If you run as exercise, your Dalmatian can come with you no matter their experience or training level. Note: It’s important not to over exercise a puppy as their bones haven’t fully developed yet, so save running until they are at least 1-1.5 years old.
Although this may seem like a straightforward answer, it’s harder than you think to run with your dog in a safe and effective manner. There are lots of variables at play here so a step by step guide is difficult to create…That being said there is one at the end of the article that you can use as a reference to help plan your running journey with your dog. Dalmatians are excellent runners when it comes to endurance and sprinting. Click here to find out how fast a Dalmatian can run.
How to start running with your dog
Even though Dals are great sprinters and long distance runners, always start small and build up from there. Every dog is different and you don’t want to put too much stress on the animal, especially if they are new to running longer distances. Click here to read how much exercise your Dalmatian needs. No matter the training level, all dogs can never be trusted 100%, so always start with your dog on a lead unless you can find an isolated spot with little to no distractions (starting on lead helps your dog to learn to keep pace).
Start with a distance of less than 1 mile and monitor your dog closely. Make sure the weather is not too hot. Keep in mind your dog can’t tell you if it’s in pain, tired, too hot or simply not having a good time…it’s up to you to look out for the symptoms of these effects. Make sure the dog is hydrated before and after the run, with the biggest risk to the dogs health being heatstroke, so look out for that. Symptoms of heatstroke are excessive panting after you stop, excessive drooling and red gums. If all is good after the first run, slowly increase the distance as time goes on, depending on how you are both handling the runs.
Running on a lead and collar
This may seem self explanatory, but it can get quite complicated due to the different types of leads and collars, the way your dog runs, how obedient or trained your dog is and the location of where you are running. Always start with your dog on a lead for safety and training reasons, unless you are in an isolated or fenced area with minimal distractions and are willing to accept your dog interrupting your rythme.
The most important part of running with your dog on a lead is the collar you use. Many suggest using a harness for maximum control, but this may harm your dog over time due to the restriction of muscle movement and rubbing under the legs etc.
Don’t use a halti for running (the collar that goes around your dog’s nose or face), as the halti is designed to pull your dog’s head to the side, and at running speeds this can cause serious injury.
Using a normal collar is the best practice, which can be extremely annoying if your dog constantly pulls and disobeys. This is completely normal as it will take some time for your dog to figure out that this is work and not a normal sniff, run, pee kind of run. Training your dog not to pull while walking on lead helps with this. Click here for a full comprehensive guide on training your dog to stop pulling on the lead. If they pull while running, go back to walking and correct the behavior there using our training guide.
There are a few different leads you can use depending on you and your dog’s needs and style. It’s not advised to use a retractable lead, as your dog will find it hard to learn to run at your pace, plus all the other annoyances that come with it.
You can purchase a lead that connects to your body to free your hands, or just use a regular lead and hold it as you run. It may be worth purchasing a lead that connects to your body if you run consistently with your dog, and mostly in public places like the footpath.
Personally I just use a regular lead/collar combo as I run in isolated areas or fenced off ovals without anyone around allowing off lead running. Sometimes the areas I run in will have other people or dogs around, forcing me to run with the lead so I just put up with holding the lead when this happens.
Running without a lead (off lead)
This is usually the preferred method of exercising with your dog as it allows more freedom and comfort for both of you. It’s important to note that risk management is extremely important when running with your dog off lead. Even the most highly trained and obedient dogs can slip up and disobey or do something unpredictable, meaning this is highly likely for the average dog. If you have employed proper risk management tactics, the repercussions of this happening should be minor.
A good example of risk management tactics:
- Run within a fenced off area
- Choose an isolated location for off lead activity
- Train and practice good recall
- Avoid high risk danger such roads or other animals
Other people or dogs being close by may be at a lower or higher risk of an incident occurring depending on the temperament and training of the dog. Roads are extremely high risk environments for dogs not on lead! If the dog decides to dart across a road without warning, death or serious injury is likely. Even if your dog is highly trained and obedient, why take the risk! Personally my heart races when I see a dog off lead next to a road.
A bike track can also be risky for dogs. If your dog decides to or accidentally runs in front of a bike, this can result in some hefty consequences for all involved. If your dog is on lead you can pull them close for passing bikes.
5 Step guide to run with your dog
Note: this is very general and you will need to tweak it to fit in with you and your dog’s temperament and training levels
- Train your dog to walk on a lead without pulling (click for comprehensive training guide)
- Find an area with little to no distractions, start jogging with your dog on lead to establish a rythme, your dog will eventually figure out how to match your pace
- Run less than 1 mile, avoid hot days and pay close attention to your dog and how they handle it
- Slowly increase the distance over time until you reach the desired distance, judge this on how your dog is handling the small increases
- Practise makes perfect, your dog will slowly understand that a jog is work, they need to keep pace with you and this isn’t the time for sniffing or pee breaks
Once the dog has transitioned from walking on lead to running on lead, you can experiment with leads and collars if you like, to maximise the experience for you both. If you want to jog off lead with your dog, do this once your dog can run on lead with you at an acceptable level. This will help the dog understand that it needs to keep pace with you, and if you skip this step your dog will probably keep stopping, sniffing, peeing which in turn interrupts your run.
Running with your Dalmatian can be a great experience for both of you. It’s obviously a great way to exercise and help your Dal burn off some of that infinite energy. You can now make an informed decision if you should run with your dog on lead or off lead, how to transition if you want to and the risks involved. You should now be able to turn running with your Dalmatian into a positive experience for the both of you.