Trail running dog crossing creek with chest protector

Must-Have Gear for Trail Running with Your Dog

Gear up for trail running with your dog. This guide highlights essential equipment for a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable trail running experience.

Dog running on bark chip trail with hands-free leash

Running Collars: Comfort and Control

A good running collar, preferably a buckle collar, is the first piece of dog running gear you should consider. Unlike a harness, which can chafe your dog’s skin, a collar provides a comfortable and secure way to attach a leash. This is especially important for dogs that tend to pull, as a well-fitted collar can help manage this behavior without causing discomfort.

When choosing a collar, look for one that is adjustable to ensure a good fit. It should be snug but not tight, allowing you to fit two fingers between the collar and your dog’s neck. Many running collars also feature a sturdy buckle for added security. This ensures that the collar won’t accidentally come undone during your run, providing you with peace of mind as you and your dog enjoy the trails.

Hands-Free Leashes: Safety and Convenience

A hands-free leash is another must-have piece of trail running gear. This type of leash attaches to your waist, allowing you to run with your arms free. This not only makes running more natural but also ensures you won’t drop the leash if you trip or stumble.

When choosing a hands-free leash, look for one with a bungee section. This absorbs shock if your dog suddenly pulls, preventing jarring movements that could throw you off balance. Some hands-free leashes also feature pockets for storing essentials like keys, waste bags, and treats.

Hydration Solutions: Keeping Your Pup Hydrated

Hydration is crucial for both you and your dog during trail runs. While you might prefer a hydration pack or water bottle, your dog will likely need an additional solution. Portable dog bowls or collapsible water dishes are great options. They’re lightweight and can easily be stored inside your pack or a spare pocket.  While dogs can quickly learn to drink from a hydration pack’s hose or valve, they tend to swallow air and it’s more natural for them to drink from water poured in a bowl. 

Some dog running gear even includes built-in hydration solutions. For example, there are running harnesses with pockets for water bottles and even hydration packs designed specifically for dogs. Whichever solution you choose, make sure to offer your dog water regularly, especially on hot days or long runs.

Paw Protection: Safeguarding Your Dog’s Feet

Just like you need a good pair of trail running shoes, your dog may need some paw protection. Rough terrain, rocks, and snow or ice surfaces can all pose a risk to your dog’s paws. Protective wax can provide a barrier against these hazards.

Choosing the right paw protection depends on your dog and the conditions you’ll be running in.

Safety Gear: Being Prepared

Finally, don’t forget about safety gear. This can include reflective vests or lights for you and your dog, especially if you’ll be running in low-light conditions. A first-aid kit is also essential. This should include basic supplies for both human and canine first aid, such as bandages, tweezers, and antiseptic wipes.

Remember, the best gear is the gear that works for you and your dog. Take the time to try out different options and see what fits your needs and preferences. With the right gear, trail running with your dog can be a safe and enjoyable experience for both of you.

Leashed dog running on sandy trail

Trail Running Etiquette for Dog Owners

Hit the trails with your dog responsibly! This trail running etiquette for dog owners guide outlines key tips to ensure a positive experience for all trail users.

Understanding Leash Laws: Keeping Control

One of the first steps in responsible dog running is understanding and respecting leash laws. These laws vary by location, but they are designed to ensure the safety of all trail users, including your dog. Some trails require dogs to be on a leash at all times, while others may have off-leash areas or times. Always check the rules before you set out. Even if leashes aren’t required, having your dog on a leash or under voice control is a good practice to prevent unexpected encounters with wildlife or other trail users.

Leash laws are not only about control but also about respect. They are in place to protect everyone’s enjoyment of the outdoors, including those who may be afraid of dogs or allergic to them. Additionally, they help to prevent unwanted interactions between dogs, which can lead to fights or injuries. It’s also worth noting that some trails may be home to sensitive wildlife or plant species, and dogs running off-leash can inadvertently cause damage or stress to these organisms.

Furthermore, even well-behaved dogs can become distracted or excited by new smells, sights, and sounds on the trail. A squirrel darting across the path, a bird flying low, or even the rustle of leaves in the wind can be enough to send your dog running off into the unknown. Having your dog on a leash ensures that you can quickly regain control in these situations, preventing your dog from getting lost or injured.

Finally, it’s important to remember that leash laws are often enforced by local authorities, and failure to comply can result in fines or other penalties. So, for the safety and enjoyment of everyone on the trail, including your dog, it’s best to keep your dog leashed or under reliable voice control at all times.

Waste Disposal: Leave No Trace

Waste disposal is a crucial aspect of trail running etiquette for dog owners. No one wants to encounter dog waste on the trail, and leaving it behind can harm the environment. Always carry waste bags with you and pick up after your dog. Many trails have waste disposal bins, but if not, pack it out with you. Remember the principle of “Leave No Trace” applies to our furry friends too.Dog waste is not only unpleasant to encounter, but it can also pose a significant health risk. It can contain harmful bacteria and parasites that can contaminate water sources and spread disease to other animals and even humans. This is why it’s so important to pick up after your dog and dispose of the waste properly.

When packing out dog waste, consider using biodegradable bags. These are a more environmentally friendly option as they break down over time, unlike traditional plastic bags which can take hundreds of years to decompose. However, even with biodegradable bags, it’s still important to dispose of them in designated waste bins whenever possible.

In addition to picking up after your dog, it’s also good practice to move off the trail when your dog needs to go. This helps to minimize the chance of other trail users accidentally stepping in the waste and further reduces the environmental impact.
Finally, remember that “Leave No Trace” extends beyond just waste disposal. It’s about respecting the natural environment and preserving it for future generations. This means staying on the trail, not disturbing wildlife, and leaving natural features as you found them. By following these principles, we can all contribute to a more enjoyable and sustainable outdoor experience.

Yielding on Trails: Sharing the Space

Yielding on trails is a key part of being a considerate trail runner. As a general rule, runners should yield to hikers, and everyone yields to horses. When you encounter others on the trail, step aside and put your dog on a short leash or have them sit by your side. This not only shows respect for other trail users but also helps prevent any potential conflicts between dogs or with wildlife.

It’s important to remember that trails are shared spaces, used by both people and animals. This includes other runners, hikers, cyclists, horseback riders, and wildlife. Each group has different needs and speeds, and being aware of this can help ensure a positive experience for everyone. For example, cyclists and horseback riders may move faster and have a harder time stopping or maneuvering than runners or hikers. By yielding the right of way, you can help prevent accidents and maintain a peaceful atmosphere on the trail.

Additionally, when yielding to others, it’s a good idea to communicate your actions. A simple “on your left” or “coming through” can alert others to your presence and prevent surprises. This is especially important when running with a dog, as sudden movements can startle other trail users or their animals.

Finally, keep in mind that yielding also applies to interactions with wildlife. If you encounter wildlife on the trail, give them plenty of space and avoid disturbing them. This not only protects the animals but also ensures the safety of you and your dog.

Minimizing Environmental Impact: Protecting Our Trails

Finally, minimizing environmental impact is an essential part of trail running etiquette for dog owners. Stick to established trails to prevent erosion and protect plant life. Avoid running on muddy trails, as this can cause damage. If your dog likes to swim, make sure it’s allowed and only in designated areas to protect aquatic life. By being mindful of our impact, we can ensure that these beautiful trails remain for future generations of runners and their dogs to enjoy.

Sticking to established trails is not just about preserving the beauty of the environment. It’s also about protecting the delicate ecosystems that exist within it. Going off-trail can harm plant life, disturb wildlife, and contribute to erosion, which can lead to trail degradation over time. This is why it’s so important to stay on the trail, even if it means going a little out of your way.

Running on muddy trails can also cause damage. It can lead to trail widening, as runners move to the side to avoid the mud, and it can create deep ruts that harden when the trail dries, making it difficult for others to use. If the trail is muddy, consider choosing a different trail or running at a different time when the trail has had a chance to dry out.

If your dog likes to swim, it’s important to make sure it’s allowed and to use only designated areas. This helps to protect aquatic life and water quality. Dogs can disturb aquatic habitats and introduce foreign substances, like shampoo or flea and tick treatments, into the water.

By being mindful of our actions and their impact, we can all contribute to the preservation and enjoyment of our trails, ensuring they remain for future generations to explore and enjoy.


