Train Your Dog for Long Distance Trail Running in 20 Steps

Six months ago, our dog Ginger couldn’t play for more than five minutes without getting winded and lying down for the rest of the day. Today, Ginger glides through 20-mile trail runs without a sign of fatigue. We can’t keep up.

I’m not a dog trainer. I’m an ultra runner currently training for my first 100-miler with a dog that loves trails. After searching for information on how to train my dog to follow me on my ultra-long runs, I found nothing. So I decided to become my own expert.

I started training Ginger the same way I train myself: back-to-back long runs, night running, trail running, elevation training, and hills. Below are the 20 steps I followed to transform Ginger from a couch dog to an ultra dog.

1. Assess your dog’s physical features.

We don’t know what Ginger’s breed is, so the dog articles that discussed breeds were useless. Ginger was adopted when she was just days old. She’s a mutt. Some people say she looks part Dalmatian or part German Shorthaired Pointer. We just say she’s Mexican (she was abandoned in Tijuana), and have no interest in learning her breed.

Ginger is physically built like a running dog. Her dog-care experts say she has the traits of a hunter. She’s quick, long, lean, and sharp. She’s an amazing sprinter, and her hair is short so she doesn’t overheat easily. Her size and shape compliment distance running.

If Ginger were smaller, or if she had thick fur, she might not have been able to run as long. Keep that in mind when establishing the limits of your own dog.

Not all breeds are physically built for efficient long-distance trail running. But then again, not all humans are training for ultras. So chances are there’s a happy medium where you and your dog can run together.

2. Establish an interest.

It’s easy to project our own interests onto the things or people we love. I love trail running, so my dog must love it too, right? Not necessarily. It’s important to make sure this is something your dog enjoys.

Does your dog like to run? Does your dog love trails? Much like humans, you’re not likely to convince someone to train for an ultra if they hate running. Dogs are usually great at showing us what they enjoy. Get their paws on a trail and see how they react.

Sometimes when we drive Ginger home from a trail, she doesn’t want to get out of the car. She thinks the next stop might be another trail.

Trail love

3. Start slow.

It takes time to train a dog. It took us six months to get Ginger in ultra shape, but it may take much longer. On a positive note, it takes a long time to train a human as well. So patience is important for you both.

Do not ever rush the process. Dogs want so badly to please their owners, and that’s a strong motivation for them. Don’t make your dog “push” to please you, or make them feel that they’ve failed you by not running far enough.

Your dog doesn’t need to be mentally pushed the same way that you do. Dog-hearts in it 100 percent and they always give their best. They’re not stressing over speed or goals or race fears. So if your dog is showing signs of wanting to stop, take it seriously.

4. Build a base with play-training.

Ginger loves chasing her ball, but six months ago she would get winded after five minutes. I started playing with Ginger until she got tired, then I would let her recover before playing again.

At first, it took Ginger half a day to recover and we’d only get in two or three play sessions. As time passed, her recovery times got much shorter. We play-trained for 30 to 60 minutes, two days a week until Ginger was able to play for one hour without stopping. Only then did I start to run with her.

5. Watch for cues.

Dogs are less complicated than humans. If they’re tired, they flop on the ground. If they’re thirsty, they drink. If they want to stop running, they will show cues. They may dawdle or just walk. Being receptive to their cues is crucial. Your dog knows what it needs.

My friend Cynthia recently started running with her dog. She knows when her dog Penny is ready for a rest when she stops often to pee:

For the past month, we have gone out about three to five times a week on this little 2K stroll and we do running pickups. Sometimes we do 2.5K depending on how she feels. If I see she is stopping often to do her business, I know it’s not a good day so we take it easy.

6. Start with short, local loops.

I started Ginger with a single run around the block, letting her rest when she got tired. When she recovered, we’d go back out. As time passed, her distances got longer (more loops, less recovery).

When we got to the point where she could run steady for an hour or more without getting tired, we started taking her out to the trails.

7. Keep track.

As silly as it sounds, Ginger has a Dailymile account where I track her mileage. This helps tremendously as far as knowing what she’s capable of and how far she’s come. It helps me determine what types of distances and conditions she’s ready for, and I note her mood and energy as well.

Every once in a while, tracking her progress also helps me call out and celebrate her milestones. We celebrated her highest elevation run. Her roughest terrain. We even note which wildlife she sees and how she responds.

I record Ginger’s mileage in “Ginger-speak,” typing about the run through her eyes. Here are some examples of her entries:

“I SEEN THE DEER AND I HUNT HIM. IMA WOLF.”

“I RUNNED FAST AND THEN I STOP TO PEE.”

“I SEEN A CAT I TRY TO EAT IT.”

“TIME TO GET SERIOUS ABOUT MY TRAININ….. SQUIRREL!!!!!!”

Ginger has had “Friends” add her and encourage her on her journey. I translate their messages by patting her head. You can add Ginger as a friend here.

All the benefits you get from tracking your own workouts apply to your dog as well. I strongly suggest keeping a log.

8. Open a line of communication.

The dog-master relationship is precious and your dog will often be bonded to you more strongly than what you imagine. Communicate with them about running, and you’ll be surprised at how much they actually understand and can share in your passion.

Tell your dog they’re going for a run. They’ll probably know exactly what you mean. This is my friend Cynthia’s experience:

I tell Penny the night before that we are going for a run in the morning and she knows what it means. Since (my husband) wakes up before me, she knows she still has some sleeping time until I wake up and we go.

When I get out of the bedroom, I ask her: ‘Are you ready for your run?’ and she gets so excited! Funny thing is she actually stretches before we leave. She does Downward Dog.

The book How to Talk to Your Animals describes how one dog owner started speaking English to his dog, and was shocked to find that his dog understood what he was saying.

“He speaks English!” he exclaimed to his wife. She looked at him in disgust, “Of course he speaks English! What’s he going to speak, German?!”

The author goes on to describe how many words dogs have been known to retain, and tells stories of dogs in Mexico who understand Spanish. According to this book, it’s easier for dogs to understand our language than for us to understand theirs.

Talk to your dog about running. This can keep you accountable as well. If you promised your dog a morning run the night before, you have to get up and do it.

9. Introduce trail running.

We started with a group trail run of 6 miles, then slowly incorporated other mid-week runs when we could no longer tire her out. Trail running adds a different dynamic to your dog’s experience, so it’s important to monitor this transition.

For Ginger, running in a group was a huge distraction. She hated to be in last place, and would often lunge forward to cut people off. It took some time for her to understand this was not acceptable.

There are also cyclists and wildlife to deal with. There’s a lot of stimulation for a dog. Take your time on this transition until your dog is comfortable with trails.

I found it helped Ginger to have some time off-leash (where possible) to sniff her new surroundings and explore a little. This prevented her from stopping dead in the middle of a single track trail to sniff some poop while tripping the person behind her.

We are still trying to perfect Ginger’s trail manners, especially when it comes to running with strangers and spotting other animals. She recently tried to take down an entire herd of deer by herself. Hunter, much? It’s an on-going process with her.

Some basic obedience training could go a long way here as far as following basic commands. Ginger is learning:

  • “Slow down”
  • “Stop”
  • “Walking”
  • “Come on”
  • “Let’s go”
  • “This way”

Ginger and I on the trails

10. Pick a side on pooping.

Ultra trail runners are well known for pooping on the side of the trail. In fact, I’ve heard people say that you’re not a true trail runner until you’ve pooped in the woods. I know that not all runners do this, but when you’re training to run 100 miles, any bush looks like a toilet.

The doggie bags I carry for Ginger are attached to her leash. On one trail run, it dawned on me: Why the hell and I shitting in the woods yet carefully carrying my dog’s poop around?? I picked a side: the Non-Doggie Bag Side.

Depending on your distance and your trails, you may pick the Doggie Bag Side. Maybe wood-pooping isn’t something you or your dog want to get into right now. It’s your call.

I always make sure Ginger goes off-trail and if she doesn’t, I’ll move it somewhere I’d poop myself, or slide it over the side of a cliff. She usually tries to bury it herself.

11. Train for danger. 

Trail dangers include things like wildlife and rattlesnakes. We put Ginger through a rattlesnake avoidance training class once a year. It costs $70 and lasts under ten minutes. She learns to recognize and avoid snakes, and it gives us tremendous peace of mind when she’s out on the trails.

