See Spot Run

Some dogs need more than a daily walk—they need to run to stay healthy and well behaved. Here’s how to start jogging with your dog.

By: Cynthia Allen

Chew marks on table legs? Trash all over the kitchen floor? Both are signs that Max may need more exercise.

High-energy dogs such as Jack Russell terriers and Labrador retrievers need more than daily walks to keep behavior and weight in check.

Jogging with your dog can help, says Susan Christopher, a veterinarian at Companion Animal Clinic in Fairfax Station. Christopher, who runs with Hootie, her Wheaten-terrier mix, explains how to start a running program.

What are the benefits of running with your dog?

Weight management is a huge one. Obese dogs can get arthritis because of the load their joints carry. Diabetes is another problem in overweight dogs. Running can also give a dog stronger bones and a stronger heart.

What happens to a dog’s behavior if it doesn’t get enough exercise?

A dog can be anxious, which leads to behaviors like getting into the trash and chewing furniture. When people work and don’t get home until 7, they forget that dogs need exercise to unwind, too. You can’t just let them out in the back yard and hope they run around. Dogs, like humans, need a little prodding to exercise.

How do you build up a dog’s stamina?

First, schedule an exam with your vet to make sure the dog’s heart and joints are in good shape. I would start with regular walks and work up to longer distances and eventually jogging.

What distance do you recommend?

Start with a quarter mile and increase from there. It’s not good to do one long run once a week. Do three or four runs a week and walks on the other days.

What breeds are suited for running?

It’s good for most breeds, but it’s really good for the working breeds, like collies and Labs, because they’re used to being more active.

Are there breeds that shouldn’t run?

Short-nosed breeds like bulldogs and pugs shouldn’t because their respiratory systems aren’t built for it. Walking is better for a dog with short legs, like a basset hound or dachshund, because they’re prone to orthopedic problems.