Helping shelter dogs get the exercise, fresh air, and stress relief they deserve.

RuffTail Runners is an Austin-based program that pairs runners and walkers with shelter dogs to give them much-needed exercise, fresh air, and time away from their kennels. Launched in 2011, RuffTail Runners has grown to include hundreds of volunteers in multiple locations throughout central Texas.

Trained volunteers go to area shelters at their leisure (no schedules or advanced sign-up required), “check out” a dog, and then take it on a walk or a run. Sometimes these can be long runs of several miles; other times volunteers are asked to simply take a dog for a short walk around a field. At the end of the outing, the volunteer “checks the dog back in” to its kennel.



A calm, happy dog is an adoptable dog.

Many dogs who come to our shelters have been through the wringer. Some have been abused, neglected, or abandoned. And shelters themselves can be stressful environments. Surrounded by concrete, chain link fencing, and the near-constant barking of other dogs, many shelter dogs become stressed, anxious, and depressed. But with regular walks or runs, and through the dedication, love, and patience of their RuffTail Running buddies, these dogs can become healthier and happier. At this point, their true personalities start to shine through, and they become much more likely to be adopted. In addition, high energy dogs that get the exercise they need are easier to train. Rather than having a lot of pent up energy, they are nice and tired when their trainer comes to work with them, and they pick things up much faster.

Humans need exercise, fresh air, and stress relief, too.

We know it can be hard to motivate to get outside and exercise. But its easier when you know there’s a lonely pup depending on you. Even a short walk outside with a grateful dog can lift your spirits and melt away the stress of your day. Plus, building relationships with these dogs can elicit positive emotions and a sense of connectedness that you can’t get from running alone.


Mattie on the trail
Mattie with her adopters on her adoption day

Mattie is an American Staffordshire Terrier mix who was one of Austin Pets Alive!’s longest stay dogs and one of the greatest RuffTail dogs of all time. She came to APA! from the city shelter on December 27, 2012. It was immediately clear that Mattie had lots of energy to burn, and all the time in her kennel wasn’t doing her much good. She became an RTR dog, and we then realized what a perfect runner she was!

Mattie has incredible stamina and could run further than all the other RTR dogs. She was very sought after by our fastest runners and our long distance runners. She even helped RTR co-founder Lindsay to train for a half marathon! Mattie got lots of individualized training at the shelter and learned to have near perfect leash manners. She was a favorite of many volunteers because of her sweet disposition and willingness to play dress up. Still, Mattie remained at the shelter for many years waiting for her forever family.

Mattie playing dress up with RTR volunteer Jessica
Mattie with her adoptive dad recently after adoption

Finally, in 2015 a couple came in to visit with Mattie. They were runners themselves and had learned of her reputation as a great trail dog. Lindsay took them to the trail with Mattie like she had done so many times, and other volunteers answered the couple’s questions about Mattie’s experience in a home. After a few weeks of preparation, the couple came back to APA! on August 17, 2015 to adopt Mattie! By that time, Mattie had been with APA! for 963 days.

Today, Mattie is doing great with her forever family, who regularly send in updates about her. The APA! and RTR community is so thrilled that our rockstar Mattie finally has the forever family that she’s always deserved. Although she had to wait so long, Mattie is truly an RTR success story.


“I first got to know Cane as my running buddy while volunteering with the RTR program when he and I were both brand new to APA!. Two mornings a week I would take him out to some trails for a good workout and some fresh air.”

“I often joke that Cane came “pre-programmed” with all his obedience skills due to being at APA! for so long, and it’s true. So many staff and volunteers put forth their love and effort into giving Cane a good life while he waited for his permanent home, and I am forever thankful for that.”

Read more of Mike and Cane’s story.



For press inquiries, please contact Anna Crockett at anna@rufftailrunners.org

Everyday Superhumans, October 2016

The Tale of the RuffTail Runners

Austin Monthly, May 2016

101 Fun Things to Do This Summer: Pets

Animal Sheltering, January 2016

Cooped-Up Pooches? Loan ‘Em Out!

