Can I run with my senior dog?

My dog turns 8 in two weeks.

He loves to run, but at what point does he need to “retire”?

When I adopted my dog in 2007, I had marathon fever.

I was training to run in the Fargo Marathon that spring, and on my “long” runs of 10 miles or so I would fantasize about which dog I would adopt. I had my eyes on several.

Thinking about dogs took my mind off running, and I knew I wanted to adopt a running buddy.

Ace was my man. He was a 1-year-old Lab mix. Lean and fit and full of pent-up energy.

I adopted him that March, and every morning my dog and I ran together for about an hour. It really helped us form our bond and eventually we were going on runs of 8, 10 and 15 miles. He joined the marathon training group I belonged to and he even tagged along on my first 20-miler.

We were both young.

Woman and black lab mix running

Ace is the type of dog who’s happy to run in the morning and then sleep the entire day. This was ideal when I worked 10-hour shifts at the local newspaper. He’s always been the perfect dog for me. Super lazy, yet also up for running.

Fast forward seven years and Ace and I still run together, but not as far and not as fast. My dog has gotten older, yet I still feel so young.

He only needs a 20-minute walk each day to be content, and he’s tired if we run even three miles.

Sometimes his right knee gets a little stiff, and sometimes his right shoulder also gets sore. I give him lots of massages.

My dog loves to run, but at what point does he need to “retire”?

I don’t know.

This is a tough, emotional issue for me. Running is very much something that defines Ace and I. It sounds dumb, but it’s our thing. Heck, I started a dog running business because of my dog.

If I can’t run with my best friend, I’d rather not run at all.

We could stick to walking, which we also love.

I’ve talked to Ace’s vet about it, and she said to stick to walking if I’m not sure. Especially if he seems stiff after a run, which he sometimes does.

I know I’m not the only runner with a senior dog, so I thought I’d turn the question to you:

Do you run with your senior dog?

15 thoughts on “Can I run with my senior dog?”

  1. Darn right we run with or Seniors. Maybe not as far or as fast or as often as we used to or want to, but we stick to a fairly regular schedule. Running is so beneficial to the dogs health. Make them feel better and can help them keep lean, which is really important as they age.

    In most cases, you will be able to tell when you need to slowdown or cut back. Watch them after the workout and look for signs of added stiffness or pain with movement.

    We have written a few pieces on running with your dog. Check them out at here: http://slimdoggy.com/?s=running (or go to slimdoggy.com and search on “running” .

      1. We run Jack 30-35 minutes 3 times a week and then 10-15 m ins at a slower pace 2 times. Maggie is run 30-35 mins 2 times a week and the 10-15 runs 2 times. We stopped her running completely when she injured her shoulder, but she has slowly built back up.

  2. Mom is a runner and her favorite way to run is with a dog. We can go whenever, wherever, no excuses, we keep her mind of running and on us and looking for squirrels and wabbits. She started running with her previous dog and ran with her until she was almost ten. She was a lab/newfie mix and it just wasn’t fun for her to run, so Mom retired her. She ran with my sister Katie the Kuvasz until she was about nine and had to stop because of her arthritis. Katie trained Mom for her first Marathon and Mom credits her for her proud first marathon time of 3:37. She trained for the last one alone and hated every mile of it. Dogs make the run for Mom. We taught her to embrace hills, love speed work and other fun stuff. She credits running through the last uphill miles of the TC Marathon two years ago to us dogs teaching her to love and tackle hills. Being a short legged dog, I don’t run much more than 3-4 miles with her on occasion, so it is kind of sad for Mom and running but she has had a lot of injuries lately and isn’t running much herself right now. Mom says she can just tell when a dog really shouldn’t run anymore. She is looking forward to watching my lab cousin Lena next month as she makes a great running partner.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Aww, I’m so glad your mom has had lots of good canine running buddies. I hope your mom’s injuries heal so she can run again whenever she wants to.

  3. Like others have said, I think it depends on the dog. And the best thing you can do is to pay attention to what your pup is “telling you”. I was very active with my pup Cosmo until he was almost 10 and got sick. Still, when he was nine, he didn’t seem very enthused about agility anymore so we cut back on that and I took him Lure Coursing instead, which he loved. You could try a bit of run/walking.. I know the change is hard, but just remember what a good dog he is and you want to do what’s best for him.
    Diane and Rocco

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Yes, I try to pay attention to what he’s telling me. I let him set the pace and I kind of like running a little slower.

  4. Every dog is different so it’s really hard to say what’s too much for a senior. Nailah is turning 9 in May and she is still a ball of energy. Sometimes I feel like she’s more active now than when she was younger! However I’ve noticed that she gets sore much easier now. I have to watch and pace her because if I didn’t she’d be sore for days!

    I understand that you feel that running is what defines you and Ace but I don’t really think that’s true. Running has made your bond stronger and may have been what lead to you to adopt him but that’s not the only thing that defines you guys. The love you share, the times you’ve spent over these many years, the ups and downs I’m sure you’ve had, those are all things that define you.

    Even if Ace has to retire from being your full time jogging partner he’s still going to be your dog. He’s still your Ace! 🙂

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Aww, thanks so much! You’re right. We do lots of other things together such as spooning on the floor and taking low-key walks on the beach.

  5. Hi Y’all!

    I’ll be 8 in March and my Human is ancient. We used to run in the mountains and here at the shore. I suffered an injury recently and so now that we’re back at the shore my Human is planning on running on the turf grass. We never run on pavement. It is too hard on both of us and causes too many injuries. We like to run trails. For now we’re going to re-start slowly and mix running and walking. I’m full of silly energy. If one of us is hurting however, it is good to insist they rest, them come back easy when no more soreness is shown.

    Important to remember though that it is in our canine nature not to show pain or injury. When we do show you we’re hurting, the hurting is really bad. My Human says she goes by my eyes and facial expression.

    Y’all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  6. A thought provoking post, Kate is still young so always up for a long run! But definitely something to think about as the years pass. I will run with her as long as she wants to and is capable, even if it means bringing down the distance if it’s in her best interest!

  7. Ugh, I’m retiring my running partner Pillion, a labrador mix next month. We’ve been running together for eight years. I even register her in all our races so she can run with her own BIB and ger her own medal. She is in excellent health (she is nine and a half now), but don’t want to hurt her, so next month is our last race (a 10k). Because she is retiring, I’m also retiring because without her I will be lost (we will continue to jog a couple of miles every day and take long walks and hike, but our life in the fast lane is done). Last November we ran our last Half Marathon and last month we ran the 5k and 10k during Disney World Marathon weekend and I cried like crazy when we crossed the finish line!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Wow, that’s wonderful she has gotten to participate in so many races with you! I no longer run with my dog who is 9. We still enjoy our walks and hikes, but I do miss having my running buddy at my side.

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