Running is a great way to spend time with your dog and to get some exercise—together. Some of my favorite runs of all time have been summertime runs with our trail dog Kepler, it’s wonderful to be able to spend this time together in nature, doing something we both love.
Running with your dog in summer comes with some particular challenges to help your dog have a safe and enjoyable run, especially if you live somewhere that gets very hot in the summer months, so here I’m sharing my top tips for helping your dog to have a safe and enjoyable run in the summertime.
1. Check your dog is in good physical health before running with them
If you’re new to running with your dog, definitely get them checked out at the vet to ensure they are healthy and able to start running—and then make sure you start with short distances and durations, just like you would if you were new to running. Depending on your dog’s breed and age, as well as other health factors, they may have specific recommendations for you in order to keep them safe while running.
2. Consider your dog’s breed and coat thickness
Dogs with thicker fur coats will be more likely to struggle with heat sooner than other shorthaired breeds. For example, Huskies and Malamutes have very thick coats which are great for running around in the snow but not so great for hot weather. My dog Kepler, a Border Collie, also has a fairly thick, black coat which heats up very quickly in the mildest of sun exposure, so I’m mindful of that when I take him out running in the summer in terms of when and where I plan to take him running.
3. Run at cooler times of day
While there’s something strangely enjoyable (to me, at least) about running in the midday heat, our dogs don’t feel the same way! Planning runs together for the early morning are going to be much better in summer as the weather and ground will be cooler and easier for your dog to cope with. It also helps to seek out shaded trails and paths that have tree cover and are near clean, accessible streams in case your dog could benefit from a mid-run cool-off.
4. Bring plenty of water for your dog
When I first started running with Kepler, I was surprised at just how much and how often he needed to drink—even on cool weather days. In the summer, your dog will need to drink a lot to help keep him cool, so plan to stop frequently and carry enough water on you to give to them. I bring a collapsible bowl with me on our runs to make giving Kepler a drink an easy job and ensure he has something clean to drink out of.
5. Look after your dog’s paws
It’s easy to forget that when you run in shoes, the temperature of the ground underfoot doesn’t make much of a difference to your feet. Our dogs, on the other hand, can get painfully burned feet from running on hot ground, especially dark tarmac, rocks and sand. This is another reason why Kepler and I run in the mornings during summer—because even when the sun has gone down, the ground can stay hot in the early evenings so evening runs are sometimes not an option. Dog booties can also be a great idea if your dog has sensitive paws or if avoiding walking or running on hot ground is difficult.
6. Be sure to keep their temperature down before they get too hot
One of Kepler’s favorite pieces of dog clothing is a cooling vest. Once soaked in water and put on him, it really helps to keep his core temperature down, and cool him down when he’s out running around in warm weather! It needs to stay cool and be re-wetted to work so it’s perfect if we’re running near a clean river or stream on hot summer days. Sometimes we pair it with a cold, wet bandana, too. If allowed, we also jump in the stream for a full-body cool down.
7. Pay attention to your dog’s body language
I make a point of paying close attention to Kepler’s body language when we run, especially in summer when it’s hot. Once you’ve spent enough time running with your dog, you get to learn the signs they give off which indicate how they’re feeling. I can tell if he’s had enough, if he’s getting a bit hot, or tired—some signs include slowing down, a slower cadence of leg movement, and eyeing up cool, shady grass patches looking for somewhere to take a lie down.
He’s often ready to end a run before me in the summer (winter is a whole different story), so we make our runs together shorter on hot summer days. Kepler is normally always full of energy, so any slowing down usually means we’re ready to wrap up, and sometimes we’ll have a long break and walk the rest of the way home—I may even pick him up—whatever he needs.
Focusing on him also helps me to run without even thinking about it, and I often find I can run more easily when I’m not thinking about my own level of energy or thirst when I have this furry guy by my side to keep an eye on!
8. Do a post-run body check
My spoilt pup gets a massage after going on trail runs with me. Why? Well, partly because like with people, massages can help with athletic recovery and injury prevention. Another reason I do this is that it’s a very co-operative way to simultaneously inspect his body for trail bugs such as ticks, and vegetation, such as burrs, foxtails (grass heads which can get stuck in their paws, face and undercarriage), without him even notice I’m doing it—he’s too busy enjoying the leg massages and belly rubs to care! High Five to safe summer runs with your adventure pup!
Essential Summer Dog Running Gear:
Dog Core Cooling Vest:https://www.kurgo.com/dog-coat/dog-core-cooling-vest/
Blaze Cross Dog Shoes https://www.kurgo.com/outdoor-gear/blaze-cross-do...
Alastair and his wife Helen are the founders of trail running and adventure blog trailandkale.com, where they share tips, gear guides and advice on all things trail running, adventure, van life and travels with their Border Collie Kepler: