You’ve likely heard the saying: There’s no bad weather, only bad gear. This is especially true when it comes to trail running with your dog.
While it’s helpful for you both and your dog to have a basic running foundation, it’s not essential. You can start with slow, short distances and build together. What is essential, though, is the right gear. Here are the top five essentials you need to start trail running with your dog.
1. The Right Apparel
The right shoes make all the difference. If you’re just starting out, but know where you’re going to run, scout the terrain with a dog walk first. That way, you know what type of trail you’ll be facing. Then, hit a running store and work with the pros to find the right fit for you. The same goes for clothing; dress for the season in technical apparel that will keep you at a safe temperature and protected from the elements. Running with your dog means you’re in charge of your safety and your dog’s; starting with the right shoes and clothing gets you going on the safest footing. And, yes, running gear can be pricey, but the repercussions of being underprepared make it worthwhile.
2. Harness and Leash
We strongly do not recommend trail running with your dog leashed to his or her flat collar. It puts too much strain on your dog’s neck. Instead, choose a harness like the Journey Air Dog Harness to distribute the pressure and give you both more comfort and control. Plus, this harness has a handle that you can use to assist your dog over rough terrain or obstacles like fallen trees. A leash like the Quantum 6-in-1 allows you to decide the safest way to lead your pup: hands-free, handheld, up close, or at a further distance. All of those judgement calls become easier when your dog is wearing the right gear.
3. Belt, Vest, or Pack
For you: Don a running belt like the K9 Excursion, or a vest or pack. For your pup: Consider a dog backpack like the Baxter. The key elements to look for in a running belt or pack include: space for waste bags, your phone, and water, as well as somewhere to clip your keys. You definitely don’t want to return to your car only to realize you lost your keys somewhere along the trail! It’s a small feature, but don’t overlook it! You also need a way to tote water. Many belts and vests include built-in water storage, but remember—you have to bring water for your dog, too.
Always bring more water than you think you and your dog will need. If your dog wears a backpack like the Baxter, she can tote extra water. If you’re using a handheld or belted water bottle, you need a bowl for your pup. You can find clip-on pop-up bowls, or use the Gourd water bottle, which includes a detachable bowl.
5. Specific Safety
Sunscreen, boots for your dog, winter coats for you both: Whatever the season brings, add a layer of safety for you both. Overheating or freezing are real dangers for trail running, so prepare with seasonal gear. The same goes for specific geographical needs: If you’re running in Montana, tote bear spray. If you’re running in Louisiana, stock up on bug spray. Talk to park rangers where you plan to run as well as the pros at the running store to find out what you and your dog can expect to find and if you need something specific for your safety.
Ultimately, your gear needs to keep you and your dog safe on the trails, but you don’t want to pack so much that you get weighed down. Focus on the basics, then adjust as needed for terrain and season. Stock up and hit the trails!