HERE is the training resource that we use, and below is a video of Ginger’s last training session. She’s great at avoiding snakes, but sometimes has trouble spotting them.

It’s best to do this at the beginning of the year, to coincide with rattlesnake season. It’s also best to refresh this training once a year. This is an important point to follow. One of our trail running friends lost her dog when it was bitten by a rattlesnake.

12. Make running fun, not work.

Dogs and humans both appreciate variety. On our shorter runs, I like to shake things up with Ginger. Sometimes we run “people pace”, and sometimes we run “Ginger pace”.

Ginger pace is where she gets a turn to lead. Instead of following me, I follow her. My pace is always steady and slow, but at Ginger pace we’re either running a mad dash, or stopping dead so she can sniff some pee-mail. This puts some fun into our routine, and keeps both of us engaged and smiling (yes, she smiles).

Does it get much more fun than this? Hellz no. 

13. Leash wisely.

The leash that works well for road running with Ginger doesn’t work on trails. Most of the trails we’re running are single track, which means that if Ginger is leashed, she can’t run right beside me—she has be in front or behind. She needs a longer extension.

Also, technical trails can have sudden drops or rocks we have to scale. A shorter leash will start to choke her and severely limits her movement. If she has to leap off a rock and I’m still on it, a short leash is a disaster waiting to happen.

We have opted to let Ginger go off-leash as much as possible, and we often choose our trails based on their seclusion so she doesn’t bother anyone. Ginger is actually much better behaved and obedient when she’s off-leash than when I have her leashed.

If there’s a biker up ahead or another dog that might be aggressive, we’ll hold her until the threat has passed. If we spot other people on the trail, we’ll leash her until we pass them.

14. Trust your dog.

Letting your dog off-leash can be scary, but in some ways in comes down to trusting your dog. I knew that Ginger’s nature was very submissive, and she wasn’t one to run away. When we decided to trust her off-leash, we found that she became more protective of us and careful.

Instead of charging ahead like she tends to do on her leash, she would run close to the side of the person who was leading. Then she’d keep looking back to check that the other person wasn’t being left behind.

When we put enough distance between us that we could no longer see the next runner on the trails, Ginger would run back and forth to check on both runners. At one point, I stopped to take off my sweater and adjust my pack. Ginger sat beside me and nudged for me to catch up.

Last weekend Shacky hid behind a bush to see what she’d do if she lost one of us. She ran up and down the trail in search of him until he came out of hiding. She refused to leave him behind.

Miss Ginger checking over her shoulder for Shacky

15. Encourage hydration.

Your dog needs water just as much as you do. Encourage drinking at the end of every run and make it a routine. As your runs get longer, you should encourage your dog to drink mid-run.

We have Ginger drink every 6 to 8 miles, but some dogs may need to drink more frequently. When we’re on the trail, Ginger is great at drinking from creeks or streams when she needs it.

We keep an eye out for good water sources for Ginger and if there’s nothing appropriate, we pull out her collapsible doggie dish that hooks onto my own hydration pack. If we’re travelling long, she carries her own doggie pack with her own water dish.

Ginger has never gotten sick from stream or creek water, although if the water source doesn’t look clean, we give her water from our own hydration packs.

When we first started running trails, Ginger was so excited that it was difficult for her to settle down and drink. Now she is better at understanding when we want her to hydrate.

16. Do night runs.

Night (especially trail) running adds a different dimension. You may find that your dog behaves strangely under the moon. I have a small doggie light that I attach to Ginger’s collar when we run trails at night, more for my benefit than for hers. It doesn’t do much to light her way, but it ensures that I can spot her easily.

Running in the dark with a leash could take some practice as well. Your dog probably has better vision than you do, and it may take them some time to adjust to your more cautious form and speed. Humans should always wear headlamps.

17. Introduce elevation and hills.

This is the same process as introducing trails. Monitor the transition closely, and listen to your dog’s body (bet you never heard that one before). Stop if your dog needs to stop. Chances are your dog will probably adjust faster than you can.

18. Introduce higher mileage.

I used the same endurance-focused technique to build Ginger’s mileage. Speed didn’t matter, only time on her feet. When she got tired, we recovered and continued. We did this until she was comfortable running 20-mile distances without stopping.

