How to Evaluate Your Dog’s Fitness for Running

A golden retriever running on a beach

If you routinely run with a dog, you already know it can be the best part of your day—not only is it a great exercise for you both, it’s time spent outdoors together bonding. 

 

But, before you go, make sure your dog is physically capable of safely keeping up to avoid injuries and make the most of each run.

A brown dog running through a field of tall grass at sunset

Wait, All Dogs Were Made to Run, Right?

While your dog’s ancestor, the ancient wolf, could cover up to 60 miles each day in pursuit of food, domesticated dogs are a different story and aren’t built for sustained running over long distances. Running can strain your dog’s tendons and joints, especially if they’re too young. Developing skeletons are at risk of permanent damage when pushed beyond capacity. Most vets recommend waiting until a dog is at least a year old before training them to run with you, longer for large breeds. 


Your dog’s stature can also impact their capacity to run for long distances; those with shorter legs and snouts might have trouble keeping up over long distances. Always err on the side of caution as your dog won’t know when to stop.

Two large dogs sitting on a beach at sunset

Fuel Your Dog for Success

Calories and nutrients are important to any runner’s diet—human or otherwise. Feed your running dog a diet rich in: 

  • Meat & protein 
  • Digestible calcium 
  • Micronutrients 
  • Food that contains “good” bacteria and enzymes 

Watch for weight gain in a dog who is fed a high-energy diet but doesn’t get enough exercise to compensate for it. And consider adding glucosamine and chondroitin to your senior canine’s diet for joint health.

Tip: Avoid feeding a dog an hour before or after a run to reduce the risk of gastric torsion, or bloat, which can be fatal if left untreated. 

A woman squatting next to her dog wearing an orange harness

Running Requisite: Take Your Dog to the Vet

Ask your veterinarian to give your dog a checkup before you start your running routine. Your vet can evaluate your dog’s heart, lungs, and joint health, plus their predisposition to dysplasia that might impact your dog’s ability to run.

Tip:  Ask your vet to show you how to recognize potential medical issues that could arise during a run, so you’re prepared just in case.