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You’re up nice and early for your pre-work run and you want to kill two birds with one stone and exercise your dog too. Everyone drives past the guy running with their dog and thinks ‘if only I could be bothered to go for runs more regularly, I could be that perfect picture’. But when you try and take your canine pal for a run, he either wants to stop and sniff everything you go past, or he’s downright lazy and wants to slowly stroll.
If you can train him to jog with you, you can get your run in and exercise your energetic dog at the same time. This is fantastic training if you’ve got a dog who never seems to run out of energy. While a 45-minute walk may not tire him out, a 45-minute run is guaranteed to leave him dozing for the rest of the day.
One of the best things about this training is it’s relatively easy. If you’ve got the energy to run, then you’ve definitely got the energy to get your dog jogging. Training is mainly about encouraging and motivating him to jog alongside you. While obedience commands are used to some extent, the main bulk of training will be incentivizing him to hit the tarmac. If he’s a puppy, he’ll probably be more than willing to jog already, and will just need his attention focused. He may respond to training in just a few days. If he’s older he may not be up for such a rigorous jog and it may take a couple of weeks to get him into his new hobby.
Get this training right and you’ll be able to keep him fit and healthy for years to come. You may even get some peace and quiet while he has his post-marathon nap.
Before you can whip him into shape, you’ll need a few things. A quiet place to train will be required, that’s free from the distractions of busy roads and other dogs. You’ll also need a short leash and a body harness.
Treats or his favorite food broken into small pieces will play a big role. Once you’ve collected all of that, just come with a can-do attitude and time to commit to training a few times a week and you can head to the start line.
The Walk and Jog Method
Get walk ready
Secure him to a short leash and head out the door. It will also help if you secure him to a body harness to start with. This will reduce strain on his neck and afford you both more flexibility.
Start by walking a hundred yards
During this time, keep him close to your side and his attention on you with the assistance of some treats and play.
Introduce the jog
Then slowly start jogging for a hundred yards. Again, keep his attention on you and keep him close to your side. It’s important you alternate between walking and jogging to start with, you need to condition him. You don’t want him having an asthma attack on his first jog.
Switch it up
Alternate between walking and jogging for the first few attempts. Stick to this system until you are confident he is fit enough to run alongside you. This interval training is also good training for you, so it’s well worthwhile.
Make it harder
Slowly decrease the walking segments until he can jog next to you for the whole run. The key to this training is building up the jogging gradually. By doing it this way you can build up his stamina and, more importantly, his attention span.
The Teach Him Cues Method
Head for the door
Secure him to a relatively short leash and head outside with a pocket full of treats. You’re going to teach him verbal cues so he knows when to walk by your side and when to jog. It will be much easier to slow your jog and start it, if he understands these commands.
Give a ‘let’s run’ command and slowly start jogging. You can use any command you like as long it’s relatively short. Dogs can learn a tremendous number of different commands, so be as creative as you like.
Praise--and lots of it
As soon as he starts jogging, give him a treat and verbal praise. It’s important he gets the reward as soon as he starts jogging otherwise he won’t associate the action with the treat.
Just before you start to slow down to a walk, issue a ‘let’s walk’ command. Again you can use any command you like. Then slow your jog down to a walk. As soon as he starts slowing his pace, give him a treat and praise.
Practice each time you go for a run
Try and go two or three times a week to start with so he learns quickly. Keeping him on a short leash will also ensure he always jogs close to your side. Once he has the hang of it, you can slowly reduce how often you give him treats, the verbal commands alone will be enough at this point.
The Without a Leash Method
Head out the door with a few treats and with him securely leashed. Ensure the leash is short, this will help develop the habit of jogging closely by your side. Also be playful when you head out the door, if he think it’s a game he will be more eager to learn and please.
Hold a treat by your side and start jogging. Use the treat to keep him by your side. Hold it at a height that is level with his face and give him verbal encouragement to stay close.
After 10 feet, give him the treat and praise him. This will reinforce to him that he should stay by your side. Practice this each time you run and slowly build up the distance he jogs next to you for before you give him a treat.
Lose the leash
When you can keep him jogging next to you for a few hundred yards before giving him a treat, you can try without a leash. Follow the same method as above, keep him close to you with a treat and regularly reward him. It’s important you talk to him and use the treat to keep his eyes on you and away from any distractions.
Cut down on treats
After several successful runs you can start to cut down the frequency of treats. By now, it will have become habit to jog alongside you and even without the lure of food he’ll stick to doing it. You will then officially be a running duo in perfect harmony.
By James Barra
Published: 10/15/2017, edited: 01/08/2021