19. Consider nutrition.

If you’re going to be on the trail long enough, your dog may need to eat. We are still experimenting with different foods for Ginger, but we try to give her some mix of carbs and protein. I have read of dogs eating anything and everything on a trail, from Cheezits to beef jerkey.

For the most part, we let Ginger tell us what she likes and doesn’t like. Interestingly, she loves pizza (hard to carry on a trail) but will also eat whatever we’re eating, from sandwiches to burritos.

On our last long run, I shared a bean and rice burrito with Ginger. At home, we feed her raw meat as well as high-quality, grain-free dog food. Sometimes Ginger’s diet is healthier than our own.

Mexicans love burritos. 

20. Introduce back-to-back runs.

Back-to-back long runs were key for my own ultra training, so that’s where we headed with Ginger. Her recovery is impressive, and she has now caught up to my own training. We start to break down at about the same mileage, and we recover at around the same time. I’ve created the perfect running partner.

Immeasurable Benefits

1. BFF-status

Your dog can become your most loyal running buddy and bring out the fiercest loyalty in you. You’ll look out for each other and understand each other’s needs. I’ve passed up races because I didn’t want to put Ginger up in a doggie-hotel. Sometimes I’d rather bust out a long run with her.

2. Safety

Any run that I do with Ginger is safer. She’s not an aggressive dog, but I know that if danger calls, she’d step up and defend me. I also know that her mere presence is a deterrent.

I am never approached when Ginger is with me, whereas when I run alone I sometimes get comments, cars slowing down, or some lingering. Recently I was running in the dark with Ginger and I saw a man cross to the other side of the road to avoid us.

3. Fun and Enjoyment

Dogs know how to appreciate trails. They frolic. They sprint. They stand out over a lookout and gaze. Watching them teaches you to appreciate the trails. It reminds you where you are and why you’re here.

On roads, Ginger can be clumsy and careless (she once ran into a brick wall), but on the trails she moves with grace while I stumble along.

Here’s an exerpt from the book How to Talk to Your Animals, which outlines the similarities between wolves and dogs as far as movement and behavior in a natural setting:

In the woods I need not ask him to sit when we come to the top of the hill in view of the glorious Hudson. He glances at me, then the vista, sits down, and, like myself, gazes across the river valley. Only a few weeks ago we were on a new trail that opened up over a lake. Qimmiq lanced back at me, ran to the ridge, and sat down.

‘You’re right, it is beautiful,’ I said. He wagged is tail.

His wild kin, the wolves of Mount McKinley, dig their dens high on hills in view of gray-green valleys and snow-covered peaks. And they, like Qimmiq and me, sit and enjoy the magnificence.

At such moments the glance from either of us will say a volume, and the abyss between species is crossed from both sides.

If you’re thinking about getting a dog, please consider adoption

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How to Train Your Human to Run an Ultra

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50 responses

  1. Thanks so much for this! My husband would really like to get a dog in the near future that can go on runs with us (or with me when I’m solo), so this is incredibly helpful.

    And your dog is adorable! :)

  2. In all my running years I have always run with a dog. Growing up in the Yukon Territory, probably had something to do with it. In my retirement’ I ran the Bruce Trail Hockly Valley to Blue Mountain”200km” With Bailey a 150lb Newfound Dog who died at 15yrs,who lived almost twice as long as the usual Newf. Many Sled dogs lived past 22yrs in the Yukon. My last dog Cleo died four months ago and I have just started a new journey with Eddie. I hope we will grow old together. When I pass I hope to come back as a”Dog.”

    • That’s so beautiful how you’ve shared your life with all those dogs. I’ve never lost a dog – I have no idea what I’ll do when Ginger passes :( I think that’s going to be really hard on me.

  3. Thank you for sharing your tips for running with your dog. (Actually, thanks for sharing all your tips, I have enjoyed reading your blog for awhile now). I never go for a run without my dog Tess, and she has never had any issues. However, I have been concerned about taking her with me as I progress to longer runs (I am training for my first full marathon). She has done great on runs up to about 12 miles, but I know she needs to hydrate better and as we both run even longer distances, I know I need to provide some kind of nutrition. Do you find that you need to give Ginger food as often as you feed yourself, or are their signs you look for that indicate she is in need of a boost?

