The Best Types of Dogs for Runners

© Al Bello - Getty Images   Some pups were bred for speed; others are better suited to a slow and steady pace. Learn the best types of dogs for runners.

By Brian Dalek, Runner’s World

Most dogs love to run—some more than others, and not all for long distances. If you’re searching for a perfect running partner to run with this spring, what kind of dog should you pick?

Some breeds, such as huskies and greyhounds, were bred to run, and most working dogs are naturally suited to running. By contrast, squishy-nosed dogs, such as pugs (with some exceptions!) and bulldogs, don’t always make good distance athletes because they’re prone to overheating.

If you want to go long, run in the snow, or hit technical trails, some breeds definitely rise to the top.

Tips Before You Start Running With Your Dog

Ease any dog into a running program. You will want to start off at a comfortable pace where you can communicate clearly with your dog. (The last thing you want to be is winded when trying to slow an energetic pooch down on the road.) And start out by doing 2-3 miles during your 3-4 runs per week.

Once you have a week or so of running down at that easy pace, try adding 0.5 mile or 10 minutes to your original 2-3 mile runs during the week. If your dog tolerates the 0.5 mile increase easily, try and pick up the pace or add an extra run on the weekends. After a month of prep work and seeing that your dog can easily handle the base mileage, start trying for a 4-5 mile/day regime.

Keep in mind, most dog trainers strongly recommend at least one–if not two–days of rest for both you and your dog.

Dog Running Programs

If you can’t get out each day with your dog, consider a dog running program near you. Many are popping up around the country, and professionals know how to get your dog acquainted with the sport. That means when you take them out on the weekend, it will be less hassle for you.

One final tip: Clean up after your pup’s mess out on the trail. The runners who follow in your path will thank you!

Find Your Best Running Partner

We got help from professional dog trainer JT Clough, who cowrote a book about training dogs to run; Bryan Barrera, a professional dog runner from Washington, D.C.; Karen London, a certified animal behaviorist who trains and runs with dogs; and the American Kennel Club to give us the lowdown on dogs and running.

Mixed breeds that you find at your local animal shelter can also be the best running partners you can find. Almost anything with a hint of one of the 20 breeds listed below could be ideal. While there will always be variation within breeds and individual dogs, we hope this list can help you find an ideal running companion.


© Tom Pitera/American Kennel Club   Weimaraner

Best for: Long, steady runs; going fast; running on trails

Their medium, well-muscled build often makes this energetic breed a great companion. “They need an extraordinary amount of exercise and mental stimulation,” says JT Clough, a dog trainer and author who focuses on fitness lifestyle in her dog coaching practice, Maui Dog Remedies. “They also want to be right by their person, making the Weimaraner an excellent running partner.”

German Shorthaired Pointers

© Tom Pitera/American Kennel Club   German Pointer

Best for: Long, steady runs; going fast; running on trails

This medium-size hunting dog is smart and willing to tag along on just about any run because of its high energy. “They are quick, durable runners that have a good top speed, but also have the build to sustain high mileages,” says Bryan Barrera, founder of D.C. Dog Runner.


© Tom Pitera/American Kennel Club   Vizsla

Best for: Long, steady runs; going fast; running in the heat; running on trails

Hope you like getting out the door, because Clough says this breed is usually a ball of energy that should get an hour of exercise each day. “I’d say pound for pound the best running dogs for any type of running,” adds Barrera. “They are so versatile; they can cover a ton of ground because of their long gait and can cruise on autopilot as long as you want.”

Parson Russell Terriers

© Tom Pitera/American Kennel Club   Parson

Best for: Long, steady runs

This smaller dog, formerly known as the Jack Russell, loves playing and tends to be very eager and active. “They are also hunters, so make sure to spend some time training this breed to run beside you and avoid getting sidetracked looking for prey,” Clough says.


© Thomas Pitera/American Kennel Club   Greyhound

Best for: Brisk, short runs; going fast

Greyhounds are known for their work on the racing track, but in regular life they are independent and gentle. They’ll love to run with you, just not for distance. “Some are really only sprinters, so don’t expect all greyhounds to log a lot of mileage with you,” says Karen London, a certified animal behaviorist who trains and runs with dogs in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Pit Bulls

© Tom Pitera/American Kennel Club   StaffordshireTerrier

Best for: Brisk, short runs

Usually intelligent and often misunderstood, the Pit Bull can be a pleasure once it knows not to pull when on the leash. (Pit Bull is common name for breeds like the American Staffordshire Terrier, pictured, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier.) “They are low to the ground and really excel at the shorter distance,” Barrera says. “One of the rare breeds that look like they are working as hard as you when running.”

English Setters

© Tom Pitera/American Kennel Club   English Setter

Best for: Brisk, short runs

The American Kennel Club calls the English setter a “symmetrical gun dog suggesting the ideal blend of strength, (and) stamina.” It’s also a fairly active breed and enjoys playing.

Golden and Labrador Retrievers

© Thomas Pitera/American Kennel Club   Labrador

Best for: Brisk, short runs; long, slow runs

Yes, we know they are different breeds, but they genrerally have similar running personalities. These friendly dogs usually get along with everybody and have big bodies that can go the distance. “Easy to train and extremely loyal, the retrievers will make a great running partner at just about any distance,” Clough says.


© Tom Pitera/American Kennel Club   Beagle

Best for: Brisk, short runs

Don’t assume these dogs are like Snoopy chilling on a doghouse roof. This breed often has a mind for sprinting over slogging. They are very active, quick, and require plenty of exercise. Some with a hunter’s mentality have the ability to go a little longer, says London.


© Tom Pitera/American Kennel Club   Dalmatian

Best for: Long, steady runs

London says Dalmatians are some of the best long-distance dogs, and they love their exercise. Barrera adds you should be mindful of how they run. “They kind of pound the pavement due to their size, so if possible I’d stick to the soft trails.”

Rhodesian Ridgebacks

© Tom Pitera/American Kennel Club   Rhodesian

Best for: Running in the heat; long, steady runs

A strong breed that needs its exercise. “This breed is good in heat so can be a great running partner in warmer climates,” Clough says. Barrera adds that they have a natural gait and internal engine that makes them perfect for going a bit longer.

Fox Terriers

© Thomas Pitera/American Kennel Club   Fox Terrier

Best for: Running in the heat

This breed is friendly, energetic, and lively. The American Kennel Club suggests early training as Fox Terriers “can eagerly run off to follow any adventure” if not on a leash.


© Tom Pitera/American Kennel Club   Malamute

Best for: Running in the cold

A thick coat and stocky build makes this a perfect breed for cold-weather runners. Built to be a sled dog, these dogs crave work and love exercise.

German Shepherds

© Tom Pitera/American Kennel Club   German Shepherd

Best for: Running in the cold

Barrera has run with three German Shepherds—all with varying personalities, and all that love running. “Enthusiasm, intelligence, and the need for vigorous exercise make this breed the perfect running partner,” Clough adds.

Swiss Mountain Dogs

© Tom Pitera/American Kennel Club   swiss mountain dog

Best for: Running in the cold

These big guys with even tempers are often great family dogs. Mellow at home, but they were built to work on farms, so they enjoy a short jog to get in some exercise.

Siberian Huskies

© Tom Pitera/American Kennel Club   Husky

Best for: Running in the cold

Quick and light on its feet, this working dog usually enjoys any activity. “Very athletic dogs that definitely do best in the colder air, but can hold their own in the spring and fall, too,” Barerra says.


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Pets Magazine: The Best Types of Dogs for Runners
The Best Types of Dogs for Runners
Find the pooch that fits your running lifestyle.
Pets Magazine
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