pools for aquatic therapy. Many dogs see an increase in mobility and a decrease in pain with the use of aquatic therapy.

4. Brachycephalic dogs

If you have a push-nose breed like a pug or a bulldog, know that these types of dogs are not well-suited for vigorous aerobic exercise, especially in warm weather. Because their breathing is compromised due to their short snouts, running with a brachycephalic dog is a recipe for disaster.

Alternative: Short, slow walks are a great alternative for brachycephalic breeds. In the warmer months of the year, I'd recommend avoiding the peak temperature hours -- try walking early in the morning or later in the evening. 

5. Overweight or out of shape dogs

While Fido may have been able to keep up with you while you were training for that half marathon, if the two of you have been couch potatoes for the last year, he's just as out of shape as your are. Just like you wouldn't start out your training by running 5 miles, you shouldn't start your dog off that way, either. Start with a short distance and build your dog's endurance slowly and safely.

Alternative: If running isn't your thing, there are plenty of other great ways to exercise your dog. A game of fetch, a supervised swim, or a fun agility or other sport class are all great ways to get your dog (and yourself) off the couch. 

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Positively Expert: Victoria Stilwell

Victoria Stilwell is a world-renowned dog trainer best known as the star of the internationally acclaimed TV series, It’s Me or the Dog. A bestselling author, Stilwell frequently appears in the media as a pet expert and is widely recognized and respected as a leader in the field of animal behavior.


One thought on “Not All Dogs Are Born To Run

  1. Jenny H

    Of course, not all owners are born to run either! 🙂
    I've never thought it a good idea to go 'jogging' with a dog.
    Much better to go to some open area where dogs can (legally) run off lead, and walk them. The dog can then decide if it wants to run or walk or stop and lie down 🙂

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