    Thank you again, this was perfect timing for me. I absolutely love running with Tess, I cannot imagine going for a run without her. I haven’t felt compelled to join any kind of group runs, because really, how much more companionship could I ask for :)

    • Definitely agree! At first, I tried to feed her as often as I’d eat, but that was too much and she wouldn’t eat. I’ll still offer her something whenever I stop to eat, and let her decide if she wants to take it.

      She doesn’t give me any hunger signs – I think I’ve been overcautious and haven’t let her get very hungry. She does give me signs that she does NOT want food – she’ll push it away, or she’ll walk or run away from the food. I’ve also noticed that when we’re home, she’ll eat a lot more in between runs. We fill her doggie dish twice as much as we used to.

      You should be able to get a feel for how often Tess wants to eat – try to offer her food when you’re hungry and see if she takes it. It’s a bit of a trial and error I think. For Ginger, she usually doesn’t eat until after at 10 miles. Have fun out there!

  4. Awesome post! I love taking my dog trail running, but due to bad hips he can only usually go a few miles. One thing that’s important is to figure out how populated the trails you’re running on are and whether a leash is required or not. I prefer not to bring the dog if he has to be on a leash while trail running though.

  5. So cute, I love that she is a trail runner too. My little pug/boston mix is not having it most I could get out of him once was 2 miles. He is more of a 100yard sprinter.

  6. I’ve just stumbled across your blog! I love it! Plus the Great Doggy Advice! I live in Salt Lake City and the Benches have a pretty good rattle snake population. I have yet to find a local Rattle snake aversion class, but I do get my girl ,Ruby, a Rattle snake vaccine that is offered. The studies that I have found about have shown that it may or may not help….hmmm. Have you come across anything like this in Cali?

    • We thought about the vaccine. My understanding is that it doesn’t mean your dog is safe, it just gives you extra hour or two to get help. Not really useful in our case since we’re usually in the middle of nowhere and well over two hours away from our car.. but a good option to have.

  7. Love this! I run with my dogs and the hardest part for me is keeping my husky mix cool. He also seems to get bored/tired running at my pace but it’s a work in progress.

    I was just going to comment about the leash single-track combo you mentioned not really working. My dog is not reliable around wildlife so I have to be very strict about leashing him. I also had trouble with the jogging leash on the single-track and the dog going the wrong way around the tree and getting pulled around by his neck. The solution for us was a simple harness. I hook the jogging leash up to that instead of his collar and even got a little bungee attachment for the leash. The dog seems to really appreciate having a little cushion for sudden stops/starts and having the force of any pulling spread out over more of his body on the harness vs. the collar. He even understands the difference between his ski-jor harness (pulling) and the running harness (heeling). Dogs are so smart!

    Since your dog is good off leash you probably don’t need to worry about it but it might be something to add to your tips for others. My dog is a lot happier running on leash in a well fitting harness than on a collar.

  8. I loved this post! My dog (a hound mix of some kind) loves running with me. She’s only gone as far as 17 miles and she’ll only run in the winter, but I love taking her with me for trail and road runs!

  9. I really appreciated finding this! I am getting a dog this fall, and I really want him to enjoy running, not just tolerate it. It looks like you’ve put together a good guide toward that end :)

  10. Endurance running/walking with dogs is known as Dog Trekking – I’m sure there is huge amount of google knowledge in English on this topic (feeding, training etc). You may want to look at this site (manmat -> http://www.manmat.cz/en/home/dog) for some equipment for your dog. I don’t know US law, but in my country dogs are not allowed to run free in most forests and National Parks, so a good leash with bungee and a harness for your dog, and a (ski) belt for a musher/runner is a must.
    As for commands, it is good to learn your dog to turn right or left on a command, and go a “little left or a little right” – to change path site, to avoid some thing.
    Dog trekking was/is one of my favourite activities with my dog. I had a huge German Shepard with I walked/run for 40+ km each weekend, the dog loved it, and so did I:-).
    It is important to remember, to start hard core training when the dog is physically mature, and not before 6th month of it age. Up to its first year, it is better to just play with the dog, run or walk for short distances and teach it all used commands.
    I think endurance running/walking (dog trekking – walking – is in fact very fast walk or jog, since yours and your dogs walking speed is around 7-8km/h) is much better for the dog then cycling.

