Canines are high-spirited creatures that love to run around and play in open spaces like a yard or a park to help keep their mental and physical health in top condition. However, letting your dog loose in a yard is only feasible if you have a proper fence around it. What if you don’t have a fence? What if your dog finds a way to bypass the fence by digging under or breaking through? Don’t worry, as you can still let your dog play in the yard with the finest dog runners of 2023.
You can find all sorts of dog runners on the market, from simple tie-down cables to elaborate mechanisms with pulleys and ground hooks. There is also a ton of variety in construction materials, weight limits, and cable lengths.
So, which dog runner should you buy?
We checked out many of the options available on Amazon and reviewed them thoroughly. These are the ones that stood out as the best.
Buyer’s Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Dog Runners
Dog runners are godsends for dogs and dog owners alike. The dog gets to run around and play to their heart’s content, and the dog parent can rest assured, knowing that their dog is safe within the confines of their yard. However, these situations are only applicable if you choose the best dog runner for your needs.
These are the factors you need to consider before making a purchase.
What Type of Dog Runner Do You Want?
There are three main types of dog runners out there. Each of these serves a different purpose and fulfills different needs to keep your dog safe and secure outside.
A tie-down is the most basic kind of canine runner. It is usually just a small rope or cable (around 4-5 feet) tied to a fence or a tree. You can also use it indoors to keep your dog mobile without having them running all around the house. Since they keep your dog in a particular place, tie-downs are not that useful for dog playtime.
Tie-outs are the longer, more functional version of tie-downs with a much longer cable. These cables are anywhere between 15 and 30 feet, and some even allow you to customize the length. You can buy stand-alone cables tied to fences and trees, or you can also get complete kits with ground and tree hooks. Depending on the length, tie-outs offer a relatively large play area while also being extremely portable for camping trips and visits to the local park.
Trolley-based dog runners are the ultimate package with all kinds of useful tools. The main cable is often 60 feet or longer and is tied between two trees with soft stoppers at the ends. Then, you have the main 10-foot runner cable attached with a trolley/pulley. A 60-foot and 10-foot runner set gives your dog over 1200 square feet of accessible area with plenty of space for running in straight lines – something that most dogs love.
The only downside to this whole system is its setup time. Mounting the tree hooks, main cable, trolley, and dog runner cable with the shock spring takes quite some time. This whole set is not particularly portable and is more of a permanent, long-lasting addition to your yard.
What Material Should the Cables Be?
Almost every major dog runner brand has a different composition for its cables, each with its pros and cons. However, the two types of cables you should avoid completely are pure steel and pure aluminum cables.
Pure steel cables are incredibly sturdy and strong. The entire runner system will break before a pure steel dog runner cable shows even a dent. However, steel is also extremely heavy. A robust pure steel cable will weigh down your dog, hampering their ability to move freely. These cables are also not very flexible, further increasing their movement resistance.
On the other hand, aluminum cables are incredibly lightweight (at least compared to steel) and fairly flexible, boosting the chances of your dog breaking them. They will not cause strain to your poor puppy’s shoulders. Unfortunately, aluminum on its own is not very strong and will start breaking down within months of regular use.
The best option
Your best option is to find cables made from steel and aluminum alloys. These alloys carry the best of both worlds while also mitigating the issues with the other. The steel provides strength, and the aluminum brings flexibility and light weight to the table.
How to Install a Trolley Dog Runner
Installing a functioning dog runner is not that difficult. Most sets even come with an accompanying set of instructions, like a manual or a video. But installation can still appear daunting for someone who has never done anything like it before.
The key to a successful installation is to take things one step at a time. Here’s what you have to do.
The first step is to find two trees or mounting points for the main dog runner cable. Make sure that they are far enough apart to cover the entire length of the cable.
The next step is ensuring the strength of these mounting points. Hollow trees or flimsy fences are not a good choice, since the main cable is supposed to be as tight as it can get.
Once the mounting points are finalized, take the hooks and screw them in. They are threaded and sharp at the edges, so they should fit into any wooden object without any issues.
Now, wrap the main dog runner cable around one hook and secure it with tightening clamps, using a wrench.
Get to the other side of the cable and slide the cable through a stopper, the trolley, and then the second stopper.
The next step is to wrap the cable around the second hook and secure it with the clamp. Make sure the cable is as tight as it can get and does not create any waste.
The last step is to attach the dog runner cable to the pulley using the spring in between and the other end of the cable to your dog’s collar or harness, and you’re done.
