Why Run With Your Dog?

Personal training for dogs. You’re kidding, right? Actually, no, we’re not. Research suggests up to 40% of our dogs are overweight, and they suffer from the same health complications that overweight people do. Veterinarians (including myself) are becoming more and more concerned about the increase in joint pain, heart disease and other obesity related illnesses in dogs. Hence, Pooch to 5k. Dogs can’t lift weights, or use the gym. If you’re going to increase their fat burning, you need to increase the intensity of their exercise. This means that a daily stroll just won’t cut it any more, it’s too laid back. The Pooch to 5k program will help you get your dog from doing nothing much to comfortably running 5km, over a period of 12 weeks.

Because you’ll be running with your dog, you’ll also get a great workout three times a week, as you train yourself to run 5km. Why not subscribe to our dog health and fitness newsletter and grab your dog, and you’re ready to go!


At What Age Should You Run With Your Dog?


This is something I’m asked often. There is no cut and dried answer to that question. It depends on so many variables.

Some breeds of dog are bred to run. A fine example is my Australian Working Kelpie, Guinness.  He was raised on a sheep station, and those dogs are mustering sheep in the paddock from quite a young age. I started running with Guinness when he was just under 12 months old.

Some breeds have inherent orthopaedic problems, and in those breeds, I’d hold off a while until their body is more physically mature.

Smaller breeds of dog are physically mature before larger ones, so it’s safe to say you can start running with a Jack Russell Terrier before you can start running with a German Shepherd Dog.

Veterinarians recommend that growing pups and dogs don’t participate in “forced exercise”. That is basically any exercise that they wouldn’t participate in with dogs of the same age. One guideline to consider is that a 5-6 month old dog is physically comparable with an 8-10 year old child. How much forced exercise would you allow your pre-teen child?

I think it’s a matter of plain common sense. For most breeds, 12 months is a reasonable age to start a running program. Start gently, don’t run too often, and keep him on soft terrain such as grass and trails. Make sure you watch him, because a lot of dogs don’t want to stop when they should. It’s up to us to keep their enthusiasm in check.

Photograph of the gorgeous puppy by Normanack

Categories : Dog Health



Not at all but as with any dog, wait til 12 months to be safe, then gradually build up her distance. Also, don’t let her become overweight, keep her nice and lean. If you really want some inspiration check out TruMan Trumie the dirt doxie who is owned by ultra runner Catra Corbett – he runs 50km on trails in just over 7 hours!!!




I have a 4 month old Jindo puppy and I asked our vet when I could start running with him, she said I could start now but just start small and build up to longer distances. After reading these posts I definitely do not want to start now anymore. Do you know something that is specific to jindos that would make her say that?


Hi i have dogo argentino 45 days old pup i am making him run for 1 km a day is it advisable or no


No. That’s only 6 weeks. Are you sure you’re talking about 45 days and not weeks? If your pup is only 45 days old, then please don’t do this.


Our advice is general only because obviously a dog’s own vet knows the dog better than we do. And no, nothing specific to jindos that would make me suggest otherwise. At 4 months, growth plates are a long way off closing so there is the potential for injury to these sensitive parts of the bone. As I said, your vet knows your dog, perhaps it’s appropriate to have another discussion as to her reasons for this. It’s fine to wait, and if there’s doubt then definitely err on the side of caution. Our red cattle dog Cinnabar last week ran an 11km trail race, and he turns 11 in 2 months. You’ve got your dog’s whole lifetime ahead for running.


Hello, I have a 4 month old Siberian Husky. I started walking her around our subdivision when she turned 3 months, she kept pulling on the leash like she wants to go on a faster pace and it was hard to keep up with her cause shes strong and fast. And now that she’s 4 months old, I decided to take her out to go biking with me about 5 times a week for about 20 minutes with rest/break. But whenever I do, I go really slow. Much like we are just fast walking. For the first 5 minutes she tries to run and go ahead of me, then after another 5 minutes she stays at my side and starts panting then after another 5 mins she starts to get slow. She’s a high energy dog. Is that bad for her? Thank you so much.


I started trail running with my dog 2 weeks ago. She is doing fine. While in the trails, she is free and can go wherever she wants. She usually run beside me, stop, smell, poop, come back to me, stop, walk around, come back to me. Is it considered as a forced activity if she don’t have to be beside me all the time ? We are running around 2 km and planning to do more.

