Over the past decade, more and more people have been discovering the joys of trail running. And many dog lovers enjoy the company of their pups while they go for a run, as running with dogs is a great way to spend time together and has numerous benefits. However, it won’t be easy if you don’t have the right gear!
The following is a list of the must-have dog running gear every dog owner should bring for trail running with their canine to ensure a safe and enjoyable time outdoors.
1. Dog Running Harness
If you are going to trail running with your dog, the first thing you need is good quality, reliable dog running harness like the Ruffwear Front Range Harness. I prefer to use a harness over a collar because it distributes the pressure more evenly and can prevent injury to various parts of the body.
A dog running harness should have the following qualities:
- Padded chest plate for comfort
- High-quality metal D-rings so you can attach the leash securely
- Reflective strips for visibility in low light conditions
Once you have chosen a quality harness, you’ll need to find the right size for your dog so that you can properly fit the harness on them to prevent it from impeding their breathing and movement.
Most running harnesses come in four sizes (small being about 12-22 inches, medium 18-22 inches, large 24-34 inches, and extra-large 28-44 inches), but obviously, this varies depending on the brand.
Use a measuring tape to measure around your dog’s chest at its widest point while standing. This measurement will give you an idea of what size would work for them. And be sure to check the sizing chart for the specific harness you purchase, as there is no one standard universal measurement guide that can be used for every dog breed.
Read More: Dog Collar vs. Harness
2. Dog Pack
If you are going to run long distances, you need to have enough water for your dog, as you don’t want them to run thirsty or without relief from heat or cold. While you can put all the supplies in your backpack, it is not always the most convenient. The solution to this is a dog pack, which will make all the difference. If your dog wears a doggie pack, they will be able to carry water or food themselves and any toys or treats they may need during the run.
Dog packs come in various sizes, and different brands offer different options when it comes to style, durability, and comfort for your dog. So, make sure you purchase one that’s in line with your dog’s size and strength to ensure that they will be able to carry a loaded pack comfortably.
My favorite dog backpack is the Ruffwear Palisades Pack. It has two main compartments with plenty of room to store food and other essentials, which is especially needed if you bring your dog along on a long run. It is sturdy, and the straps are super comfortable. I also love how it has a cross-load compression system that can help secure the pack content and comes with two 1-liter collapsible hydration bladders!
3. Hands-Free Dog Leash for Running
Of course, you also need a leash to keep your dog safe. And sure, you can use an ordinary dog leash while trail running with your dog. But the problem with that is that you’ll have to hold the lead in your hands. So, I strongly recommend investing in a hands-free dog leash.
It is much better because it allows you to keep both hands free while ensuring your fido is under control. It’s basically attached to a waist belt and enables you to have a normal gait and run with both arms out in front, holding nothing but air!
There are many brands on the market, so choose carefully because some are more comfortable and safer than others. I prefer the Tuff Mutt Hands Free Dog Leash because it contains a shock-absorbing bungee that can help protect my waist, with two handles for extra control, and comes with a lifetime guarantee.
It also features reflective stitching for added visibility while running or walking at night or in the early hours of the day. And you’ll be happy to know that I use it all the time when running with my dog.
4. Dog Booties
Not only do you need boots to protect yourself from rough terrain, but also your furry friend. Footwear for dogs is specially designed to allow your canine to run in comfort while keeping their paws protected from the elements, whether it be heat or cold.
You may be like some dog owners who don’t see the point in putting booties on dogs. But if there is something dangerous on the path, like broken glass, thorns, prickly plants, and sharp rocks, you will thank yourself for letting your dog wear a pair of high-quality dog boots.
These booties are typically made of breathable material that allows air inside and keeps moisture out to prevent overheating while running in hot weather or keep feet comfortable in colder times. In addition, they use non-skid outsoles and other features that can help give grip on various types of terrain while still offering flexibility and comfort.
When buying, look for those that are lightweight and waterproof, or water-resistant. And keep in mind that dog booties don’t have to look adorably cute. Just go for the ones made with durable materials. However, boots featuring paw prints and designs are a surefire way to ensure that other trail runners will give you a smile!
5. Dog Foot Protection Balm
My dog really hates boots, and because there is no way he’s going to wear them, I’ve had to turn to paw protection balm for dogs instead.
These balms can come in a variety of formulas. For example, some contain beeswax to protect paws in extreme weather conditions, while others are made with more nourishing ingredients for sensitive feet or cracked paw pads to help soothe any hot spots. And you can apply it no matter what time of year you’re running with your dog!
I like Musher’s Secret Paw Wax Balm because it is suitable for canines who are especially active. It coats the paws with a non-greasy barrier that can protect against extreme temperatures and elements, as well as hot pavement. And I like the fact that it is made with 100% natural food-grade wax and oils, plus it is very popular in the dog sledding community!
With this amazing paw protection balm, you can enhance the health and appearance of your canine’s paws. You’ll also be giving them a break from itchy feet while getting rid of cracked pads and protecting their paws from hot surfaces! So please don’t make the same mistake I did when first starting trail running with my dog. Make sure to either get a pair of dog boots or use dog paw balm to protect your dog’s feet. Trust me. They will thank you for it later!