For a visual explanation, check out this video from Preliminary Films:
First on our list is a simple yet practical tie-down cable. The XiaZ dog runner cable is built to last with its stainless steel construction and a heavy emphasis on strength. You can tie it to a ground hook, tree, or a fence without any issues, and the 20-foot length is enough for your dog to run around all it wants. Even the mounting hooks are strong metal with locks for added security.
This is also an excellent replacement cable if you already have a runner and a trolley. It’ll give large dogs much more space compared to the shorter cable that comes with most runner bundles. It is also stronger than the alternatives.
Stainless steel construction
Anti-tangle and anti-wrinkle technology
Plenty long for most yards
It is completely static if you don’t own a full runner system already
Next up, we have a complete dog runner kit. The BV trolley bundle is inexpensive and has everything you need in a compact package. It comes with a 60-foot trolley cable and a 10-foot runner cable, both of which give your dog a combined play area of over 1200 square feet. These cables are made from a steel alloy that is strong and flexible.
Both cables are wrapped in reflective red vinyl to protect the dog runner cable from rust and make it visible in low-light situations. Lastly, there is the shock-absorbing spring that protects your dog from whiplash when they run out of cable.
Are you looking for a complete dog runner set that is extremely high quality in every way? Then the Petset trolley runner cable set is for you. The core focus of this set is on durability and quality. It does everything you want from a dog runner and does it well. You’d be hard-pressed to find a glaring issue with the cables, mounting hardware, and the trolley. Everything is designed to near perfection.
For example, both the trolley and the dog runner cable are made from a stainless steel alloy with a reflective vinyl layer on top. Both cables are thick and incredibly strain-resistant. Additionally, the trolley is compact and easy to move around.
If we ranked these dog runners based on pure functionality, this Snagle Paw set would be on the top. Yes, it is a bit on the pricey side at over $30, but what you get in return is a set that will last for years to come. It even has many features that many of its competitors do not. Adjustable tension and locking hooks are prime examples.
Additionally, the trolley cable is 75 feet long. A difference of 15 feet doesn’t sound that impressive until you consider that 75 feet offer over 300 square feet of additional play range for your adorable puppy, making it great for large dogs.
So far, we’ve only talked about puppy runners with tree mounts and trolleys; however, this one is different. The Petbobi tie-out cable set consists of a 20- or 30-foot dog runner cable, a spring mount, and a ground stake. If you have limited yard space or love to go out camping with your dog, then this is the one for you.
The stake is made from sturdy stainless steel. It’s also shaped like a giant corkscrew, making it easy to mount, even in the toughest terrain. The 2800-square-foot play area is also more than enough for any dog, especially large dogs. The vinyl-wrapped cable and spring mount are both robust as well.
Thin, flexible cable to minimize drag
Perfect for outdoor activities
Dogs can get tangled when spinning around
People Also Asked
Q: Can my dog get tangled in a runner cable?
A: No – if you’ve bought a high-quality cable set, then your dog should not get stuck. These metal cables are very resistant to sharp bends, so wrapping them around something as thin as a dog’s leg is pretty much impossible. Besides, most runner cables are rotatable near the pulley. So, even if your dog just spun around underneath the pulley, they should not get tangled.
Q: Are runner cables safe from my dog’s teeth?
A: Most dogs do not threaten runner cables, especially the thicker ones. However, a select number of dogs are strong enough, with sharp enough teeth to chew through even the strongest cable.
If you encounter this issue, you should give metal chains a try. They are incredibly flexible and strong enough to withstand a bite from any dog.
Q: Can rain and rust damage my runner cables?
A: Modern, high-quality runner cables are wrapped in clear or colorful vinyl. This protective layer prevents most natural elements like moisture and dirt from the core metal cable. The rest of the components, like hooks and clamps, are also made from stainless steel.
One thing to keep in mind is that not every company will offer steel components. Instead, some use steel for cables only and aluminum alloys for the rest of the components.
Q: Are ground-mounted runners secure?
A: The security of a ground-mounted runner stake depends entirely on your installation. If the hook is unstable, it will not survive regular use. On the other hand, if you’ve done a good job at securing these runner stakes, then there is no reason to worry about its security and capabilities; that thing is not going to move.
Q: How high off the ground should a trolley system be?
A: About 6 feet, give or take – high enough to where a person won't walk into it and a dog won't get tangled up in it.
Jarett and his vapor wake dog, Toxi, help keep the students and public safe on the University of Notre Dame’s campus. Jarett knows what equipment, food and toys to keep Toxi safe, productive and still able to have fun.