Being a responsible and considerate trail runner doesn’t just enhance your experience; it also ensures that everyone can enjoy the beauty and serenity of the trails. By understanding leash laws, practicing proper waste disposal, yielding to other trail users, and minimizing our environmental impact, we can all contribute to a positive trail running culture. So, lace up your running shoes, leash up your dog, and hit the trails with a new sense of responsibility and respect.

Trail Running with Your Dog: Essential Tips

The Allure of the Trail

Trail running with your dog is more than just a workout; it’s an adventure. The thrill of exploring new paths, the beauty of nature, and the companionship of your four-legged friend combine to create an experience that’s both physically rewarding and emotionally enriching. But before you hit the trails, there are some important things to consider.

Leash Etiquette: Balancing Freedom and Safety

Leash etiquette is a crucial aspect of trail running with your dog. While it’s tempting to let your dog roam free, safety should always come first. A retractable leash allows your dog some freedom while still keeping them under control. Remember, not all trails are dog-friendly, and some require dogs to be on a leash at all times. Always check the rules before you set out.

Trail Etiquette: Sharing the Space

Trail etiquette is just as important as leash etiquette. Remember, you’re sharing the trail with other runners, hikers, and wildlife. Always keep your dog under control and avoid allowing them to chase wildlife or disturb other trail users. If you encounter others on the trail, it’s polite to step aside and let them pass.

Training Your Dog for the Trail

Dog training for running is essential. Start with short, easy runs and gradually increase the distance and difficulty as your dog builds stamina. Teach your dog basic commands like “whoa”, “leave it”, and “come” to ensure they can respond to your instructions during the run. Remember, not all dogs are built for long-distance running, so it’s important to consider your dog’s breed, age, and health before embarking on this journey.

Safety First: Preparing for the Unexpected

Trail running safety is paramount. Always carry a basic first-aid kit for both you and your dog. Keep your dog hydrated and watch for signs of fatigue or overheating. Be aware of the terrain and weather conditions, and always let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to return.

The Benefits of Running with Your Dog

Running with a dog offers numerous benefits. It’s a great way to bond with your pet, and it can improve both your health and your dog’s. Regular exercise can help control your dog’s weight, reduce behavioral problems, and increase their lifespan. Plus, having a running buddy can make your workouts more enjoyable and motivate you to stick with your fitness goals.

Finding Dog-Friendly Trails

Finding dog-friendly trails is the next step in your trail running journey. Many online resources and apps can help you locate trails that welcome dogs. Look for trails with a soft surface, plenty of shade, and access to fresh water. Remember, the goal is to make the experience enjoyable for both you and your dog.

Bringing Proper Gear: Essentials for the Trail

When trail running with your dog, it’s important to bring the right gear. Clean drinking water is a must for both you and your dog. Dehydration can set in quickly, especially on hot days or challenging trails. Good trail shoes are also essential. They provide the necessary grip and support for uneven terrain, reducing the risk of slips or falls. And don’t forget a sturdy leash and dog waste bags to ensure you leave the trail as pristine as you found it.

Have Fun: Embrace the Adventure

Trail running with your dog is about more than just exercise; it’s about enjoying your time outside together. If you’re a competitive runner, don’t worry about your pace when you first start running with your dog. It may take some time for both of you to adjust to the new routine. Use this time to strengthen your bond and enjoy the beauty of nature. The joy of seeing your dog’s excitement as they explore new trails is worth more than any personal record.

Unwind: Recovery is Key

After your run, it’s important to let your dog rest and recover, especially after long runs. Make sure your dog has access to plenty of drinking water when you get home. Just like humans, dogs need time to cool down after exercise. Allow them to rest and rehydrate. This is also a good time to check for any ticks or injuries that might have occurred on the trail. Remember, a healthy dog is a happy dog, and taking proper care of your furry friend after a run ensures many more trail adventures in the future.


Trail running with your dog can be a wonderful experience, filled with exploration, exercise, and bonding. By following these tips on leash etiquette, trail etiquette, dog training for running, and trail running safety, you can ensure that every run is a safe and enjoyable adventure. So, lace up your running shoes, grab the leash, and hit those dog-friendly trails!