Exercising Your Dog: A Dog Runner's Guide

Exercising Your Dog: A Dog Runner's Guide

By Lindsay Stordahl for Exceptional Canine

Exercising Your Dog: A Dog Runner\'s Guide

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, itís a lot. But Iíve 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 peopleís houses and theyíre home -- they just donít want to walk their dogs. But usually Iím 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 doesnít really matter, but I definitely like to mix it up.

Iím an All-weather Runner

Here in Fargo, N.D., where I live, it gets cold. Sometimes I show up and the owner decides itís 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. Thereís no real cutoff for me, though minus 25 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 donít have the time or ability to do so, itís 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 youíre planning to have a runner take your dog while youíre at work, you probably wonít 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 itís going.
  • Share information. Make sure to tell your dogís exercise buddy about 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 percent of my business is regular running appointments, while 25 percent 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, thereís a good chance youíll have a reliable (and active!) sitter for your canine the next time you travel!

Exceptional Canine expert Lindsay Stordahl operates RunThatMutt, running and walking dogs in the Fargo-Moorhead area of North Dakota. She has logged more than 4,200 miles running and walking with clientsí dogs.