Training is almost always better with company, and let’s face it: No one loves hanging out with you more than your dog. In fact, your pooch can even get in on your favorite cardio at a Ruff Mudder event thanks to our friends at CHEWY. So, if you’re looking for a new workout partner, you don’t need to look any further than your four-legged friend.
“Most dogs love a good run,” says Cardin Kennedy, a fourth-year veterinary student at Tufts University. “At a moderate temperature and distance, I think it’s one of the most fun things you can do with your dog.”
Jennifer Tobits, a dog-loving California runner, agrees. “I felt something was missing after my first marathon: My training partner,” she says. Ellie, a golden retriever, has logged hundreds of miles with Tobits—including distance races like half-marathons (her younger lab siblings Hunter and Winston are also running enthusiasts).
Watch Coach and Piper show you how dogs make great workout partners.
Ready to go the distance with a furry running partner? Follow these guidelines to keep your pup safe and happy on the run.
Ready or Not?
How do you know if there’s an athlete hiding inside your pooch? “Your dog should always be out front pulling,” Tobits says. “The minute your dog lags behind your leg, you know they need a break.” And just like you need to warm up and stretch it out, so does your pup.
Kennedy adds that some purebred dogs like pugs, Boston terriers, shih-tzus, and bulldogs are better spectators than workout partners. “High-intensity exercise can actually be dangerous for squish-faced dogs, especially if it’s warm out,” she cautions. “Low-impact activities—swimming, long walks, agility training, etc.—in cool settings are essential to keep these guys healthy.”
Watch Coach and Piper get their blood pumping.
Puppies have boundless energy—for short distances, that is. We’re talking about as far as you can throw a tennis ball. If you’re looking for a real running buddy, wait until your dog is all grown up.
“Do not run a growing dog!” Kennedy cautions. “The high impact activity of running can cause lifelong angular limb deformities. Medium- to large-sized dogs—labs, hounds, most mixed-breed dogs we see walking around—are typically considered fully grown around one year.”
You’d never head out for a run without your sneakers, and your four-footed friend deserves similar consideration. “I try to find dirt or sand as often as possible,” Tobits says. “And I use Musher’s Secret on their paws for protection before each run.”
Other must-haves: a collapsible water bowl, poop bags, and a harness. “With a harness, the pull pressure is dispersed across the dog’s chest, instead of around the neck,” Tobits says. Ellie, Winston, and Hunter are tethered to Tobits by a modified leash called a running line. “It has a bungee component to absorb the shock (to me!) when the dog takes off at the start of a race,” she says. “I wear a belt that sits low on my waist so my hips and legs—not my back and arm—get the brunt of my dog’s pulling force.”
Watch Coach and Piper prepare to hit the trails.
You’ve probably adapted your diet in accordance with your training volume, and the same should go for your dog. “After a long run, your dog is in caloric deficit, so maybe throw in some extra kibbles,” Kennedy advises. But be sure to check with your vet first, because many dogs are actually overweight.
Landmark by American Journey dog food, the official dog food of Ruff Mudder, is specifically crafted with premium animal proteins and natural fats to provide a complete and balanced diet. For very active dogs, high-quality proteins provide more of the bioavailable amino acids their muscles need to go running and exploring with you. Protein also helps maintain healthy ligaments as well as provide a source of energy, along with healthy fats, so they can keep up with your training regimen. (CHEWY also offers a wide assortment of dog food and treat options for all types of pet diets. Click here to find out more about Landmark dog food, and click here to find special offers from Tough Mudder partners, including CHEWY and Landmark.)
“If you’re logging lots of miles together,” Kennedy adds, “you might also consider supplementing your dog’s diet with a vet-approved joint supplement like glucosamine/chondroitin or omega-3.”
And when someone has been a very, very good doggy workout partner—or needs a little motivation—show him some love, with kisses and affection or, even better, treats! “I bring high-value treats like dehydrated bison or beef burgers and dehydrated salmon to lure Winston away from chasing birds or other dogs playing fetch,” Tobits says.
Your dog is already your best friend, and with a little preparation, they can become your favorite cardio training partner, too.
Daphne Matalene is a running coach in Manhattan who ran the 2019 Boston Marathon. The wheels fell off so severely that she paused to pet a corgi at mile 18.