There’s no better bonding activity than running with your dog.But don’t start when your pet’s too young! Hard surfaces can damage joints; bones have not yet fully formed. Wait until areas of bone growth have begun to close and harden, which varies by breed. Young or old, get clearance from your vet to ensure your pet is fit enough to run.

Here are some tips:

1) Start slowly. Develop a training plan with intervals of walking and jogging.

2) Don’t forget warm-up. Let your dog sniff around for a bit;do its business. There’s less need to stop once you pick up the pace. Work up to a slow jog.

3) Plan for poop. Be a good neighbor. Walk the running path to learn where you can dispose of waste, then take along waste bags and clean up after your furry friend.

4) Teach basic commands. Only when your pet can “Sit,” “Stay,” and follow commands to “Leave it” – retreating from tempting things like trash or dead birds – should you attempt a woodsy outing. Consider obedience class if your pet cannot obey commands.

5) Consider the running surface. Search out soft trails. Asphalt, sand and blacktop grow hot, and burn paws. Dirt trails are easier on paws and joints.

6) Leash your dog. Your pet may be easily controlled by voice command, but others will have no clue. Strays may attack an unleashed animal. If you’re running in the woods and your dog takes off after a small creature, you risk losing your pet. Use a 4’ to 6’ leash. Train your pet to remain by your side, its nose even with your knee. Your arm should be held straight down, leash held by their collar, until they’re used to keeping pace. While training, it’s helpful to maintain this close position a few minutes at a time during walks. Always check that dogs are permittedon the trail. Also, find out what wildlife you might encounter. Foxes and deer can kill dogs.

7) Use tick protection. Make sure Fido’s up-to-date on tick meds. Use insect spray and long socks when running through woods, brush, or long grass. Inspect, and remove ticks immediately; call your vet if your dog’s been bitten.

8) Keep your dog up-to-date on vaccinations. Should there be an unfortunate encounter with a dog or child where skin is broken, your dog’s tag should bear current vaccination info to bring peace of mind and avoid potential liability.

9) Take frequent water breaks. Carry a container of water for your dog; collapsible bowls or bottles with spouts are madespecifically for dogs. Stop every 10 minutes until you knowhow much water your pet needs. Don’t share Gatorade orother sports drinks with your pet!

10) Avoid running when it’s hot, or in midday sun. Dogsoverheat more easily than humans, and don’t sweat. Cutting a pooch’s hair in the summer is a great idea; but, cut it too short and it risks sunburn during a day at the doggie beach. Test surface temperatures, placing a bare foot or a hand on it for 10 seconds. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your pet.

11) Check paws when you return from a run. Paws can get burned; rocks, sticks and rough, uneven terrain can injure your pet. Running in snow, where roads have been treated with salt, can sting paws and cause upset stomach when paws are licked. Canine booties shield your pet’s paws. Otherwise, use petroleum jelly or Mushers Secret wax. Wash paws and remove salt and road chemicals that are toxic if licked.Should your dog limp, stop and check for embedded foreign bodies.

12) Pay attention. Whenever your dog pants excessively, slows down or acts differently, stop immediately. Cool your pet down, pouring water on them, if necessary. Find shade, and let him drink water – but don’t allow your pet to gulp too much, during or after exercise. If temperature is 80° or humidity is high, leave your dog at home. Watch out for lethargy, dark red gums or drooling, excessive panting, vomiting, or bloody diarrhea. Never force a reluctant dog to continue. Skip a session if your dogappears stiff or uncomfortable after a long run.