There are few activities as invigorating and inspiring as trail running, and the only way trail running could be even more fun is if you have a four-legged canine companion to experience the beauty of the moment right by your side. While running is a natural ability that dogs have, they still need to build up their strength and stamina before they start running longer distances, and especially over rough terrain like trails.
Running is an excellent activity for dogs, as it encourages both physical and mental exercise, giving a dog the enrichment he deserves. With the proper training plan, you can teach your dog to trail run with you and you can both enjoy the great outdoors together!
Patience, consistency, encouragement, and planning are necessary to make your dog’s first trail run a fun and positive experience. But equally as important is an honest assessment of your dog’s physical features and capabilities.
Not all dogs can run long distances over uneven ground. Is your dog lean and long? Does he have a shorthaired coat so he doesn’t overheat easily? Or is your dog short and squat, with stubby legs? Does he have thick fur that can cause him to overheat while running? If you’re unsure whether your dog is suited for trail running, check with your veterinarian first before you begin a training program.
Just because your dog isn’t a Greyhound or a Rhodesian Ridgeback doesn’t mean he can’t become a trail runner. You just need to put a realistic training plan in place for your particular dog and stick to it. With commitment and practice, even the littlest dog can have fun at your side running through the woods!
Trail running should be an engaging experience for you and your dog, but you also want it to be a safe one. Make sure that you purchase a sturdy leash or leash and harness combination for your dog. Consider the leashes that tie around your waist, leaving your hands and arms free to fall into a natural swinging motion. These leashes can help you keep control of your dog, especially in tight quarters on small, winding trails.
For safety purposes, be sure that you and your dog wear bright, reflective material while you run on trails. Jackets, shoes, collars, and harnesses are available in fluorescent colors and often have reflective patterns, piping, or lights so that other people using the paths can see you and your dog coming from a distance. Always have your dog on a leash and under control when you are on the trails, and have poop bags on hand to clean up your dog's waste.
Just like people, dogs need to stay hydrated during exercise. Have water on hand for your dog to drink during breaks on the trail, and before and after the workout. Trail booties may also be necessary for your dog if his paws are soft, sensitive, and not toughened up.
Remember to start slowly and be very patient with your dog as he builds his strength and stamina over multiple runs. Make sure your dog is interested in trail running; never force your dog to run if he doesn’t want to run. It may take some time, but with your enthusiasm, love, and patience, your dog will be trotting on the trails next to you in no time at all!