Why You Should Run With Your Dog: Lessons From Fleet Feet Burbank Runners

Bob and Brenna Redpath's dogs, Penny Lane and Minnie Pearl

You may know the thrills and difficulties of owning a dog. But have you experienced the joys and life lessons of running with your dog? Several Fleet Feet Burbank runners shared why they choose to hit the streets and trails with their dogs and why you should, too.

Brenna Redpath runs with her dog Bender at Fleet Feet Burbank

Improved Health for All

“We all need the exercise, and they’re good company,” says Bob Redpath. Bob and Brenna Redpath own three dogs: Penny Lane and Minnie Pearl, both terrier mixes, and a basset hound/Labrador/pitbull mix named Bender. The couple brings the trio to their Fleet Feet group runs because, as Bob Redpath says, “The old saying is true, ‘A tired dog is a good dog.’ It pretty much goes for people, too.”

Runners already know how running can make them happier and improve physical and mental wellness. To different extents, the same holds true for dogs.

Holly Provan saw a physical shift when she started running more with here 4-year-old goldendoodle, Banjo, but she also saw a mental change, as well. “Banjo started having seizures a little over a year ago, so I started to run with him more,” Provan says. “My husband will take him out for runs as well, and he just seems happier and healthier—like us all—when he’s running regularly. We’ve noticed he is so much calmer afterwards.”

But it’s not just for the dogs: The more you run with your four-legged friends, the calmer you may become yourself. With a 5-year-old pitbull/Labrador mix, Rambo, ultrarunner Jaime Reyes has to adjust to his dog’s own plans for the run. “I’ve learned to be more patient and not take training so seriously,” Reyes says. “On some runs I go out with the intent of having a solid, fast-paced workout, and Rambo is out there with the intent of peeing on every bush in the middle of a tempo run. It can be annoying at times, but that’s what dogs do.”

You need a run, and your dog needs exercise, so why not tick off miles and improve your health together?

Dogs Provide Motivation

To reap the benefits of running, though, you have to first get out the door.

Like running with a group, it’s a lot harder to make excuses when someone is waiting on you. All of the Fleet Feet Burbank runners who run with their dogs say they often run because their pet needs to—and loves to—log some miles. Bob Redpath says: “There are times when I don’t really feel like putting on the shoes, but I know the dogs need to get some exercise. They help me get out of the house.”

Training for the Nine Trails 35 Mile Endurance Run and Angeles Crest 100, Reyes knows he can’t do it alone. Fellow runners will always be a key support base, but Reyes also turns to Rambo. “It brings him joy,” Reyes says. “When I’m not motivated to run, I’ll do it for Rambo. It has made me a more consistent and happy runner.”

When a dog is well-suited for the sport, it can be an even more encouraging reason to get outside and go. Veteran runner Kevin O’Reilly found a great running partner in his beagle/border collie, Halle. “She loved being just about a body length in front. Didn’t care what speed. if you wanted to go fast, she’d go fast. If you wanted to run hills, she would run hills. If you wanted to take it slow, she would, too.”

Ultrarunner Jaime Reyes runs with his dog Rambo at Fleet Feet Burbank

Explore New Places

Fleet Feet Burbank runners can take their pick of mountains, beaches and urban paths for their next run destination. Even then, they find it’s a lot more fun to have a buddy when scouting out new spots.

“Banjo encourages me to go off the beaten path,” says Provan. “I feel confident enough to go anywhere with him at my side. He loves trails especially, and we both enjoy exploring places we’ve never been.”

O’Reilly says he trusts Halle to lead the way no matter where they go: “We ran with a group that ran backcountry and often non-existent trails. Someone would scout out a trail, and on the day of the run they would run ahead and mark the trail with flour, while also marking false trails along the way. Many times I would be with a group of runners crawling up a hillside through the brush, and Halle would take point. I was completely confident she would find the true trail. I would let everyone know to just follow Halle.”

There was an instance, though, when everyone else had to have a sense of adventure, too: “One day someone thought it would be cute to mark true trail with taquitos. He let everyone know that taquitos meant true trail. Halle ate the taquitos as she found them. I did feel bad for the folks in the back of the pack.”

Even if there aren’t dramatic landscapes to take in and taquitos to eat, a canine companion can still help you explore what you didn’t think to explore. Dogs have a mind of their own, compelling you turn down new corners and forgotten trails. Enjoy the fresh perspective and memories you create together.

How to Run Safely with Your Dog

Itching to experience running with your own dog now? Put these practical tips to use when you venture out on the roads or trails with your dog:

  • Stay safe and alert. Bob Redpath recommends using a reflective collar or a flashing light for nighttime visibility. A dog’s movements can be unpredictable; make sure the dog is visible to other pedestrians and drivers. “Be aware of things that might spook your dog. Banjo is terrified of potholes and will make a sudden sharp turn into my knees if I’m not paying attention,” says Provan. “I have to pay attention to him, too, as one time he started limping, and I had to remove a bramble from his paw.”
  • Find what works for you and your dog. “Don’t give up,” Provan says. “It took a month or so before Banjo really got the hang of running, and now’s he’s great.” Some dogs, whether due to breed or personality, may not be destined to be your best running companion. It’s up to you to figure out what level of activity works. O’Reilly recommends starting out slow: “Monitor their progress. If they are dragging or are preoccupied with other things, then keep the miles low. Hopefully they will learn to drink water out of your cupped hand.” Do your research and consult your veterinarian when in doubt.
  • Obey leash laws. Reyes says running with a strong dog on a leash presents its own challenges. “Running with your dog on a leash might be frustrating at first if he’s super strong like Rambo. Using a gentle lead collar really helps control your dog on a run.” Rather go hands-free? Provan ties the leash to her running belt. And just like pedestrians follow road rules, so should your dogs follow leash laws.
  • Be prepared. Redpath offers this sage advice: “Always take extra dog poop bags. If you only bring one, they’ll go twice.”

By Rachel Wilde. Rachel once competed in the 4x100m relay on her middle school track team. After a bungled baton pass cost them the lead at regional championships, she was heartbroken and took the next 20 years off. Fortunately, Rachel found joy in running again at Fleet Feet Burbank where she works as Digital Marketing Manager. She is currently training for local trail races.

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