Which Dog Will Be Your Best Running Companion
Taking your dog with you on a run is a great way to get them some exercise while at the same time getting some companionship while you train. However, there are some breeds that run better than others and even those breeds have to be trained to become good running dogs. After all you don’t want your dog to suddenly pull on the leash mid-step and take you both down to the pavement. Here’s some good tips on running with your dog.
The Best Breeds
Many dog breeds are simply good at outrunning a human, especially for short periods. But there are certain breeds that handle running on a leash far better than other breeds. Good running dog breeds include:
- German Shorthaired Pointers: Run best with routes over 10 miles
- Greyhounds: Good for runs less than 10k
- Vizslas: Good for fast runs; miles under 7 minutes
- Dalmatians: Long, slow runs
- Fox Terriers: Best heat runners
- Huskies: Best cold running
- Border Collies: best on trails with obstacles
- Labrador Retrievers: best for traffic-heavy trails
In general, dogs that were bred for running (Huskies, Collies) and dogs that were bred for work (Labradors, German Shepherds, Pit Bulls) can be trained up as good long distance runners. These dogs are not as prone to overheating or to joint injuries due to running. Typically, dogs along the lines of a pug or a bulldog will do poorly on a run because they will overheat very quickly. They may be able to accompany you on a light run but anything strenuous will be too much for them.
Training Your Dog to Run On a Leash
Many of the dogs that are bred to run are bred to do so off leash. Fox terriers hunt foxes and collies herd sheep. Their natural instinct will be to run around this way and that, something you don’t want to encourage if you plan to take your dog with you on a run. Robert Gillette, D.M.V., director of Auburn University’s Veterinary Sports Medicine program, states that the best way to train your dog is consistency. You want to keep your dog on a tight leash and if (s)he starts to divert their attention, a gentle tug is usually enough to bring them back. You’ll want to make sure that the dog knows the difference between exercise and play time. In other words, don’t allow the dog to stop every five feet to sniff at something or pee. Over time, they’ll recognize that they are going for a run, not a playful jaunt through the park.
Training Your Dog to Run
Even running dogs need to be trained. Never assume that you can just clip a leash on, start running, and the dog will automatically know what to do. Just as you had to learn to run, so does your dog. Dogs should not begin to train for running until they are fully grown. Puppies have weak joints which can be severely injured with too much exercise. Small dogs can typically begin at nine months of age and large dogs can typically begin at 16 months of age.
The next step to training your dog to run is to start slowly. Think back to when you first started running. You didn’t run five miles off the bat, no sweat. The same goes for the dog. Stick to lighter runs at shorter distances at first and gradually work the dog up to full endurance. JT Clough, dog trainer and author of 5k Training Guide: Running With Dogs, recommends that you start with a run three times per week for 15 to 20 minutes. Each week you can add an additional 5 minutes.
Also be aware of exhaustion in your animal. Dogs can be more prone to injuries with exhaustion the same as humans are. Flat ears, tail down, very heavy panting, and/or dragging the hind legs are all signs of over exhaustion. Keep a close eye on these signs because if you don’t catch them your dog will eventually stop, sit down, and refuse to move. So unless you want to carry your German Shepherd home, don’t push him too hard, too quickly.
Running with your dog can be an immense improvement to your training. Not only is there companionship on your route but that companionship is usually quite, friendly, and excited to run with you. Just remember that when you’re running you have to act as pack leader and give your dog firm and consistent directions.