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Something about spring just calls us to be outdoors—the fresh smells, the warming weather, and refreshing breezes—and it’s a great excuse to get out and get running with your dog.
If you think you can “feel” spring, your dog can absolutely sense it, too. You’ll probably notice that just getting outdoors gives her a whole new energy, and we’ll give you some tips on how to focus that energy into some fantastic running.
If you haven’t started a running routine with your dog yet, spring is a great season to start. The weather is tolerable in most climates, the daylight lasts longer into the evening, and the dog days of summer are still in the distant future. The verdict? Spring is a great time to get some miles in. Just make sure you check with your vet if you have any concerns prior to starting a routine.
I’ve been a runner for most of my life, and for many of those years I’ve had a faithful running buddy. My first canine companion was a sweet old (sort of plump) golden retriever named Ginger; a little slow, but just a lovable girl. She taught me the following things about “best practices” for starting a running routine with your dog.
To start, one of the most difficult things for me was to figure out how to get Ginger to “keep her lane,” in runner’s speak. When running on the road, I wanted to keep her to the outside (farthest from any cars, and on the softer shoulder of the road), and generally next to me, or slightly ahead.
In the beginning, she wasn’t too keen on being put in a lane, but after a little while, we both began to learn how to work with one another. For starters, I kept a relatively short leash, and when she tried to move into “my lane,” I gently nudged her with my leg and reminded her where she should be. It didn’t take long before she figured things out, and responded to my nudging.
Because I was running on the road, she was always to my outside, and so she learned pretty quickly that wherever we went, that was her “side.” It might take a little time for a dog to figure out the rules of the road, but a little time upfront makes for smooth sailing later on.
Ginger’s first instinct when hitting the open road was to sprint for about a quarter-mile, then call it quits. Being an older lady when we started our running routine, this was not a healthy approach. Luckily, as I taught her the ropes of her “lane assignment,” I also addressed her desire to frolic like a deer. Keeping a short lead, I never let her in front of my stride, which allowed me to continue to use my outside leg as a guide for her, and to keep her close enough to me to set a reasonable pace we could both manage.
Your own dog’s personality and strengths will guide your approach to running, so keep them in mind as you start on your journey. If you have a smaller or shorter dog, your running should try to match her capabilities, and not every breed is ideal for running. I’ve had enthusiastic pups (Ginger), super athletes (Sasha), and a lazy bum (Sabine), but have been able to run successfully with each of them because I adjusted my expectations to their personalities, abilities, and stages of life.
The Enthusiastic Pup
My first running pal, Ginger, was a retriever, and perpetually enthusiastic about just about everything, even in her old age. This is a fantastically wonderful quality in a dog, but can also be a bit difficult to harness. If you find yourself with an enthusiastic pup (a situation that is probably exacerbated in the spring), think of constructive ways to capture that great energy for running.
You might find you need to pre-exercise your dog a little before you start your running workout. A couple of good rounds of fetch might calm them down a bit and allow them to focus on the task at hand—running.
The Super Athlete
My second running buddy, my sweet Sasha, was a German shepherd mix and probably the most athletically gifted dog I have ever run across. She was fast, she was strong, and she had amazing agility. She could swim (and would, if we didn’t pull her out) for hours.
Running with Sasha brought its own unique challenges because she was so athletic. The first being, she could go forever, so I had to be careful about not overdoing it. But one of the unexpected benefits of running was that it helped to calm her. It gave her a purpose and she was able to focus her energy on the task at hand. Sometimes working dogs benefit greatly from exercise routines because they need a job, and running can become a “job” (a fun one) for them.
Unlike Ginger, who I only ran with when she was leashed, I let Sasha run free on some of our routes. This decision was based on her personality and breed. Running, walking, or hanging around the house, she was never more than six inches from me, so I never worried about her running off. Running off a leash let her choose her most comfortable stride and freed up my hands.
Just like with your enthusiastic dogs, your super athletes may need a pre-workout, particularly if they are feeling overly energetic with all of that springtime energy.
The Lazy Bum
I’m currently in unchartered waters with my newest addition, Sabine the Bernedoodle. We got Sabine not for her breed’s reputation for athletic prowess, but because we wanted a kid-proof family dog. And that’s exactly what we got. She’s a happy-go-lucky, lovable, attentive, gentle giant who looks more like a teddy bear than a dog. She is wonderful. But, boy is she lazy!
Because I am used to running with enthusiastic athletes, Sabine has been a transition and a learning experience for me. She has energy in predictable little spurts, followed by a tendency to flop down and take a nap. On one of our first runs, she actually did that: We were jogging by a park bench, so she hopped up on it and flopped down. I gave her a few minutes to rest while I stretched, but then, she actually started snoring.
With Sabine, we take it slow. Our runs are more like run-walks. We run, we walk. We stop and smell the roses. Then we run again. We still get in a good workout (though usually I drop her off at home and then get a few more miles in), and the benefits and the partnership are the same. We both enjoy getting out together and we both learn from each other as we go.
