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Running Leashes: Letting Everyone Exercise Safely

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You want to get in your daily jog. And you picked an active breed to keep you on-track with that exercise regime. But juggling a leash while running - or even speed-walking - is a challenge. Both you and your pup end up frustrated, if not sore. Good thing running leashes exist to make things easier. We'll explain how these nifty contraptions work and which are the best so you can hit the trail.

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Dawn just peeked over the horizon. There’s a slight chill in the air – not unpleasant; it’s actually enough to feel comfortable and wake you up. You lace up your tennis shoes, tap your activity tracker to get it ready when you hear that eager bark behind you. Your dog wants to accompany you on your morning run. Those paws dance in place, and they have the leash in their mouth, ready to go. You hate to disappoint them, but running with the leash never works. What are you going to do? Simple: you’re going to learn about running leashes and the magic they offer to athletes like you!

Dogs and Exercise

Canine obesity is a genuine problem. As dogs put on extra pounds, they add strain to their joints and increase their risk for Diabetes. Not unlike humans, actually. You can manage their weight with low-fat food options, and you can increase their daily activity level (both usually work best).

Exercise burns away those unwanted calories. It also keeps joints moving, slowing down the progress of arthritis. And the more activity your dog participates in, the better muscle strength and growth they see. (This should sound familiar – they’re the same reasons most of US turn to exercise)

And running is an excellent choice of exercise for dogs. Many breeds are built to run. Whether they spent their ancestry hunting down large game over acres of forest, herding sheep from field to field, or racing for the amusement of lords and ladies, dogs have bodies designed to cover a lot of territory.

The Running Problem

You often won’t find a problem getting your dog to run with you (depending on the breed). However, coordinating the two of you and a standard leash gets tricky if not hazardous.

When you run, you swing your arms to gain momentum (or to help you balance). This means a constant jerking motion on the leash. Your poor dog has to adjust to the slack and pull. If they’re wearing a collar, this strains their neck. And if they happen to catch sight of something and pull, you get jerked off your feet. Neither situation’s ideal.

Running leashes step in to solve both problems. You get a hands-free way for both of you to run SAFELY.

How Running Leashes Work

You’ll find several different styles of running leashes. And you may need to experiment a little to figure out which one works the best for you and your canine running partner. In general, though, they function on the same basic design.

Running leashes have two parts:

  1. An adjustable waist belt
  2. A bungee leash

The waist belt is what frees up your hands. You’ll see designs that loop the waist or sling around the shoulder. It also gives you more bracing power if your dog decides to spot that infamous squirrel on your jog. Because you’re anchored at your center of gravity (instead of around your wrist), you can plant your feet and halt that bolt. You also usually get a handle for emergencies.

The running leash features bungee material to allow your dog more give during the run. It’s also a built-in shock absorber. Your dog won’t end up pulling you, and YOU won’t pull your dog. Both of you stay comfortable throughout the run.

Working with Running Leashes

Finding a solution so you can start jogging with your dog is always exciting. But before you grab a running leash and hook up your pup, you need to think things through. Not every dog is suited to marathons. YOU thought through the training process (hopefully, anyway), and you need to do the same for your dog.

Running Breed or Walking Breed?

No matter how spunky and energetic they may be, you can’t start running with your Chihuahua or Pug. That poor little Chi is going to end up dragging in the dirt within five steps. And your brachycephalic dog is going to be gasping for air within a block. Make sure your beloved pooch is built for running.

Which may come as a surprise to you. For instance, people think Greyhounds are natural runners. Which they are…for ten seconds. If we attempted to go running with our girl (this is a completely hypothetical situation, mind you, as my Orthopedist would have a heart attack if I considered it), she’d start whining before we made it around the block. And we would have to carry her home – all 75 pounds of her.

So, really, you should talk about a running program with your vet. They’ll do a thorough physical on your dog and make sure they’re healthy enough to suit up in that running leash. A vet will also advise you on how slow to take things. If you have a puppy under six months, they’ll counsel a wait. Puppies who are growing shouldn’t stress their growth plates. Hold on the running leashes until they’re full-grown.

Running Etiquette

Once your dog gets the all-clear, you want to make sure you use reason when you break out the running leash.

