As much as New Yorkers love their dogs, the city isn’t the easiest place for them to stretch their legs. In order to prevent their furry friends from getting cabin fever, dog owners have found solutions such as taking their pets to a dog park or hiring a dog walker. But for those willing to go the extra mile, there’s also the option of hiring a dog jogger, for which the first company of that kind, Running Paws, was formed in New York City in 2002.
Running Paws’ owner Seth Chodosh had always been an avid runner, taking his German shorthaired pointer, Bosco, for jogs while growing up in Westchester, New York. After Bosco passed away, Chodosh got bored of running alone yet didn’t like jogging with another person. Another dog, however, changed the whole equation for him.
“Back in 2002 I took a friend’s Labrador out jogging in Central Park, and I hadn’t done that in years. I remember looking at how tired the dog was and how happy he was, and I remember thinking ‘Wow, I bet people would pay for this,’” says Chodosh. “I figured someone already did that for a living, but no one did. People have been jogging with dogs, but no one ever made a business out of it.”
So Chodosh, who at that time had recently gotten his MBA and had been trying to figure out what direction he was going next, started putting up some flyers for a dog jogging service, got a few clients and has built the business to more than 150 clients. This growth has allowed him to open a retail store in the Upper East Side, which offers a variety of services like daycare and agility training.
Like dog walking services (which Running Paws also offers), dog joggers are spread throughout Manhattan, picking pooches up from their homes to run either alone or with another dog, one to five times a week, for sessions ranging from one to two miles.
Rates vary based on the type and frequency of service but start at $23 for a half hour session with another dog, as part of a five-runs-a-week plan, and can go as high as $75 for 45 minutes if done once a week.
The benefits of a run for dogs, says Chodosh, can include weight loss and improved behavior, something he saw in his dog Bosco who was destructive, but “when I started jogging him he stopped because he was tired.”
“Jogging alone helps out with behavioral issues like tearing up an apartment,” he says. “That to me is the most rewarding part of the business, [especially] when someone is on their wits end because they don’t know what to do with their dog or physically can’t take it out.”
In order to keep up with the dogs, Chodosh has a selective screening process for employees, where every runner either has to have done a triathlon, marathon, been a collegiate track and field athlete, been in the military or run numerous half marathons. “These are real runners and real athletes,” says Chodosoh.
The daycare also has an emphasis on fitness, with tennis balls flying around the open area, with no cages, and dogs also have the option to go for a run along the East River.
Going forward, Running Paws is closing in on opening a second location in Manhattan, where Chodosh and his crew will look to hit the ground running.