Fresh breeze in your hair, the air swirling into your nostril and filling up your chest, your mind letting go of all the thoughts, your dog preceeding you content. Running is a great way to keep active while giving your dog some good exercise. From classic jogging with your dog to canicross, there are a number of options you can explore even if your dog doesn’t do well off-leash. In this post we tell you more about running with your dog, dog-friendly clubs you can join in London and the some of the best jogging locations in London for you and your four-legged friend to explore.
Running with your dog in London
I used to be a keen jogger, before an injury ended my chances of enjoying the sport. But I still hold some great memories of that time: runs with our family dog happily trotting alongside after a day at uni, breaking the one-hour-run goal with one of my best friends when I thought I could have never reached the target and an evening run was also the activity we picked for our second date with my husband. If you are into running, you’ll cherish the feeling of burning your last energies while freeing your mind after a long day at work.
While not all dogs can safely run – for instance this may not be a suitable activity for older dogs or those who have joint/mobility problems; also, flat-nosed breeds often have breathing problems which makes running not advisable -, if you have an active and healthy dog it may be a great sport to pick up together in the form of jogging (with your dog on or off-leash) and/or canicross, a discipline where you run with your dog attached to a special harness and belt.
So if you are a keen runner, and so is your dog, this little guide may come in handy.
1. Jogging with your dog
If your dog has a good recall and sticks with you while on a walk, jogging is a good chance to exercise together without strings. Most dogs seem to have a natural inclination to run discontinuosly, stopping to sniff and start running again, so provided that they have a good recall and they are trained to keep within a short distance from you when out and about, this can be a very rewarding activity for both of you.
You can do it on your own, at your own pace, early in the morning before going to work or, when days are longer, in the evenings, or use the weekends to concentrate your aerobic efforts. However, if you prefer it to be a social outing, there are a number of dog running events and clubs in London you can consider.
Dog jogging events
- March: this year, in March, took place the Hogarth Charity Dog Jog, in Chiswick, fundraising for Battersea – it has not been confirmed whether the event will be repeated next year;
- June: the dog-friendly Enormous Elephant Run takes place yearly – normally in early June, on Clapham Common -, raising funds for The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, with two routes of 5k and 10k;
- Summer: if you fancy travelling out of London to Windsor or Tunbridge Wells (the closest) and get dirty, you can attend Battersea’s Muddy Dog Challenge, which involves a fun muddy run on a dog-friendly obstacle course, raising funds for Battersea;
- October: every year, at the end of October, takes place the Dog Jog, on two dates in Crystal Palace and Victoria Park respectively, for a 5k run;
- October: Another yearly dog-friendly event is the Poppy Run London, raising funds for the veterans of the Armed Forces with its 5k course;
- December: there are Santa Runs across London, which may be dog-friendly but being very busy may not be suitable for all dogs – check in advance each one’s policy;
- Milo’s Dog Running has been hosting a few charity runs this year – while there is none scheduled at the moment, watch our Dog Events Calendar;
- last year, also City Paws Club organised some social runs, currently there is no information about future running events.
Keep an eye on our Dog Events Calendar for upcoming running events.
Dog-friendly running clubs
If you don’t want to wait for a dog running event to come up, there are also regular running clubs which allow you to bring your dog along. Among these, London City Runners is a free running club and allows canines. We were however advised that they most run on pavement, so it’s something to consider as it may not be the best solution for running with your dog.
2. Canicross in London
Canicross is a sport where you run with your dog attached to a bungee line with a harness to a special belt. This means that also reactive dogs, nervous dogs and dogs with a bad recall can also join. The idea is that your dog will pull you running.
This sport is now taking ground also in London, also thanks to Run the pack LDN, a newly established volunteer-led canicross group which organises canicross runs across London parks and green spaces whilst raising money for dog shelters. For his birthday, I gifted my husband a canicross starter kit – he is still needs to test it properly (so far we used it only for trekking and some sprints), but I am planning to tell you more when he gets into it.
Jo Ashbridge, Founder of Run the pack LDN and DogFit Canicross Trainer, tells us that canicross has taken her and her Border Terrier rescue dog Molly across the country, from joining organised events on the south coast in Portsmouth to navigating the Scottish lochs and that they are eager for their next adventure. “I also love connecting with other canicrossers. You meet people who share your love of dogs and who are similarly passionate about their health and wellbeing. It’s a strong and extremely friendly community,” she adds.