    Feeding your dog is very important when doing endurance running. Maybe you know Acana, it is an excellent dog food manufacturer, located in Canada. Its products are as good as Royal Canine, but 50% cheaper :-)

    Also you can train your dog to take some of its stuff for him self – water/food on a trail (with a special dog backpack), so you won’t have to worry about extra kg on your back ;-D

    Good luck on your new lifestyle (mentioned in the other blog posts) & sorry for such a long comment, I just love dog trekking so much ;-)

  11. Awesome! Thanks for the tips! I have an australian shepherd/blue heeler mix who’s only 11 weeks old and is already shaping up to be my ultra and mntn biking trail buddy! I’m being patient an waiting for her to grow up a bit more before I take her on longer runs, but she already sticks right with me for short runs and loves being on trails! I’m working on a command for her to yield to oncoming bikers and runners, but so far she runs within 6 feet behind me and stays with me despite wild-life and other runners/bikers. Im’ really looking forward to her being old enough for me to feel confident about running her further! She wants to keep going but Im’ afraid of hurting her joints. thanks for the help!

  12. great article……my border collie died last may. i didn’t realize it but i quit mt. biking because she got old. actually i joke now that she and i got old and fat the last 3 years of her life due to her allergies and arthritis. i ballooned up to over 300lbs. after she died i told my wife about my new weight loss program. it was called GET A DOG!!! i adopted Tiger 6/12/11. we go on hikes at least 5 days a week now. i started a mileage log and have over 900 miles already this year. the goal is to break 1500 this year. 14 month ago i couldn’t go much over a mile and it wasted me. now i do 3-5 mile trail hikes monday thru friday and a couple of 10+ milers on weekend. thanx to Tiger i’m down 50lbs. and am planning a 30 mile overnite hike on the Appalachian trail for Labor Day weekend.

    a good dog can change your life. a bad one can change it more. Tiger was in a local animal shelter and probably would have been put down. i went looking for the most obnoxious high energy dog i could find and there he was. my wife hated him because of his issues but now he has started to grow on her. i took him to obediance class and we started agility training this week. he is always ready for a hike/run. he is the best workout partner ever. he has never missed a day. everyday he lets me know that at 5pm its hiking time. got to get on the trail and go. i let him chase the deer just to wear him out. he actually cornered one once and let it go so he could chase it again.

    if you need to get motivated to run, hike or just get out of the house go adopt a dog at a shelter. they have all kinds of dogs there. most mutts don’t have the medical issues of some of the purebreds either, plus its fun to try to watch them and discover whats in a mutt. i guess Tiger is some sort of whippet or greyhound mixed with a cattle dog or some herding breed. no wonder he is so high energy. imagine sight hound speed and herding dog drive and stamina. he may not be the dog for everyone but he is perfect for me. i guess i saved him and he saved me.

  13. I take my weimaraner out as much as possible on the trails. It makes our house a bit calmer once he’s expanded some energy. I think we’re up to 16 miles, and he’s bagged 2 14-ers here in Colorado :-)

    One question (and the above information is awesome btw): some of the trails are quite rocky, technical, and sometimes have jagged edges. I know he can sense that difference very well with his pads, etc., but when there is snowcover it makes it quite hard. We’ve been lucky, but I have seen bloody footprints out there. Do you carry anything with you to address that like gauze or bandages? Ever had that happen to you and your dog?
    Thanks

    • We fortunately don’t get that kind of snow in San Diego. Our trails are pretty jagged, so I can see how that would be a big issue in the snow. I would likely just keep her on smoother trails in the winter if it snowed here. So far we have never had that problem!

  14. I know this was a while back but I hope you see this comment: do some dogs just not like runs? It is strange, I have a high energy malinois cross that I adopted from the shelter and I would love to be able to run with her. I do run with her sometimes in fact, but she doesn’t seem to enjoy it much. I can’t let her off the lead where we run mostly because there are too many people – any tips to make it more enjoyable for her, or will she just never love to run? She seems to like to run around off the lead.
    Thanks.

