Have you ever thought about running with your dog? Not only is a great way for you to stay motivated to keep up with your fitness routine, but Fido will also get the exercise he needs in the process. While you may think that your furry friend will be ready to jump right in with enthusiasm–and you’re probably right–it’s important to ease your dog into your running routine to make sure he stays healthy (and can keep up).

Consider Age and Breed

While many dogs love the great outdoors, not all of them are built to be running companions. Running with your dog shouldn’t begin until your pup is full-grown–you want to make sure his bones have fully matured. Smaller breeds may be able start as young as six months, but you should consult your veterinarian before you start running with your dog just to be safe. In general, medium- to large-size dogs make the best running partners.

Talk to Your Veterinarian

You’ll want to make sure Fido is good and healthy before you embark on your running adventures, so take a quick trip to the vet to make sure everything’s in order. Running is a bit more strenuous than playing fetch in the backyard, and your vet will have some good tips for easing your dog into your running routine.

Grab a Leash

No matter how well trained your dog is, it’s important to use a leash–especially when you’re just starting out. There are tons of exciting things to see on a run, and a gentle tug will remind Fido where his attention needs to be. Using a leash can also help you maintain control of the pace of your run; you don’t want to have to start sprinting all of a sudden because your furry friend caught sight of a squirrel!

Start Slowly

You didn’t start running three miles a day right off the bat, did you? Well, Fido can’t either. This may mean you have to adapt your exercise routine while training your new partner, but in the long run, you’ll be glad you did. Start by running with your dog for 15 to 20 minutes at a time just a few days per week, and slowly increase the length of your run–adding about 5 minutes each week until you are able to complete your normal running route.