You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better running partner than your canine companion. He’s never late, doesn’t complain, always keeps pace and bursts with excitement at the sight of your running shoes. But running or jogging with your dog comes with its own set of precautions and requires a bit of know-how to ensure your pooch is up for the challenge.

A dog that exercises regularly is a happy dog, but it’s important to ensure your pet is healthy enough for the rigors of the road. Before you head out, take your dog to his regular veterinarian for a check-up. Once you get the go-ahead from the doggie doctor, begin conditioning him for distance running. Start with fast daily walks and short jogs and gradually increase the distance and pace as he becomes more conditioned to the activity.

It’s helpful for your dog to have mastered some basic obedience commands before beginning to run regularly. Commands such as “stop” and “heel” will help you stay in control and keep both of you focused on the run. Specialty, hands-free leashes are great for the experienced runner/dog duo. Don’t take any chances; always keep your dog on a leash when running. If you like to run after dark, make sure your dog has a reflective leash. It will keep both of you safe from traffic and other nighttime hazards.

Once you hit the pavement, your dog will need to stay hydrated, so make sure you pack enough water for the both of you. Many breeds, especially the excessively fluffy, overheat easily, so it’s important to keep an eye on your dog during the run. Watch for signs of heat exhaustion such as bright red gums and thick saliva, and take regular breaks. Just like human runners, dogs get sore muscles and joints if over-trained, so be sure to give your dog a day off from your running routine.

When done with caution and care, running with your dog can be a great bonding activity and a fantastic way to keep you and your dog healthy and happy. So get out those running shoes and get to work! No doubt your new partner will be ready to go.