Guest blog: Dr. Lauren Talarico, the Neurovet, on the essentials for running with your best friend

Running is one of the best forms of exercise for both you and your dog. The health benefits are nearly endless, but before you consider beginning a running program with your furry friend, there are several important factors to take into consideration. Below are useful tips to get you and your pooch ready!

VETERINARY CHECK UP I advise dogs be evaluated by a veterinarian prior to starting any exercise regime. Your vet can help answer questions regarding specific nutrition needs, vitamin supplements and underlying health conditions that may factor into training. A vet can also provide advice concerning the exercise intensity and duration appropriate for a dog’s breed and size.

Photo by Dr. Lauren Talarico

TRAINING FOR A LEASH RUN Leash training a dog, especially a puppy, can be challenging. I recommend making sure dogs are well socialized and used to walking right next to you prior to running together. It is also a good idea to run dogs on a harness rather than a leash and collar because excessive pulling on the neck region, the cervical spine, can lead to medical problems in the future. When running together, ensure the leash is kept somewhat loose while your dog is directly at your side. I highly suggest not running with the leash around your waist. If dogs become startled or excited about new smells or sights, they can pull you down and all control is lost. It is best to hold the leash firmly in your hand.

TRAINING IS KEY! Would you go out and run a half marathon for your first run? Probably not! Please do not expect dogs to run a 5K on day one. Even though pups may seem full of energy and can play for hours in the park, running at a consistent pace for a prolonged period of time can take a toll. It is important to build up mileage, just as you would for yourself. I encourage starting with a one to two mile run at a comfortable pace, making sure your pooch can easily keep up. If dogs are noticeably slowing down, consider stopping for a bit and walking the rest of the way.

RUNNING ESSENTIALS Be sure to carry a bottle of water for both you and the doggies. It is also a good idea to keep a few healthy treats in the event that your running buddy gets distracted. The Whistle activity monitor and Tagg GPS tracker are excellent training tools. I highly advocate the use of these products for any dog starting a running regime. Whistle provides a way to quantify precisely the amount of a dog’s daily exercise.

WATCH YOUR STEP! Even though Spot and Sadie have really thick paw pads, they are no replacement for rubber soled sneakers! Please be careful running on rough pavement, trails filled with sharp rocks or streets where there may be broken glass. I recommend packed dirt paths or white concrete. Remember – black top can get hot! If dogs start to limp or appear pained on their feet, stop and go home!

Stay tuned for more running tips and tricks from Dr. Talarico!

Dr. Lauren Talarico BS, DVM, DACVIM (Neurology/Neurosurgery) is a Board certified veterinary neurologist/neurosurgeon, avid marathon runner, cyclist and swimmer. Dr. Talarico is also the founder of We RUFF DC, LLC, a dog specific running group serving the DC/NOVA area. She has been featured in nationally recognized publications, including Runner’s World and Marie Claire. Dr. T is the mother of two Labrador retrievers – Raesynette, the 14-year-old cancer survivor and Prefontaine, DC/NOVA’s newest marathon running Lab puppy. Follow her at @neurovet3 and @weruffdc (


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