    • I would try taking her to a secluded or fenced in area and run around with her off-leash, to see if she follows/shows interest. Even my dog isn’t a fan of running around too many people. I don’t like it either :)

      • Thanks! It’s hard to find a spot here, I’d have to drive for miles which makes it tough to find the time. I have managed to get her to show some enthusiasm by taking some treats with me and letting her run with her fave toy cow though! I will try to find a trail or an empty field next weekend. Thanks again.

  15. Thank you very much for these 20 steps. I’m a triathlete that is taking a venture in to ultras, and I’m pretty excited to know that its possible to train your dog to become a distance athlete too. I was afraid to push my dog and hurt his health just because I’d like to bring him on my runs. The 20 steps are exactly what I was looking for and I can’t wait to start my very energetic German Shepard (Tobby ) on his training to a more happy life on the trails.

  16. Loved the article – thanks for sharing! My Labradoodle is 8yrs and we do 6-8mi together every so often…it’s all off leash trails. She’s been running on trails since she was a puppy (in those days, I would be on a bike!). You’ve inspired me to take my dog on my morning runs – typically 1 hour beginning at 5am. There is nobody out and it’s cooler, so her endurance skyrockets.

  17. Loved this article! I googled running with my german shepherd/lab mix (Evan) and this was exactly what I was looking for (and more). I adopted him in December at 18 months old and we have been gradually adding distance since. I have two half-marathons in the spring and a full in the fall, so I wanted to know how far/fast I could push him. Thanks again so much for all the info! Happy trails to you and Ginger! :-)

  18. Very good and informative post. I searched “long dinstance running with dog” at Google and this post came up. Actually I’ve followed your blog for some time due to the trail running and long distance running parts. I have been walking long trips doing geocaching for a few years and have always been impressed at how well my Danish-Swedish Farmdog coped the 25-30 km trips in forests and nationalparks. Naturally my dog followed me, when I started running in june 2012. Now he’s my companion on most of the runs and easily does 30 km trail running. I have started to wonder if it is to long for my short-legged friend? He doesn’t show any signs of tiredness and pain afterwards, but I’m sure he’ll run for as long as I “ask” of him. How long can your dog keep going?

  19. Great article Vanessa. I’m an ultra runner in Australia and have been taking my Nova Scotia Retriever with me on some runs. Have done 12.5km with him, but have wondered about nutrition and taking him on longer runs. Lots of hills where I live and lots of water. As a water dog, he loves the rivers we have to cross. Plenty of bad snakes here too, so was interested in your snake avoidance video.

    We’re now heading to winter, so it’s really nice to see if I can get him out on the longer ones.

  20. I’ve just started jogging with my american pit bull terrier. We chose this breed because we knew what great family pets they were and they could keep up with us dispite the fact i wasn’t a runner/jogger back than and am still learning. We are however outdoors a lot and we havthe a ton of forest preserves around and like to visit some of our national state parks and the indiana dunes across the border. My dog loves nature! Like your dog hes is insanely well behaved off leash compared to pulling on leash. Even on leash tho my dogs will only allow my son or husband to venture about 15feet away from me at the most before they lay down till i’m caught up or just stand there or pull to me. So far hes having a blast with our new jogging adventure even my lil shih tzu! Shes not such a great jogging partner tho she wants to run run run and just STOP to sniff something every 10-15ft. Shes also supurb off leash when we are in nature and will stay by my side. I’m hoping to take mine and my dogs new love for jogging to new levels! We are working on a 5k system for the both of us to gradually work our way up without over stressing eachothers bodies. When jogging with a leash I also use a longer one while walking I like a shorter one and my dog does so much better behaved wise jogging with his leash than when walking as well. He isn’t food motivated, he doesn’t like playing fetch he isn’t a big swimming he just likes to wallow for a few, so I think we’ve finally found his calling. :) Found this post looking for info on jogging with a dog, and I injoyed reading it and was glad to find someone elses dog who behaves like mine, better off leash than on.

  21. Hi Vanessa
    I am from India and was searching “long distance running dog” at Google and this post came up. I generally do 10-15K and am looking for a dog as a companion. The breeds (commonly) available are like Rottweiler (not so common), Labrador, German Shepherd and Doberman Pinscher. Among these, I am likely to take a Rottweiler. What do you suggest?