Studio 512, October 2015

Get Involved with RuffTail Runners

Austin Fit Magazine, April 2014

Saving Dogs through RuffTail Running

YNN, May 2013

RuffTail Runners (VIDEO)

YNN, September 2012

Active Now – Jog-a-Dog (VIDEO)

Austin Chronicle, September 2012

Jog-a-Dog named “Best Fitness Charity”




Rob Hill

Founding Director
Rob accidentally started running in 2004, and inadvertently started coaching a running group in 2007. In 2008, his running group, Team Spiridon, just happened to start raising money for animal charities. He unexpectedly adopted a dog, Neko, in 2009, which further amplified his awareness and concern for companion animals. In 2010, he and one of his runners, Chantelle Wallace, were caught unawares by an Austin Pets Alive! dog behaviorist, who asked if members of Team Spiridon might be interested in running with APA!’s higher-energy dogs. And, so, from a chain of unlikeliness, “Jog-a-Dog” was born, which later became Rufftail Runners.

Rob continues to coach Team Spiridon, works with the Austin Marathon and Half Marathon and other local races, pours beer at Austin Beerworks, and serves as Director of Community Donations for Goodwill Central Texas. He shares an apartment with Neko, and the most annoying animal in the world, Oliver, a cat.


Anna Crockett

Co-Director, Trainer
Anna has been a volunteer with RuffTail Runners since March 2013. Since then, she has adopted two APA! dogs and has enjoyed taking several shelter dogs on walks and runs around the lake. She has a soft spot for the senior dogs who just like to sniff and mosey along the trail. Outside of the shelter, Anna is pursuing her Master’s in Public Affairs at UT, and she enjoys gardening, cooking, and yoga in whatever spare time she has left.


Zack Liu

Co-Director, Trainer
Zack has been a volunteer with RuffTail Runners since Spring 2013. He has been a dog runner, desk volunteer, and adopter. He loves shy and scared dogs and has seen how running and walking gives these dogs confidence and helps make them more adoptable. Zack is currently working on a PhD in Finance at UT. His other interests include tennis (4.5 – 5.0) and woodworking.


Mary Wasson

Outreach Coordinator
Mary has been a volunteer with RuffTail Runners since June 2012.  She starting running the pups while training for the Austin Half-Marathon and several triathlons around town…and soon realized that they were helping her gain a faster pace! :)  Her favorite place to run is around Lady Bird Lake where she can show off the sweet and gentle pups to potential adopters.  She has even taken a few dogs to the Annual Thanksgiving DayTurkey Trot in hopes of finding the pups their forever homes.  When she’s not volunteering, Mary works as a Meteorologist for Time Warner Cable News and loves hanging out with her husband and three furbabies.

KymKym Good

Event Coordinator
Kym fell in love with Austin when she moved here in the Fall of 2011, primarily due to how dog friendly and active the city is, so RuffTail was a perfect fit. She has been a volunteer with RuffTail and other local non-profit organizations such as Love-A-Bull since 2012. She currently has 2 rescue dogs, one she brought with her from CA and one she adopted from Austin Dog Rescue in 2015. Kym has a special place in her heart for pit bull type dogs, and is always looking for ways to help educate people on how sweet and loving they really are. Outside of volunteering, Kym works in Marketing and Event Planning. She also enjoys cycling, swimming and stand-up paddle boarding (preferably with her pup, but that still needs a little work).


Madeline Aldrich

Volunteer Coordinator, Trainer
Madeline began volunteering with RuffTail Runners in October 2014. Anytime she’s at the trail, she always has an RTR dog by her side. She’s even been known to foster her favorite running buddy. The shy ones are her favorite, and she loves to see them flourish on the trail. By day, Madeline works at a public relations agency, and enjoys relaxing in the outdoors as well as time spent recipe testing in the kitchen.


Erin Dooley

Social Media Coordinator, Trainer
Erin has been a RuffTail Runner since October 2014. Always up for a challenge, she loves to take the high energy pups for runs around the lake. In her daily life, Erin is a graduate student studying health behavior and education. To relax, she likes to treat herself to Austin’s delicious restaurants and spend time with her dog and two cats, which are APA! alums.