Is Your Dog Ready to Run With You?

You like to run, your dog likes to run, what a great combination. You will be hard pressed to find a better running partner than your dog: they are almost always willing, they make you feel safe, and they will never critique your form or make fun of your running shorts.  Is your dog ready to run with you?

Consider their Age
Puppies – under 1 year:

Dogs are considered adults at about a year. Before that they are puppies and they are still growing. Please do not run your puppy! Even if they look full grown (as with large breeds), they are not!  The growth plates in the bones in a puppy’s thigh and forelimb do not ‘harden ‘until the puppy is anywhere from 12 months to 18 months (for larger breeds). If overworked, the bones and joints may not develop properly.

Running With Your DogDashing through the yard or a romp in the house is sufficient running for puppies while their bones  harden, their muscles grow stronger and their sense of balance develops.

Young Dogs –  1 – 2 years:

Even with younger adult, you should build up to running for miles. Start with long walks interspersed with short runs (start with 5 minutes) and over a couple of months extend the running time and shorten the walking time. Also, be sure to allow intervals of rest while running to build stamina and give muscles and joints time to strengthen and rebuild.

Older Dogs – 8+ years:

Older dogs can run. If your dog is game, then by all means, run. Just be aware of your dog’s condition as you do so, since older dogs are more prone to health issues. Don’t push if you see he or she is having difficulty. Stop if you see limping or an uneven gait and visit the vet. Stretch your dog’s muscles and joints before exercise, whether they have a specific health issue or not—this can prevent or lessen the impact of injuries.  You should be getting your dog checked regularly, but especially have your dog checked out by your vet before you look at running long distances.

Breed Tendencies

Just because your dog likes to run around does not mean he or she necessarily a distance runner.  And size is not a factor: some smaller breeds (Jack Russell) tend to be great running companions and some larger breeds (Great Danes) are not really cut out for long runs. Here are some breeds that are born to run.

All Day Long Dogs – long distance runners, more than 5 miles:

Many Sporting breeds can and love to trot for miles and miles. Pointers (like German Pointer), Retrievers (Golden, Labrador) and Setters (Irish) fit into this category.  So do many Herding breeds like Australian Cattle Dogs and Border Collies.  Several higher energy Working breeds are also built for running the distance such as German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, and Siberian Huskies (I know, it’s considered a Northern breed, but for this conversation, it is a known work dog.) If you train for marathons, these are your running partners!

Off-Road Dogs – trail running, medium to long distances:

Clearly, Sporting dogs that were bred to follow hunters and chase prey in the wild, are great candidates for running on grass, on trails, and through wooded areas.  Setters are also good for this type of run as are Field Spaniels, Griffons, Hounds and Foxhounds, and Weimaraners. It may take some training for these types of runs, as these breeds are also inclined to follow a scent and may be easily distracted. Herding breeds are also inclined to this type of running like Border Collies and Sheepdogs (Belgian, English). Other breeds that could love a long, well-paced run in the wild are Springer Spaniels, Brittanys, Belgian Malinois and Dalmatians.

Sprinters  – short-distance runners 2 to 5 miles:

There are many higher energy breeds that are more sprinters than distance runners. You’ll see these dogs often running full out during a game or in the park, with many breaks. With conditioning these are ideal dogs for shorter runs under 45 minutes . These include many Terriers (Staffordshire, Airedale, Fox) and many other breeds like Boxers, Whippet,  Greyhounds, and Basenji.

These are generalities and not all breeds are included here, so you don’t have to discount a breed just because it isn’t listed here.

At the end of the day, if your dog wants to run (and is not a puppy), then give it a try! Be sensitive to your dog’s tolerance as he or she builds more stamina for longer runs and stop if they are in distress, tired or appear injured.