    • German Shepherd is the best from your list.
      I had few German Shepherds and all of them were good runners. No so good as Husky, but good for 10-20k including some hardcore sprints with inline skates on my feet.
      One thing you have to remember is that German Shepherd is originally from Europe, so India’s temperatures are or could be too high for very intensive training during the day.

      • Thanks Klanger. I agree, German Shepherd are good for 10-15K distance and i am planning to go for German Shepherd. As you have brought out, the issue is of high temperature coupled with high humidity (esp during monsoon). what do you say about Labrador. I think they can also do a 10K distance.

    • I can’t help you with Labradors. Don’t know much about them other than info form Wikipedia :-)

      They are originally from Canada, so climate could also be an issue.

      If you need by law to use muzzle this type is the best for big dogs for running –
      http://www.owczarek.pl/forum/uploads/11D_kaganiec.jpg – a specially in very hot weather conditions. I, well my dog, have tested it :-)

    • Get a rescue. I have a rescue and she’s the best running dog I’ve had. A reputable rescue or pound has knowledge of their dogs, especially if they foster. I use to foster as well and we would never place a high energy dog with a dormant family and vice versa. Good rescue groups want what’s best for the dog and wants to place them in forever homes. Think about adopting before shopping. You will also have less medical problems that breed dogs tend to have. If you do want a specific breed or purebred then search for a specific breed rescue group. There are German Shepherd rescue groups and Grayhound rescue groups that that are good running dogs. In general though a mix breed on the leaner side is best. I love Rottweiler’s but as a long distance runner I would be apprehensive. Good luck!

  22. What a great post! I use to trail run a couple of years ago but injuries left me on the sideline for the past two years. I’ve started run/walking again on the trails and when I got my second dog and noticed her energy I thought “I wonder if she can do trails with me” well low and behold she’s a natural and she loves it! She’s helped me with my confidence to start up trail running again although I have a long way to go to get back to what I use to run. Currently we’ve hiked up to 13 miles and can run 7 miles of trails with very little stopping (me stopping not her :) ) I’m noticing though as I start to increase both of our mileage it’s becoming difficult to carry both of our water and snacks. Would you please recommend some dog packs as well as packs for yourself. I’ve seen many types online but would like an experienced dog/ultra runner opinion. I can’t wait to go back and read your old post. Thank you!

  23. Thank you so much for your post! I just started running with my dog Jayk. I created a profile for him on Dailymile and added Ginger as a friend. Jayk and I did a lot of power walking. I began running four months ago and decided to start bringing him on my runs. This post was really useful for me. Many thanks and happy trails!

  24. I loooved your post & added Ginger on Facebook too! I thought I was the only crazy person who keeps track of her dog’s mileage but I am glad there are other people out there who do the same and don’t find it that crazy… lol. I just got a puppy and I’m trying to gather as much info as possible on training a dog to run long distances, hoping that Kona (the puppy) and I can run an ultra together one day! We subscribed to your posts but you can also find us on FB at “Running with Kona”!
    PS: can I copy your idea with the dailymile profile for Kona? Currently I’m tracking her mileage on my Garmin portal but it’s a bit of a headache to differentiate between her training and mine… lol…

  25. Wow I thought I was the only person who trail runs long distances with their dog! I am in Ireland with an 18 month old Black Labrador called Obi, who runs everywhere with me. We do regularly evening road runs 5-10 miles most week nights and then on the weekends we do 15- 20 mile trail runs.
    the road runs are all on a lead, which means he has to keep to my pace, whereas with the trail runs he is off the lead and can determine his own pace. He is the fittest and best looking Labrador that I have ever seen!

  26. I love your blog. I have always run with dogs. I am now on number 4. We got him from the shelter when he was 6 months and he did not even know what a leash was. We think he is as a rottie and Australian Shepard mix. Who knows. All I know is so far he is the best runner I have had to date. I actually refer to him as enduro dog or durable dog because he has such high energy. We are up to 16 miles and while I am not an ultra runner he basically was my training partner for my fall marathon logging about 40 mile a week together. He loves it and actually gets antsy when we do not go. We do most of our runs on the road though as I love in a pretty urban area. I would love to do more trails and try him off leash. I bet he would love it.

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