  1. Make sure your dog knows the basic “sit” and “stay” commands.
  2. If you haven’t already, work through basic leash-training. You need your dog to stay at your side.
  3. ALWAYS use a harness. This eliminates pressure around the neck.
  4. Carry water at all times – for you and your dog.
  5. Avoid extreme temperatures. If it’s warm, skip the pavement and run on grass or dirt. You don’t want to burn your dog’s paw pads.
  6. If there’s ANY injury, stop. Have your cell phone handy to call for help. Smaller dogs may be easy to carry, but odds are you won’t be lifting your giant dog.

Choosing a Running Leash

You know your running style. You also know how your dog likes to run when they’re with you. Both of those factors will play into your choice of running leash. You also want to keep the following key features in mind:

  • Material: In general, you’re going to find nylon running leashes. Nylon’s fine, but you may need reinforced stitching, waterproofing, or padding. You also want to look at whether the buckles and clips are metal or plastic, as one holds up better than the other.
  • Leash Length: Where do you run the most? If you’re downtown, you need your dog close to avoid pedestrians. But if you’re on mountain trails, you have more room. How far do you feel comfortable letting your dog get from you?
  • Attachment: The leash needs to attach to the waist belt SOMEHOW. Is it a reinforced clip? Or does it rotate around the belt?
  • Comfort: You’re wearing a waist belt. You don’t need to accidentally strain your back. Try to find webbing, so you don’t develop pressure sores. Or you can find running leashes that allow for different configurations, such as a shoulder sling.
  • Visibility: You’re not going to run during the heat of the day. So you want reflective stitching, bright colors, or BOTH to help keep you and your dog visible.

Best Running Leashes

Running with your dog is the perfect exercise choice. Both of you get to use up calories, keep your joints moving, and build your muscle reserves. Plus, it’s a way for the two of you to bond. That’s a special time, just for the two of you. When your dog sees you reaching for the running leash, they know it’s time to get out and stretch their legs. You get your stress relief, and they get to expend some extra energy. Everyone wins! And with running leashes, everyone stays safe and comfortable at the same time.

Black Rhino is the perfect example of a running leash. You have five bright colors to choose from in either four- or five-foot lengths. The bungee leash includes two handles you can reach for, if needed, both padded for comfort. A handy pouch keeps your phone close in case you need it (or holds your keys). And the belt is easily adjustable for your comfort.

Downsides? While complete with the shock-absorbing you’d want in the bungee, the leash doesn’t stretch as well as other running leashes. It’s fine if your dog doesn’t mind staying close, though. Unfortunately, they also placed the D-ring on the belt where a pulling dog can pop the buckle. You’ll want to keep an eye on things (or an extra hand on one of those handles).

The Good

The Bad

If you’re learning how to work with running leashes, the Buddy System is the perfect place to start. The nylon adjusts between 22-40 inches, and you can even detach it and use it as an ordinary leash. A simple buckle clasps around your waist, with a sliding hook allowing your dog to circle you. In emergencies, you have a quick-release. It’s available in four bright colors and comes in five different sizes.

The downsides? Your dog needs to weigh more than 20 pounds for this running leash to work properly. All of the fasteners and adjusters are plastic, so they’re not going to last very long. And the nylon isn’t reinforced, either. So, while it’s a great place to start with training, you don’t want to turn to this if you’re serious about your running program.

The Good

The Bad

Why not get the most out of your running leash? Kurgo offers SIX different configurations. You can wear it around your waist, as is traditional, or you can loop it around your wrist or swing it around your torso. It also works if you need to secure your dog in place while you dash in to snag both of you water. With a quick flick of the adjustment clip, you can shorten the leash from six feet to three feet – and you won’t have to unhook your dog! You also have six different colors to choose from.

So what are the downsides? Unhappily, there’s no bungee on this running leash, so your dog doesn’t get that shock-absorption protection. You also don’t get any handles. There IS padding on the waist, but it slides around, so your back doesn’t always get the benefit from it. And the clip is weaker than it appears, so make sure it’s locked into your dog’s harness.

The Good

The Bad

Lanney combines some of the best running leash features into one. You get a bungee leash that extends from 49 inches out to 69 inches. Two neoprene-padded handles allow you to have extra control when you need it, and both the leash AND waist come with reflective stitching. There’s a pouch you can wear on OR off the waist belt, depending on whether you want the extra bulk. And you have six bright colors to pick from, keeping both of you visible on your jogs.

Downsides? A lot of serious runners hate the pouch. It slides around, chasing the leash. You CAN detach it, though, so it’s up to you whether that’s a deal-breaker. The metal rings ARE more durable, but people also felt like they were loud. Again, it’s your call.