Jo and Molly do both canicross an off lead jogging. “She loves to be off lead so when we’re running solo through the forest she often runs free, darting between trees. It’s a bit like an enormous agility course for her. She’s in control to stop, sniff or sprint,” says Jo. “[On the other hand] she also loves to run with the pack, so canicross (canine + cross-country) is a safe and structured way to do this. Canicross is wonderful as you run in harmony with your dog… and even though she’s small she gives me a boost up those hills!”
Run the pack LDN believe in canicross being inclusive, and that any dog can do it as long as it is fit, healthy and old enough give it a go. Jo gives some top tips about canicrossing:
- “Dogs, like humans, need to train to run long distances. Off lead sprints are quite different to endurance running. So take your time and build stamina slowly. Check out a couch to 5km canicross training programme.
- Dogs must be a minimum of 12 months old to canicross and sometimes older for larger breeds. This is because puppy growth plates, in the legs especially, are still forming and too much stress can cause complications in later life.
- There’s more than one way to canicross. Don’t assume your dog needs to run an ultramarathon. Some dogs are suited to that, others are not. You can canitrek, jog or run. Take on shorter or longer routes, the flats or hill climbs. Find out what works for you and your dog.
- We really recommend running in the correct kit. It means you’ll be hands free and you and your dog will feel much more comfortable and in control” (more about the kit below)
How to get started with canicross in London
- Get the right kit. Jo notes, “Canicross kit includes:
- Running belt: distributing the pull of your dog to your centre of gravity
- Bungee lead: absorbs any sudden movements from your dog
- Canicross harness: comfortable, properly fitted. We’ve been to a few canicross events where dogs are allowed to run on collars, which is really bad practice. Invest in the right kit – it doesn’t have to be expensive – your dog will thank you for it.
- Trail shoes (if you’re really off roading it), comfortable clothing, water etc.”
- Teach your dog to pull and the verbal cues
- Join a group or class, or start running by yourself, starting with short routes and building up.
1. Run the Pack LDN
Run the Pack LDN plans to host 4 runs a year. So far, they ran at Hampstead Heath, Connaught Water in Epping Forest and Nonsuch Park. Location changes to try and cover different areas and in order to participate runners have to make a donation to Chilterns Dog Rescue Society. The next canicross run’s date and location hasn’t been announced yet, but we will include it in the Dog Events Calendar.
Jo set up Run the pack LDN to help bring together canicrossers across the city and to organise a few meetups closer to home. “We’re led entirely by volunteers and 100% of ticket sales go to dog shelters. People choose to run 5km or 10km and run in small groups led by a pack leader. This year we’re supporting Chilterns Dog Rescue Society, which is an independent shelter in Hertfordshire who matched us with Molly.”
Where: Across London.
Cost of the runs: Donations to Chilterns Dog Rescue Society.
Contact: Facebook page here.
2. Canicross London
Canicross London is a Facebook group led by Catherine and her Siberian Husky Mavis. They organise casual runs predominantly in southwest London. “It’s a great community to be a part of with lots of knowledgeable canicrossers to ask questions,” comments Jo.
Where: Around Hampton, Richmond and surrounding Thames path areas.
Cost: Social runs are free
Contact: You can join the Facebook group here.
3. East London Canicross
Where: East London
Contact: You can join the Facebook group here.
If you are keen to learn how to canicross with your dog guided by a professional, you can reach out to a DogFit instructor (you can find the closest to you with the help of this map). A few names:
- Sarah Norris trains in West London, Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common (Cost: Introduction, which includes hire of kit, basic commands and etiquette along with a gentle 5k in a group costs £20. Courses range from £72 to £120. Alternatively you can drop in to a session that is within your and your dog’s capabilities for £12 or buy a pack of 10 for £100).
- Jo Ashbridge trains in East London (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook page here)
- Catherine Le Chevalier covers Windsor and SW London (contact: C&M Canicross)
Tips for running with your dog in London
When planning your dog jog, there are a number of factors to keep in mind:
- terrain: pavement or earth/grass, flat or hill
- lenght of the run
- quiet or busy/trafficked roads nearby/pollution
- wild animals (deer, etc)
- water fountains on the route/places for a water refill
- weather conditions
- illumination (depending on time of the day chosen for the run)
- transport method to destination: if you have a car, you can probably change more often your destination; if you don’t and travel by public transport, you may have to find a route with an easy connection
London has so many parks that it will not be difficult to find some great routes, however, it may take a bit some more exploration to identify the best one for your running needs in light of the factors above. For your back and knees natural ground is a better option, and parks are healthier for your lungs. The Royal Parks are definitely a great place where to be immersed into nature while exercising, some ideas:
- Wimbledon Common
- Hampstead Heath
- Crystal Palace
- Victoria Park
- Hyde Park
- Battersea Park