Why Running is Better with a Dog

My life changed forever when I decided to adopt a dog six months ago. I quickly learned that having a large, energetic and utterly mischievous animal tag along with me wherever I went could be challenging, to say the least. Although the decision to adopt Bruce, (named after The Boss,) was impulsive, I can honestly say we’re a perfect match. At just under two years old, he’s a sweet, intelligent hound mix who loves nothing more than romping through the woods, knocking over beers and taking spontaneous road trips across the American West.

Lauren and Bruce at Greenhorn Park.
Lauren and Bruce at Greenhorn Park.

Since we both tend to go a little crazy without enough exercise, Bruce became my running buddy right off the bat. After just a short while running together, I honestly can say he’s grown into a bona fide trail dog, and now I wonder how I ever ran without him.

Here are a few reasons I’m convinced it’s much better to run with a dog.

Companionship

I’ve always been envious of people I saw hiking and running with dogs. There’s just something magical about that simple, primal experience of roving through the woods alongside an animal who loves to run for the sake of running. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend running with a dog! It’ll change your life.

Whether he and I are going out for a trek on our own, or with a group of other runners, Bruce always has ample positive vibes to go around. He never complains about how hard the route is or asks when we’ll be finished. For my dog, there is absolutely no such thing as a bad run. He provides a level of stoke that has definitely carried my trail sisters and I through some long mountain miles with smiles on our faces.

Bruce giving his best tongue selfie.
Bruce giving his best tongue selfie.

Considering most of my previous trail running was done solo, having Bruce along is a huge improvement to my general mindset. When I’m out there all alone, it’s easy to dwell on negative thoughts.

With my fun-loving, four-legged fur baby in tow, on the other hand, it’s impossible not to have a good time! A dog is a great reminder of why we run in the first place, because it’s fun and it feels good to be out in the mountains on a beautiful day!

Safety

Running through the national forest, which I do quite often, can present a number of safety hazards. Depending on where you are, there can be bears, mountain lions or transient homeless people. In the Shasta-Trinity wilderness, we have all three!

Although Bruce is a friendly love bug, not everybody knows that. His large stature and loud bark carry an intimidating presence, and Bruce is pretty good at making split-second character judgments.

I’m incredibly lucky my safety has never been compromised out on the trails, but I know that luck can’t be counted on. There have been a few occasions where I was running very early in the morning and encountered some wandering lost souls who clearly had not been to bed yet. Having Bruce at my side makes me feel much more confident in these situations. My own solo international travels have taught me that exuding an air of confidence may ward off potential attackers.

Bruce at Siskiyou Summit.
Bruce at Siskiyou Summit.

For the most part, I think Bruce scares off both animal and human predators. That said, it’s always a good idea to carry some bear spray, a first aid kit and a cell phone in your pack, and always let someone know where you will be.

Also, in the case of wild animals, it’s important to look out for your dog’s safety as well! Tying a bear bell to the collar might is a smart move.

Motivation

Part of the reason Bruce and I get along so well is because we both love running! Each of us tends to get a little fussy when we don’t get enough exercise, but I’ll admit, when it was just me, I was known to blow off a run now and again because I was on a deadline, or just not feeling well. Skipping runs isn’t a bad habit I like try to avoid, and my dog provides me with next-level accountability.

On the few occasions I tried to skip taking him out in favor of getting some work done, he made sure I regretted that decision right quick. He’s a smart, active young dog who needs at least an hour of vigorous exercise per day to keep him from causing trouble, and more than that if I want to completely exhaust him.

If I decide that writing an article is more important than hitting the trails on a beautiful day, Bruce will make sure that the article doesn’t get written, anyway. He’ll insist that we go out, because that’s what we do! That’s what we live for!

I can honestly say that owning a dog has changed my life, and in particular my running habits, for the better, simply because I can’t make excuses. He won’t hear them. My dog will not let me skip out on the thing that makes my soul happy, and that’s a beautiful thing.

How has your dog changed your running routine?

Lauren Steinheimer

Lauren Steinheimer

Lauren Steinheimer is a freelance writer and ultra runner who roams around the US with her trail dog, Bruce. She fell in love with running in her twenties, when it helped her cope with depression and overcome disordered eating. But baby, she fell hard, registering for her first marathon only a month after her first 5k! Running through the mountains serves as her constant reminder of what great feats can be accomplished one step at a time.

Trail Sisters is committed to creating opportunity and participation for women in trail running. Our content is alway free to read. Consider a monthly contribution on Patreon to support Trail Sisters so we can continue to inspire, educate and empower others!

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Comments

7 thoughts on “Why Running is Better with a Dog”

  1. I just joined the fur parent group 3 weeks ago and already am amazed at how much influence this little girl has on my world. You capture a lot of it here. Thanks for the story and smiles 🙂

  2. I love this article, thanks for sharing!
    I run with both of my dogs and have been for about two years now, but I am worried about doing longer distances with them. They are good up to about 12 miles then start to peace out. Is that just my dogs, or is that normal? I was just wondering what kind of distances you were doing with your pup.

    Thanks for your help!
    Jay

    • Hi Jay!

      Bruce tends to get tired right around the 10-12 mile mark, too. I think this is partly because he doesn’t understand the concept of a long run, so tends to burn off his energy by sprinting right off the bat. I’d love to run 50ks with him some day, though, so am going to keep training with him on a leash so he learns to keep a steady pace.

      Thanks for reading!
      Lauren

  3. I can’t imagine not running with my dogs. I have two aussies I run with and they are my heart and soul. I wish we could do more trail runs, we mainly do rural roads. I love that fact that they never complain and they are always up for a run no matter when or how long. I wish more RDs could let us have our dogs at races, but I totally understand why they can’t. I think that is why I am so drawn to the ultra scene now and the trail running scene because there are usually dogs!

  4. I love this! I adopted my dog, Chevy, almost 4 years ago. He came to me when he was 4 months old as a foster baby and was already huge. I remember bringing him to a meet-and-greet with other puppies of the same age and he dwarfed them. I’m so glad that family didn’t want a big dog because Chevy is my soul dog through and through. Also very energetic, we started going on really long walks almost every day so he wouldn’t get into trouble in the house. He caught on quickly to the cues we were going out, loves adventures as I refer to them, and as soon as he was close to a year old I took him on his first run. He wasn’t too sure about it at first, but quickly adapted. I switched to primarily trail running 2 years ago and he has soared. He only sort of likes road running; he adores trail running/hiking. Now he goes with me everywhere possible whenever nature is involved. He can run 50 miles a week with me in the cooler months. I can only run him 2-3 times a week in the warmer months and we have to take a lot of breaks for him to soak in the river. I’ve started looking for races he can also run, it’s been great. I really truly feel lost without my soul dog running me and miss him tremendously when he isn’t allowed in the races.

  5. My dog Acorn started running with me 6 months ago and we just did our first trail run together. It was awesome and he is great to have along. Love this article!

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