The Good

The Bad

When it comes to running leashes, Mighty Paw is one of the best out there. You get two leash options: 36 inches or 48 inches. The weather-proof nylon handles any kind of jogging conditions, while the bungee protects your dog through the running program. You get sturdy metal fasteners, too, so you don’t need to worry about things breaking apart.

The downsides? The leash is heavier than you find in other running leashes, and you don’t get a handle to help you out. You do have a single D-ring connection, so make sure your dog’s trained to stay at your side. Especially as that shorter length could mean a tennis shoe to the head if your dog falls behind.

The Good

The Bad

Paws Lifestyle offers a running leash that adjusts between 48 and 72 inches long – perfect for any running duo! The bungee leash comes complete with two neoprene-padded handles to give you some extra control when needed. There’s also a zippered pouch so you can store a phone, keys, treats, or whatever else you may need during your outing. The belt and leash have reflective piping for low light levels on all three of the bright colors. Don’t feel it worked for you? They offer a lifetime guarantee!

So what are the downsides? The pouch is integrated into the belt, so it may not be comfortable to run with, depending on what you pack in there. And the zippers aren’t the most durable in the first place. Also, the clips are plastic, so they start to give after a lot of use.

The Good

The Bad

Have you considered the challenge of running with two dogs at once? It sounds like a potential recipe for disaster, but if you have two well-behaved pups, Pet Dreamland has you covered. The key is a 360-degree swivel that allows each dog to venture on their own path without tangling together. You have a padded handle at the end of each bungee to maintain control, as well as one further up to rein both kiddos in. And this running leash WILL work with just one dog, too.

Downsides? Obviously, this is NOT for pullers. You’ll end up with a serious accident. And while there’s a size for dogs up to 150 pounds, you’re better off sticking to small and medium pups for safety. The belt’s adjustable, but it won’t go any smaller than 27 inches (so let’s measure our tummies and be realistic).

The Good

The Bad

SparklyPets is another running leash that also doubles for ordinary walks. You get 4-5 feet of shock-absorbing bungee, with reflective stitching for visibility. All of the clips and buckles are stainless steel, ensuring your leash will last through your entire marathon-training program. There are two neoprene-padded handles AND a quick-release for those emergencies. And everything comes in a handy carrying tote.

The downsides? This particular running leash is designed for medium and large dogs. It’s also one where the waist belt won’t go lower than 28 inches. Otherwise, though, runners love it.

The Good

The Bad

If you want the longest distance for your running leash, you need TaoTronics. Their bungee stretches out to 67 inches. And you get double the bungee shock-absorption for your pup. This leash works for dogs weighing as much as 150 pounds!  The sliding clasp lets your dog run rings around you (which may be the case!).

So what are the downsides? There’s no padding on this particular running leash – not on the handles OR the waist belt. Take it easy on yourself, so you don’t hurt your hands or back, especially if you have a larger dog. The design is also better for medium and large dogs, pulling too much for smaller dogs to handle.

The Good

The Bad

Tuff Mutt is another running leash recognized by serious runners. You get four feet of bungee with a single handle. All of your clips are stainless steel, and the leash slides around the belt. You have a choice of seven color options, all with reflective stitching. And if you have any problems, Tuff Mutt offers a lifetime guarantee.

Downsides? Again, you sacrifice the padding here. And this is a HEAVY running leash – you’d want that padding. Otherwise, most people enjoyed working with this leash.

The Good

The Bad

Running Around

Plenty of people enjoy running, jogging, and even speed-walking. And your dog knows when you’re about to head out for one of those trips. Why leave them behind? Running leashes allow you to share that time with your favorite pup in a safe manner. You don’t put strain on your dog with your movements, they don’t pull you off-course, but you remain attached to each other. It’s a win-win!

So, as you inhale that perfect dawn air and hear that bark, reach for the running leash. You both have a jog to get to.

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Andria Kennedy

Andria Kennedy

Andria Kennedy worked as a Licensed Veterinary Technician for 10 years, focusing on Emergency/ICU and later Cardiology, as well as volunteering at both the Philadelphia Zoo and Virginia Living Museum for over six years. She's now a freelance writer, but she gravitates toward writing projects with a focus on animals (once an animal-lover, always an animal-lover). She lives in Virginia with her husband, three cats (one "works" as her personal assistant), and a Greyhound who thinks she's a big cat — all of them rescues.

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