6. A Portable Water Bottle For Your Dog
Dogs can get heatstroke just as easily as humans. So, it is crucial to carry ample amounts of water for your dog on any trail run, especially if running in the summer heat, to ensure they stay properly hydrated.
Water from a stream or pond can harbor harmful parasites that could make your pup very sick. A much safer alternative is to use portable water bottles for dogs. They come in various sizes, so choose carefully depending on how long your run will be (you don’t want to run out of fluids!).
Also, having a bottle designed for canines makes it much easier for your pup to drink from instead of simply letting them lap up water from your hands.
7. ID Tags, Microchip, and a Dog GPS Tracking Device
It’s a good idea to equip your canine companion with an identification tag if you plan on running in unfamiliar areas. Should your dog get lost or escape from the harness and runoff, an ID tag will help the person who finds your pup know who they belong to and how you can be reached.
Your dog’s ID tag should contain you and your dog’s name, your phone number, any medical conditions your canine has that could be helpful to know, like allergies, and the rewards you are offering for their safe return are a great way to ensure that your dog will get home safely.
I also recommend microchipping your pup in case if they do ever happen to stray off course. I got mine registered with Home Again. They have helped return over 2 million lost dogs back home! This company also has a hotline you can contact 24/7 in case of an emergency.
A dog GPS collar tracker can be another good tool to use. It gives you the ability to track your fido’s location so you will always know their whereabouts. My favorite is the Whistle Go Explore GPS Pet Tracker because it is small, lightweight, plus I can also monitor my dog’s activity, health, and fitness level. Now, I’m not saying this is a substitute for using harnesses with ID tags, but it’s definitely something that can offer peace of mind when out on the trails!
8. Doggie First Aid Kit
Today’s dog-friendly running trails can be full of unexpected hazards, especially when accompanied by an energetic pup who wants to explore every exciting smell they find along the way. So, make sure to bring a first aid kit in case any emergencies arise while you are out running together. Things as simple as a tick, bee sting, or cut can become serious problems in the middle of nowhere.
Yes, I hear you. I know carrying a first aid kit can be a bit of pain, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. And be sure to get one that is lightweight and portable so that you don’t feel like lugging a thousand pounds when running with your pup! I’m currently using the Tactical Freedom Pet First Aid Kit, and I usually clip it to my dog’s harness with a carabiner.
Read More: 5 Best Tick Removal Tools for Dogs
9. Doggy Treats
When trail running with your dog, make sure to bring plenty of doggy treats. Most dogs are good about following the rules on the trails and will stay by your side at all times.
However, if you come across something particularly interesting, don’t be surprised if they will try running down the trail in a new direction, although I’m confident that my Border Collie, Bailey, won’t as he has a strong foundation of the basics. In fact, I’ve successfully run with my dog without a leash many times!
But if you can’t trust your dog off-leash, then you certainly will need doggy training treats. These tasty rewards can redirect their attention back to you and ensure they remain focused on where they are supposed to be going next. I suggest using Blue Buffalo Wilderness Trail Treats because they are healthy, and Bailey absolutely loves them!
10. Dog Poop Bags
You must always carry a poop bag dispenser with you when you run with your dog. This way, if your canine happens to need a pit stop along the way, you’ll be prepared (pun intended!) to clean up after them. I love the Earth Rated Leash Dispenser for Dog Waste Bags because it is leakproof, and there won’t be any stinky surprises at the end of the run as it is lavender-scented.
If you prefer to use other brands, make sure whatever bag or pouch that houses your dog’s stinky trash is secure and waterproof so it doesn’t fall out when they’re in tow.
11. For The Dog Lover In All of Us
This might be the most important item on the list and, in my opinion, the best thing about trail running with dogs! If you are anything like me, then you probably enjoy sharing your love of dogs with others. I know you will think I’m crazy if I ask you to bring a camera, so I won’t do that. Just make sure to charge your smartphone the day before and bring it along.
That way, you don’t have to lug around any extra weight (if bringing a camera), and you are always ready to capture the moments when they happen. And you’ll be glad you did later when you sit down and look back at photos of furry faces running through beautiful landscapes.
I hope you find the few tips above helpful. And while these things may seem small, adding them to your trail running gear list will significantly enhance both your trail time as well as the comfort of your four-legged friend so that you have a mutually enjoyable experience together.
One last thing I would like to say is to make sure your dog is physically fit for the run.
A friend once told me her story about running a Columbia Gorge Dog Leg Half Marathon while carrying her pup in a backpacking pack. Hungry and tired, the challenge of keeping up with other runners while hauling an extra 20 pounds on her back was so daunting that she collapsed toward the end of the race. Afterward, it took her two months to recover from what she referred to as “doggie blisters” caused by the weight pulling on her shoulders during all those miles.
If you consider taking your furkid to hit a long-distance dirt trail, be sure to have training plans, ensuring they are physically prepared for such an endeavor. Properly conditioning your dog will make the run more enjoyable and safer for both of you!