Exercising Your Dog–A Runner’s Guide

By Lindsay Stordahl

About three years ago, I was working 10-hour days and I felt so bad leaving my dog, Ace, home all day. So I started a new business: running dogs. I average 15 miles a day now, although most of my outings with dogs are about 3 miles or so each.

I know—it’s a lot. But I’ve always done all sorts of sports, including swimming and rugby. And although I was never into running, now I run marathons.

Dog Clients Come in All Sizes

I run all kinds of dogs—some big, some small. Some are really overweight, so I take it easy with them. I charge $25 an hour and $18 a half hour; each extra dog is $5 more.

Sometimes I go to people’s houses and they’re home–they just don’t want to walk their dogs. But usually I’m taking pets out for a run because their owners are working in an office all day, like I was before I started my business.

When I take the dogs out, I always keep them on a leash, just in case. Some are crazy pullers. Most dogs start out fast but then adjust to my speed (about nine minutes per mile). I take the dogs to parks, in the street, wherever. It doesn’t really matter, but I definitely like to mix it up.

I’m an All-Weather Runner

Here in Fargo, ND, where I live, it gets cold. Sometimes I show up and the owner decides it’s too cold to take the dog out. Other owners put sweaters on their pups and let us go. But I always show up, no matter what. There’s no real cutoff for me, though minus 25⁰ F is pretty cold! I can run in the snow, but sidewalks are usually cleared here. In the summer, some breeds tend to overheat, so I have to be careful. But as a rule, I think just getting out and moving is good for dogs.

What to Look For in a Dog Runner

If you need to exercise your dog but don’t have the time or ability to do so, it’s great to hire someone like me. If you are thinking about hiring a dog runner, schedule a meet-and-greet. You should feel comfortable with the runner handling your dog and potentially visiting your house when you are not home.

Here are a few tips to help you choose the right person to exercise your dog:

  • Check credentials. Ask the dog runner if he or she carries any type of insurance. Also ask for a few references.
  • Establish communications. If you’re planning to have a runner take your dog while you’re at work, you probably won’t see each other too often. So plan on keeping in touch regularly by email, phone, or text. Ask the dog runner to give you an update every now and then about how it’s going.
  • Share information. Make sure to tell your dog’s exercise buddy about any injuries your pet has, aggression issues with other animals, or anything else you think the person should know.
  • Ask if they house-sit, too. With Run That Mutt, at least 50% of my business is regular running appointments, while 25% is regular walking appointments. The remainder of my time is spent pet-sitting while people are on vacation or otherwise away from home. So if you find a great dog runner, there’s a good chance you’ll have a reliable (and active!) sitter for your canine the next time you travel!

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