Thank you.


I have an america bulldog springer mix. He is 7 months. He is full of energy. Would a light run/jog hurt him? I know his growth plates are not close yet but would a mile jog hurt him?


Hi I have an 8 year old Border Collie mix and she runs constantly but I’ve never taken her on a run with me before. This year I want to start getting into better shape and I thought she could be a good partner to keep me going. I know sometimes running can be hard on joints and hips. I didn’t know if running at her age would be beneficial or if it could harm her. I mean she runs all the time anyway but forced running is a little different. Is this a good idea to take her along?


This topic really confuses me and I don’t know what to do. We have a 5 month old lab, and have been regularly walking him right from the start, and he loves it. I have tried to find academic papers on injury stats resulting from early exposure to walking, running etc. and simply can’t find much. There was one german study with 500 odd dogs, showing no adverse effects to walking young puppies early, but thats it, nothing on running. It appears to me that these rules have been made up through reasoning, but not tested scientifically.

I work in professional sport and am a university lecturer, with a special interest in youth athletes. These similar myths have been going on for some time with children and whether or not weight training damages growth plates and causes injury. There is now a MASSIVE amount of research to say the opposite, not only are growth plates/the skeleton not damaged, but there are long term positive health outcomes for young children lifting weights and stressing their skeleton and muscles early. (So in reference to this article, I would advise any child to do high intensity exercise and weight training from younger than 8-10 years old with the right supervision)

I really want to take my puppy for runs, can’t find any research/evidence to say it is unhealthy, I know that in human children it is good for their skeleton and health. Also, from an evolutionary perspective, I can only assume wolves and wild dogs would be covering vast distances from a very early age, and puppies would regularly run to keep up with the pack? Is this an untested myth? Vet’s & academics need to research this properly!!!


Daniel, thanks very much for your comment and I agree with you. From what I’ve read, sled dogs are run off leash alongside a team from a young age with no adverse effects. My understanding too is that working kelpies here in Australia are used to herd sheep in paddocks from 6 months of age. I’ve also read stories of young people successfully running ultramarathons and doing fine. There is no real science I’ve seen to back up the “wait til 12 months” guideline because even at that age, there are growth plates that aren’t closed. I’ve heard it said dogs should be exercised for 5 minutes per month of life (per day) and again there’s no science to support it – I can’t even find where that comment originated. It just seems to be some random number that came out of nowhere. The suggestions we make on this site have to be very general and they’re based on the opinions of veterinarians who are experienced in young pups and dog sports. I can’t offer anything different because there’s no science to back it up and I think much depends on an individual dog and its conformation – we’ve bred dogs to have different shapes and many now have inherent orthopaedic problems. For what it’s worth, my kelpie Guinness was running with me from 8 months of age; he’s just turned 9 and can still comfortably knock out a 10km+ run and has absolutely no joint issues whatsoever so yeah, I think the guidelines are conservative. I’d love to see some research on this but not sure it’ll happen. if you have a link to the German study I’d love to read it.


Hi Taylor, sorry for the tardy reply. There’s no reason why your 8 year old BC mix can’t run with you, our 11 year old cattle dog still runs 8km or so with us on trails and loves it. He does have a touch of arthritis in a wrist but we manage it before and after a run carefully and he’s fine. If you run within her capacity and start gently as you would a beginner human runner and build up to an increased distance she should be fine.


Hi, apologies for the delay in reply. Your pup would now be close to 10 months, and a mile is just about 1 1/2km. I really doubt a mile jog would do any harm at all.


Trail running with dogs is such fun; our boys like it so much more than road running because of all the interesting smells. i don’t think it’s forced running if you’re watching how she’s doing and easing off if she’s tiring. 2km isn’t too long to start and it’s a good idea to increase as you would a person, with a 10% or so increase each week and an easy week every 4th week as a recovery week.


Hi there, apologies for the late reply. Your pup would be 8 months old now and what you’re doing with her I’d expect to be just fine. 20 minutes of slow jogging with rest breaks is ok for a sound dog of that age as long as you’re being guided by her and you ease off if she’s tiring. Have fun with your girl, would love a pic, Siberians are beautiful dogs!


Hi there, my pup is 16 weeks old, and I am excited about walking her (just walking for now) since she will finally be clear from her vaccinations this week. We’ve taken her for walks at the beach, and she loves it. She is a welsh springer spaniel and should grow to around 18-20kg.