Oh, and I never have to worry about her running ahead—which has its benefits.
Depending on where you call home, spring weather can be quite variable. In the Northeast, spring inevitably means rain—so much so that New Englanders add in an extra season called “mud season,” and for good reason. (If you are looking to help keep the mud-to-dog ratio low, consider a waterproof jacket).
But the best thing about spring in the Northeast is that warmer weather is in sight, and that means more time outdoors and more daylight. And with all of that rain, later spring can be quite beautiful across the region, which is all the more reason to get out and enjoy the scenery.
In the Mid-Atlantic and southern regions, the weather can be downright gorgeous in the spring, and you will probably not be the only creatures out and about and enjoying the warm weather (see our cautionary notes below when it comes to springtime wildlife). Nicer weather can also translate to more options for running, so check out some great trails in the Mid-Atlantic region for ideas.
The West Coast is also known for—you guessed it—rainy springs, but this should wane toward the end of the season. The winter and early spring rains result is greenery and flowers, so it is well worth it. It’s just one more thing to enjoy while you explore the great dog-friendly trails. The best motto for the Northwest is to be prepared—weather, temperature, and winds can change quickly.
In the Southwest, expect rising temperatures and rapidly increasing daylight, which can mean a runner’s paradise. The hot weather hasn’t set in yet and any extra moisture is most welcome. Spring may be your best opportunity to enjoy some of the running routes in the region with your dog, getting them acclimated to running before the summertime heat hits.
Because the spring weather can be so variable, it is always important to plan for extremes, and this means hot, cold, and torrential downpours. Some of the accessories listed below can be useful in these conditions. It’s particularly important to consider whether or not you and your dog will need a source of water on your runs, which might not be something on the forefront of your mind for winter running, but spring is an entirely different ballgame.
Additionally, you will not be the only ones enjoying the nice weather. With the warming temperatures come new wildlife that could range from piquing your dog’s curiosity (geese migrating back north) to downright dangerous (venomous snakes sunning themselves). As your dog encounters new wildlife be sure you have her under control in case she’s keen to make a new best friend.
Despite all of your plans, accidents can happen. Always have a plan for emergencies, which could include letting someone know your routes, bringing a phone and some extra money, and having a first aid kit. Many dog vests or running belts come with pickets or hooks that could be used to carry a first aid kit.
No matter what season, lighting is an important safety consideration, particularly before dawn and after dusk. These LED lights come in six colors, are water-resistant (perfect for those spring showers), and are visible for over a half-mile.Buy Now on Amazon
In some climates, spring temperatures can climb, so it is important to consider whether or not you should carry water on your run. Depending on your route and the temperature, this portable water bottle is one option. Portable, lightweight, and designed to be leak-proof, this water bottle has its own filter.Buy Now on Amazon
This dog harness is one option for increased control, particularly if you and your dog are just getting started on your running adventure (this is the model I use with Sabine, and it discourages pulling). It’s easy to put on and adjust and works well with large dogs.Buy Now on Amazon
This vest offers visibility it low light conditions, and has a convenient utility strap for carrying poop bags or other small accessories. It could be a great option if you have plans for running with your dog on the road, as it has reflective straps for maximum visibility. Easy to put on and adjust, this vest comes in multiple sizes and colors.Buy Now on Amazon
Once you and your dog have gotten the hang of running together, you might enjoy a hands-free leash. This leash is bungee-style, which provides some extra give, and includes a pouch for poop bags, or small items such as money or a key. It comes in multiple colors and has an adjustable belt.Buy Now on Amazon
Because spring almost always brings rain, you may want to consider a waterproof coat for your dog to help him stay dry in his core area, and to minimize the mud that gets caked on his coat. This coat in non-insulated and is a great choice for spring, but it could also be used beneath a heavier coat for colder climates. It has reflective trim and has an easy buckle design.Buy Now on Amazon
If you live in one of those regions where spring doesn’t necessarily equal warm, you might consider a heavier coat to help protect your dog from the elements while you are running, particularly if he has a short haircut. This coat is weatherproof with an insulated layer and has small pockets to pack lightweight essentials, such as poop bags. It’s also easy to put on and take off.Buy Now on Amazon
This leash accessory strikes a balance between the traditional leash and a hands-free belt. It attaches to your hand like a glove, but allows maximum flexibility and opens up your hands for other uses while running. The leash length is adjustable between 36″ and 48″, and is designed to be flexible and decrease the tension on the leash. It uses reflective threading to increase visibility.Buy Now on Amazon
This hands-free leash option comes equipped with a treat pouch that could be ideal for encouraging good running habits for your dog. The leash has two bungees for added shock absorption and comes with a collapsible bowl.Buy Now on Amazon
This heavy-duty no-pull harness is adjustable, comes in multiple colors, and has reflective stitching for increased visibility at night. It has a layer of padding for maximum comfort while exercising.Buy Now on Amazon
For more information about running with your dog, read one of the related Rover articles below.