If one of your New Year’s resolutions for 2019 was to be more active, we have just the thing for you. Along with staying healthy together, running with your dog can be a fulfilling way to spend time with each other and grow closer. There are many reasons to combine your daily dog walks whilst keeping fit. We met up with Inge Nijkamp, a fantastic Suffolk based running coach, to hear all about how she loves to train with her trusty training partner, Ralph.

Thank you for meeting with us Inge…

January seems to be the month when most people dust off their trainers and venture out for a run.  But why do you recommend taking your dog out with you?! I love running, I could do it all the time, yet I don’t like running alone in the dark, or being cancelled on.   As a running coach, I am out training most days – whether it’s helping other people achieve their running goals, or simply heading out to work on my own!  Those runs alone can be beneficial in many ways, but part of me always had the longing for a running buddy I could rely on…!  Dogs don’t care if it’s raining or snowing outside – they’ll always be keen to join you. For this reason, they really are that true friend that helps you stay fit and motivated.

So, can all breeds of dog be a good running partner? After some research, I decided to go for a Rhodesian Ridgeback, as they are renowned for being natural born runners and fantastic with kids. With my two young children, I felt assured I was making the right choice – amazingly athletic as well as having a superb gentle nature.  Most breeds can be a perfect motivator to get you moving though.  If you are looking to run with your dog on a regular basis, make sure you feel comfortable that their health is 100% (perhaps even check with your vet for full reassurance).  Small jogs with a Schnauzer can be just as fun as a long 10 miler with your Pointer or Weimaraners!  As long as they are healthy and have got energy, most breeds can join you on your mission to get fit…

When can you start running with your dog? There was so much excitement when Ralph arrived as a puppy, but from my perspective as a runner, I had to wait a while before taking him out with me. I am not a dog specialist, however as a running coach, beautiful movement is very important to me. This cannot be achieved if the body is hurt or damaged by over use or injury. This also counts for dogs! It was extremely important to allow his body to grow and get strong before I was going to put it under strain – I really recommend you wait until they are at least 18 months before you start your running adventure together.  their bones are then fully formed and less likely to be prone to injury.

What small steps should you take to get started? During the first year, your dog should get used to walking / running by your side at all times.  Preparation is key too – simply start by jogging a few hundred metres when out for a walk from time to time.  If they stay by your side consistently, start to increase the distance gradually.  Be warned, your dog will be hugely excited as you start to run as they will think it is a game you are playing!  Those first few times, Ralph would not slow down, which probably made me run the fasted speed I had ever done! But I realised quickly that if they are going to become an efficient running partner in the long term, it was a process that needed specific training.

Does routine help with this, and what training tips are useful? Yes, I found routine really worked for us. I started using the word ‘run’ very clearly as I put on my trainers – he then soon began to recognise the process. The first 5 minutes would be a run/walk to help remind him he needed to ‘heel’. This would bring us to the forest I have nearby where he would go off the lead to then run wild! (Ridgebacks have a crazy way of shaking off their excess energy, we call it the zoomies in our family!) I would let Ralph do his thing for about 10 minutes, calling him back frequently, treating him every time.

After a couple of months I increased the distance gradually and incorporated some other things to keep Ralph engaged with me whilst running, like ‘touch’. I would call him back and taught him to touch my hand with his nose, this would make him look at me and would reconnect us for a moment.

Any equipment that you recommend? A good comfortable harness, one that doesn’t have the clip bouncing on their spine!  I like the Non-Stop Free Motion harness. I also always carry water for Ralph –  I’d recommend a dog specific water bottle like the H2O4K9 brand – it comes with a rubber flipped over bowl which works perfectly. And finally, treats are key in order to keep him in touch as we run along those paths!

And after a run, how do you both recover? I wouldn’t let Ralph run on a full stomach, so I always ensure food is waiting for him upon our return. He will then peacefully sleep for a good few hours aiding his recovery, allowing me to ensure my nutritional needs and recovery are factored in too!

Follow Inge on Instagram: @runninge.uk or Facebook at: Running.e to see more of her adventures with Ralph!


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