Running with four-legged friends good for pets, owners

Making our community a healthier place is a goal shared by the Tucson Medical Center and the Southern Arizona Roadrunners. TMC is excited to partner with SAR to bring you regular features and wellness tips designed to make your running the best it can be.

In this feature, Amy Ramsey, TMC’s employee wellness and engagement manager, shares some tips about running with dogs as TMC gears up for its first-ever Paws on the Run 5k fun run to benefit Pima Animal Care Center and Girls on the Run on April 8 at Christopher Columbus Park. Kids can also come out and run a FREE one mile fun run presented by Southern Arizona Roadrunner’s FitKidz.

Shelter adoptions are free that day for participants and families.

To register:

running-partners-amy-and-gertie-enjoy-shared-activity-timeWhat kinds of dogs are appropriate for running?

I have two dogs at home, a Chihuahua and a large Shepherd mix we rescued from a local shelter seven years ago.

Don’t let little legs fool you: Our Chihuahua is a great running partner for our children, as he doesn’t have as much stamina as our larger breed. The kids enjoy running him around the block a few times, and he stops when he’s had enough.

Gertie, our larger breed, enjoys running longer distances to which we’ve built up over time. We’ve determined 2-3 miles is an optimal distance for her based on her energy level  during and after the run.

Each breed is different in regards to how far and long activity should be so checking with your vet and doing a little research on your specific dog breed will tell you a lot about their activity needs and tolerance.

 How can you get started in running with your dog?

Just like humans, dogs can be trained to increase activity based on consistent efforts. But remember, just as you listen to your body to be sensible and avoid injury by increasing slowly, you’ll need to watch for signs from your pup that could show exhaustion or discomfort as well.

running-with-shelter-pets-at-pima-animal-care-center.jpgWhat are the benefits you’ve experienced?

Asking the kids to run the dog is a great excuse to get them out of the house – and they all come back happier.

I am an early morning runner, and if I’m not meeting up with running partners, Gertie is the perfect companion to help keep me feeling safe. Yes, I still carry my pepper spray, but I’m a little more relaxed with her by my side.

She’s also just a better behaved dog when she gets regular exercise. Dogs are a lot like humans in this way. How many times have you missed a workout and find yourself feeling grumpy or irritable because of it? Dogs are the same.

Like humans, dogs can act out in other ways, such as destructive behavior, if they aren’t getting enough activity. They can crave routine and look forward to “burning off the crazy” just as much as we do.

Can you share a list of critical tips?

  • Keep the leash short. This is for your dog’s safety, as well as others who may be biking, running, driving by you. This also helps keep the dog closer to you, allowing for more training/learning moments for your pup.
  • Pick a side. Establish which side of you the dog will be running on and keep this consistent. Your dog likes to know what to expect. Rules and boundaries are healthy for them. This comes in particularly handy when training them NOT to lunge for that lizard that just darted across the path.
  • Praise liberally. Bringing treats in your pocket can help keep his focus on you, while reinforcing his good decisions, like not pulling towards the bicycle that just passed, or not barking at the spastic dog on the other side of the fence.
  • Remember hydration. Bring water if you’ll be out more than 30 minutes or if it is especially warm. If your dog isn’t great at drinking from a water bottle, small collapsible bowls are very portable. Some larger breeds actually ENJOY wearing a backpack that could be filled with treats, water, and a bowl. It gives them a sense of purpose.

How about a “please don’t” list?


  • Forget to bring bags for waste. It’s called being a responsible pet owner and a good neighbor.
  • Use a retractable leash. Exceptions can sometimes be made for smaller breeds, but if you happen to be using a multiuse path such as The Loop, DON’T do it. It’s just plain dangerous.
  • Take your dog out for a run if it’s too hot. Dogs are very susceptible to heat exhaustion, some breeds more than others. Also-the pavement heats up quickly and those paw pads are sensitive. Some dogs allow for booties, but a quick YouTube search for “Dogs With Shoes” shows you quickly that most won’t tolerate it. This has been a favorite search for my kids, with a lot of laughter. I recommend morning or evening outings here in the Southwest.
  • Take the same route every day. Your dog lives by his nose, so give him new areas to sniff and give yourself new things to see. It’s good for both of your brains!

ruff-runners-provides-opportunities-for-fitness-as-well-as-community-service.jpgAre there opportunities to have this experience, even if you don’t own a dog?

The dogs at Pima Animal Care Center not only need that daily exercise, but those walks or runs are of high importance to keep their spirits high, making them more desirable and adoptable for prospective pet owners.

There are many volunteer opportunities at PACC to help with this activity, but one that I specifically love is the Ruff Runners group. On Tuesday evenings and Friday mornings, people are encouraged to come out and help exercise these wonderful dogs.

When signing in, I was asked if I preferred a younger, higher energy dog to run, or if I’d like to help an older or possibly injured dog get some fresh air by walking them slowly, on a shorter route. It is really very rewarding to see all of those wonderful shelter dogs paired with their volunteers and enjoying the exercise and companionship – which goes both ways.


  1. Running with your pet makes every run different. I’m also training for a marathon and this article is super inspiring. I run with SportMe runner app, which calculates distance, pace, time and calories and adjusts running plans to my progress.

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