Dogs were built to run in packs, just like their ancestor, the wolf. This makes them the perfect running partner. However, when figuring out the best dog breeds for runners, there are several factors to take into account.
In this article, we are going to dive into the best dog breeds for whatever distance or running style you gravitate towards.
They are great for long, steady paced runs. Typically high energy dogs, Weimaraners were originally used for hunting large game such as boar, bear, and deer. These days, however, they are used to hunt smaller game such as fox, rabbits, and birds. Weimaraners are athletic with a slick short-haired coat and muscular stature. The short coat helps keep them cool for those who like to run in the hotter months.
And they are quite versatile! They are comfortable running at faster speeds as well. In addition, Weimaraners also have webbed paws which makes them good swimmers. Triathpup anyone?
Dalmatians are great for fast-paced, short distance to mid-distance runs (think 10K). They handle trails well due to their heavy run gait. The beloved “firefighters dog” was originally used as a carriage dog and guardian in Croatia and Dalmatia. Dalmatians also used to hunt numerous types of game. They share the same type of short hair as the Weimaraner and have an athletic build and great stamina.
Vizslas are a medium to large dog, typically very high energy. Vizslas are built for endurance – think half marathon to marathon distance. They are also great retriever dogs. They too share a muscular build, with a slick short-haired coat. Vizslas have natural athleticism and are great for long adventures on the trails.
The only major downside to larger breeds is that they can be predisposed to ailments such as hip dysplasia.
These dogs tend to be best for longer bouts given their smaller stature compared to large dog breeds.
This is a medium to large breed, well known for its “ridge” along the spine. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are more muscular than Vizslas, and they are high energy. In fact, they were originally bred to hunt lions in South Africa. This is another dog that makes a great running companion for half or full marathon training.
English Springer Spaniels are a medium-sized hunting/sporting dog built for power, endurance, and agility. This dog is typically medium to high energy, perfect for mid-distance training such as the 10K. Depending on the energy and health of the individual dog, they may even be able to participate in half marathon training. After a couple of jogs with your pup, you’ll likely be able to gauge whether that’s a possibility.
Huskies are a dog breed built with endurance. These “sled dogs” are usually high energy. They come with long, thick fur, ideal for running long distances in the snow and trails in cold weather.
And because of their thick coat, huskies prefer shorter runs if the temperatures are on the hotter side. And if you’re taking your running buddy for a run in the heat, be sure your route has somewhere to cool down, like a stream, a calm river, or a lake.
German shorthaired pointers are medium-sized. They are a very high energy sporting dog with a smaller build. They’re best built for those long runs on the trails. They need a lot of energy expenditure daily, so they make a perfect running companion for this reason.
This list is in no way complete but, it’s certainly a start for some ideas!
We here at TRE always recommend checking out your local shelter when you are ready to select a dog to join your family. Most shelters are overrun with dogs that are perfectly fit to join a family. You may find just what you are looking for in a “mutt,” as they tend to be the best of all worlds with fewer health issues compared to the full breeds.
And remember, just like us, dogs will need food and water for longer runs over 45 minutes. Always remember to bring water for both you and your dog. You can even have your dog carry her/his own water! You can purchase dog hydration packs such as this one or this one.
Although we have created a list of breeds bred with traits that easily translate to running, dogs need running training, just as humans do. So, even if you are an experienced ultra runner, don’t expect your new pup to crush 26.2 with you right off the bat.
Allow yourself time to train your dog and get him/her used to running and walking with a leash. The dog must learn to run beside you, not in front of you or behind you. You are taking the dog for a run, not the other way around! You are the leader here and the dog will innately want to follow you.
If you opt for a puppy versus an adult, talk with your veterinarian about your dog’s best age to start running. Generally, you shouldn’t start running with your puppy until he/she is six months, because it might affect their growing joints and muscles.
When selecting your dog, it is important to match that dog’s energy levels to your own. The “long-distance” or hunting dogs listed were bred for high energy which can consist of 8 hours or more of running and sniffing out game.
If you are training strictly for a 5K, a “high energy” dog is not likely to be a great training partner for you. For that training, you want more of a medium-energy dog. If you are feeling pooped after a training run, you want that dog to be pooped as well.
In fact, most behavior problems that arise in dogs are due to lack of energy expenditure by the owner (not for a lack of love…who knew?!). If their energy is not fully drained on a daily basis, dogs use extra energy to do other things such as, oh I don’t know, ruin your furniture, your favorite stilettos, or your drywall.
Or they may take a different route and pace uncontrollably, or just exhibit general stress. Finding a dog that matches your energy level will lead to a long happy life for the dog and a strong everlasting bond between.
Selecting the best energy style of dog for you will take some patience. Not all dogs fit neatly into one energy category. And how dogs behave as puppies might not be indicative of their true energy level. A dog might be jumping around when you first meet them at the shelter, but they might not actually be a high energy dog.
And on that note, when selecting a dog or puppy, be sure to wait for everyone (including yourself) to calm down, and refrain from using a high pitched voice. The high energy in your voice will only excite the dog more, making it harder for the dog, and the dogs around, to calm down.
Dogs communicate through body language, energy, and smell. You want the dog to see you as a “pack leader.” Most pack leaders have high energy but are simultaneously calm and assertive. Taking the time to calm yourself will help the dog match your calm energy.
This blog post was written by Coach Liz!
Coach Liz owns 2 dogs: Her 11-year-old rescue pup, Shiah, who is a low-medium energy Dachshund (wiener dog) who, at one time could run up to 2 miles each day.
Her “mutt,” Gator, is medium energy, half English Springer Spaniel and half Chocolate Labrador Retriever raised from puppyhood. Gator started running 1 mile per day with Liz when she turned 6 months old. She has since trained for multiple half marathons and her farthest run was 15 miles, with plenty of snacks and water which she carried in her own backpack!
Coach Liz and Coach Gator’s Dog Running Gear recommendations:
If you want more info on how to be a pack leader, Liz recommends reading a few books by Cesar Millan including Cesar’s Way, Be The Pack Leader, Cesar’s Rules, and, for that new puppy, How to Raise The Perfect Dog. The knowledge she has gained through these books and her own research helped raise her “running dog” and helped form an everlasting bond.
And if you’re looking for info on other breeds – such as border collies, jack russell terriers, greyhounds, german shepherds, and more – check out this article.