Lisette Schermann runs with her dog, Troy.

What you need to know about running with your dog

Brainsport manager Lisette Schermann loves dogs.

Seven years ago she and her husband moved out of Saskatoon to a house in the country with a big backyard. They adopted a dog. And then another and another. Her dogs have been some of her best friends — and primary running buddies — ever since.

“Their enthusiasm gets me out on days when I’m not feeling super enthusiastic,” Schermann says. “I struggle with getting out for consistent workouts and dogs love consistency so they’ve really helped me improve my consistency.”

But you can’t just clip a leash on a dog and expect to have a great run together. This week, Schermann shares insights with the Brainsport Times about how to have a fun and safe run with your four-legged friend.

Know your dog

Not all dog breeds are ideal running companions. For instance, the American Kennel Club warns that dogs with short snouts such as pugs and bulldogs should only sprint for short distances. Small dogs may only be able to join you for short runs.

If you’re adopting a dog with the expectation it runs with you, make sure to research the breed first.

Schermann’s three dogs — Casey the Labrador/Border Collie cross, Belle the Bluetick Coonhound and Troy the German Shepherd/Husky cross — are all medium sized and athletic. Casey and Belle are both in their senior years and have largely retired from running with their mom.

Take it slow

Schermann adopted her dogs when they were adults and started running with them gradually. Like people, dogs need time to gain fitness and going far and too fast too soon can cause injury — and maybe even some resentment.

“I definitely didn’t just slap a leash on them and go for a 5k run. I started with longer walks and then added some walk-running to it,” Schermann says.

“The first time I took Belle on a 3k run, when we got home she went to my husband and hid behind him. I realized maybe that was a little far for her.”

The American Kennel Club notes that running is generally not safe for puppies because their bones are still growing. The recommended age for most breeds to start running is 18 months.

Work on basic obedience skills

If you live in an area where you’re able to run off leash, make sure you are regularly practicing training commands in off-leash situations.

For the best experience running on a leash, consider taking a leash class. Schermann says taking classes with Belle was a great experience for both of them. “I would definitely recommend the class to anybody that wants to run with their dog,” she says.

Schermann prefers to run with a hands-free leash that is either clipped around her waist or hydration pack.

Watch for signs of discomfort

“Most dogs will just do everything they can to keep up with you and not let on if they’re struggling,” Schermaann warns. “You really do have to watch carefully and decide where to draw the line.”

That could mean paying attention to changes in your dog’s gait and body position. If a dog that normally runs right beside you starts to lag behind that could also be an indication that something is amiss.

Schermann also makes sure to anticipate scenarios that could cause discomfort before heading out and won’t take her dogs running if it’s too hot or too cold for them.

Dress for their run

Schermann always dresses warmer when running with dogs than when running solo. Part of that is because running with dogs can involve more stopping or starting to scoop poop or otherwise attend to their needs.

It also keeps Schermann attuned to how her companions must be feeling.

“It helps me be more sensitive to what it’s like for them running with fur coats on,” she says. “If I’m uncomfortable in a long-sleeve shirt, it’s probably too hot for them.”

Schermann will dress up her dogs in jackets for winter walks, but she’ll leave the jackets at home for winter runs because she knows they heat up fast.

As the days get shorter, Schermann also makes sure to don a headlamp and ArroWhere visibility vest for runs on the gravel road to protect herself and her dogs from passing traffic.

“A few years ago, I was running beside the road without a visibility vest. A truck passed me, slammed on the brakes and backed up to where I was. The driver jumped out and he was holding a visibility vest from a construction site. He insisted I take it and I wore it every morning until I got my fancy ArroWhere vest,” she says.

Don’t forget poop bags

The one thing Schermann won’t leave the house without when running with dogs is poop bags. She will also stuff some treats in her pockets in case she needs to capture the dogs’ attention.

Remember you’re a team

“You’ve got to remember that when you take the dog for a run you’re sharing your run. It’s not just up to you anymore,” Schermann says.

She enjoys taking her dogs on unstructured, easy runs when she’s not worried about hitting certain times. Intervals are best done solo.

“They love it if you throw a few pickups in there, but a more structured workout is hard because you’re sharing your workout with somebody that’s hard to communicate with. So you’d have to have a really great connection with your dog to pull that off,” Schermann says.

Have fun

Running with your dog should be fun for both of you — don’t forget to enjoy the experience. “I just definitely appreciate having the company when I’m out on the grid road,” Schermann says.