I am not a vet, but I am an expert on human osteoporosis, and I really worry about the affect that NOT running at an early age will have on bone density, especially as my dog will be desexed at 6 months. I understand the risks with hip dysphasia, and welshies are prone to hip & elbow problems (though my pup’s line has scored perfectly in this regard). I have read much research on the importance of weight bearing exercise prior to puberty in relation to bone health in later life, and also research regarding the risks of poor bone health in spayed bitches, but no actual sound research in relation to either walking for 5 mins/month or running at a young age.

My vet has echoed the ‘best to wait until 12 months’ but was unable to find any evidence for this advice.


Hi Susan

It’s a tough one. I haven’t found any evidence either for the 12 months but it’s been quoted several times by a reproductive specialist who breeds canine athletes and I feel they’re more knowledgeable about it than me. Having said that, some orthopaedic surgeons don’t support it. I have found this paper that suggests that running early actually decreases bone density, but it’s quite an old one, and I guess without anything else to go on, I’d still err on the side of caution. I took it very easy with our boys when they were young and last night Cinnabar ran almost 9km with no dramas, and he turned 11 last June.



ok so, i have a 9 week old german shepard and i take her on walks and every once in a while we will break into a spring or jog for about a minute or two is that ok or is that hurting her, but we will only do that once a day on out 30 minute walk


Hi there,

I have a 5 months old miniature schnauzer puppy. I’ve recently started to jog with him. No crazy distance, just 2-2,5km twice a week in a very moderate tempo (he is running al the way on the grass) – takes us about 30 min. I’ve faced a lot of criticism from people hearing about it. Now I’m worried if they are right and I’m damaging him,


Hi there,
We have a 9 month old sprocker (springer-cocker mix) who has been coming with me for 25 minute runs. I’m worried that it will damage her but at the same time she absolutely loves it and generally runs further than me due to chasing pigeons/other dogs etc.
She is off the lead for the most part and pauses for a good sniff around from time to time before sprinting to catch up. Do you think it’s too much for her? We run 2-3 times per week.


I have a 10 month old rescue mixed breed; American Staffordshire Terrier, Boxer, White Swiss Shepherd, Cocker Spaniel (according to Wisdom Panel DNA Test). This is our first dog and I am worried I started running her a too early, we Have been doing 1-3 run/walks (11-12 min. Miles) a few times a week since she was about 5 Months. She is super energetic and loves our runs now I’m worried I may have done more damage than good. Thoughts?


I have a rhodesian ridgeback who’s just about turning 1 year old. I waited till she was 8 months to start running consistenly with her and I would love to increase the distance to 10 km. Right now she runs 5-7 km 3 times/week. How much should she rest after a run? It’s a day ok? Can I increase the distance as we do in humans (by 1 km/week or 2 weeks)


I have a border collie/lab who has much more of a body type of a border collie (size too) if we take him to the park he will keep running around until we leave. I am a runner and run with him for a mile or two and drop him off and most of the time he goes faster but there are times where I can tell that he doesn’t have as much energy (he usually goes slower than me instead of faster) if so I end the run early I’m wondering if I can up his mileage or if I should stay the same for a few months or if I’m already doing too much for him.


Hi, I have a 5 and a half month mixed breed rescue (from Romania), we think she has lab/Anatolian shepherd in her. I am relatively new to running , so I doubt I would even get very far, could I start her with me? We already do 2x 45 min walks a day – she has so much energy! Would it work if I was to replace a walk with a short run/crawl?


I have a 9 month old Border Collie who is very energetic and excitable. She LOVES to run. Do you think she is old enough to start your pooch – 5k program? She currently walks (well I walk she tries to run while half choking herself on her lead to go faster) at least once per day plus lots of fast running play time with the ball at least once per day (she would do that all day if I had the time!). I have been holding off starting to run with her because I was told that running with them too young can cause joint problems. I love to run too so it would be the perfect solution – and maybe she would stop trying to pull my shoulder out of its socket! haha


I have a 7 year old German Shepherd Dog & she has been running with me for 6 years. We run 5 or 6 miles usually. She seems fine. We stop & she swims in the river to cool off & drink the water a several places along the way in the summer. I am wondering when she is too old to take her. I don’t want to injure her. I think she will want to go even when it’s time for her to stop. She loves it.

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