Bred To Run: The Best Dog Breeds For Runners


Which Breed Is Right For You?

Keely & Eddie.
Different dogs with different aptitudes.

There’s nothing like the bond between a man and his dog. But, for a runner, dogs offer far more benefits than simple companionship.

Having a dog for a running partner provides extra motivation to get out and run. And having Fido around offers a measure of protection while running, from animals of both the human and non-human varieties.

If you find yourself considering adding a four-legger to your running pack, you may be wondering where to start. Between selecting a breed, a training regimen, and even the appropriate running equipment for your furry compatriot, the options can seem overwhelming.

Fortunately for you, I’m about to help you down the road to dog running bliss (in a series of articles beginning today and continuing over the next several weeks). And it all starts by choosing the right breed for your needs.

Determining Your Needs

There are three major factors in determining which breed will be best suited to your running style: your distance, speed, and the climate in which you run. A sprinter in Alaska will be suited to a different set of breeds than a Floridian marathoner.

In addition to the factors above, you may also wish to consider a breed’s suitability to your family situation and lifestyle. Some breeds (such as poodles, collies, and labradors) are better suited to families with young children than others.

If you have a busy work schedule that could force you to skip runs, you may opt for a lower energy breed (like, believe it or not, greyhounds) than someone who is consistently able to exercise their new companion. Both discussions are worth having before selecting a breed, but are beyond the scope of this article.

Choosing A Breed

While this discussion will revolve around the so-called “pure breeds”, I happen to love me a good, old-fashioned mutt. Even when looking for a good, solid mixed-breed, it’s worth considering the breeds from which your dog may be inheriting any running prowess (or lack thereof). Also bear in mind that, on the whole, mixed-breed dogs have a lower risk of developing genetic disorders then purebreds.

However, if you have your heart set on a purebred, you can certainly mitigate that risk by selecting a reputable breeder skilled in breeding out those traits. I’ll talk more about selecting your breeder in the next article in the series.

As a general rule, dogs bred for working, hunting, and herding are going to be among the best suited to a life on the run. However, a good tempered dog of nearly any breed can be trained to run. Here, in no particular order, are some of the most popular running breeds.

Retrievers

Golden and Labrador retrievers are well loved for their friendly dispositions and moderate to high energy levels. A well-trained retriever can make the perfect companion for a slow, long run. However, they are generally happiest when covering a shorter distance at a faster pace. As in, “Come on! Throw the ball! Pleeease! Just one more time! Come on!”

Mushing Dogs

Well-suited to colder climates, mushing dogs like Huskies and Malamutes are known for being exceptional runners. Can you say “Iditarod”? While Huskies are generally smaller and faster than Malamutes, they both share a distinctive wolf-like appearance and a knack for distance running. It is worth noting, however, that both breeds require a strong, adept trainer. While very obedient when properly trained, those looking for a naturally obedient breed should probably pass.

Pointers

My personal favorites, pointer-retrievers such as Vizslas, Weimeraners, and German Shorthairs make the perfect companions for runners looking to run long and fast. With their lean, muscular builds and strong attachment to their “pack”, pointers are the perfect companions over 10 miles or longer. Just be aware that the pointers are companion dogs and, as such, tend to suffer from strong separation anxiety. If not given a proper outlet and training, that nervous energy can cost more than one piece of furniture. Just ask my armchair.

Herders

Herding dogs such as Collies, Shepherds, and Heelers can be very versatile runners. Capable of short sprints, but not unaccustomed to running middle to longer distances, herders can make very capable running partners. Just be aware that a herder, improperly exercised, may try to herd you and your family.

Keep in mind that this is by no means a comprehensive list. If you don’t mind some data correlation, Runner’s World has charted some of the most popular running breeds.

Now that we’ve narrowed down the breeds a bit, the next article in the series will look at how to select a breeder, and help you identify the disposition in the specific dog you’re looking for.

Do you run with your dog? Did I omit your favorite running breed? Tell me about it in the comments.

  7 Responses to Bred To Run: The Best Dog Breeds For Runners
  1. [...] “Running Article,” I urge you to checkout one of my favorite MidPackRunner posts, Bred to Run: The Best Dog Breeds for Runners. Share this: This entry was posted in Running and tagged running. Bookmark the permalink. [...]

    • joyce

      You forgot the Rhodesian Ridgeback! Strong, runs forever! Up to 35 miles! AAARRRGGGHH!

  2. BB

    Gah! You forgot to mention two of the best running breeds in the world: the Dalmatian and the Doberman (though technically speaking, the Dobe falls into the ‘Pointer’ category).

    As a Dalmatian owner myself, I have logged all of my training miles (which range between 15 and 30 per week) with my Dal at my side. They were used extensively as ‘carriage dogs’ to run alongside horse drawn carriages. They are a high energy breed, making them perfect as a running companion as well.
    Cheers!

  3. Georgia

    Love the article but where are the promised follow ups? I’m new to the site and can’t find the articles about training my new running companion.

  4. Mirabeau

    You also forgot THE ENTIRE GROUP OF HOUNDS! I run with my foxhound about 30 miles a week. She is a very high energy dog who keeps me super active. I would not recommend this breed to anyone who watches a lot of TV unless you are side by side on treadmills! :)
    Hounds are also great trail runners! I am working on off leash runs…so far the beaches of Oregon work great!

    • Chris

      Hey Mirabeau,

      I agree I have read a few sites now listing the “best” running companion, but no one mentions foxhounds. I have a mix that is mostly americian foxhound and he can run for hours no problem. Nice to see another runner giving there foxhound some great exercise!!!

      Reply

  5. ann ziesen

    You forgot about Rhodesian Ridebacks! I ran 10 miles with her this morning and she still had energy to burn! And she is beautiful plus very protective yet not agressive – heat tolerant to boot.

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