The best running dogs are born and bred to run. If you have ever been out running and felt like you were just flying along effortlessly, that is probably how it feels for a dog that loves to run. But finding the best dog breeds for running can also look quite different depending on the type of running you like to do.
For instance, let’s say you like to do long distance runs—here, you might want to search for long distance running dogs to join you. On the other hand, maybe your idea of a great run is more like a sprint. In this case, finding dogs you can run with can lead you to a completely different category of running dog breeds.
It sure is a win-win when you love to run and you partner up with dogs that like to run. All that is left is to find the best dogs to run with for the type of running you do regularly—and on that note, let’s dive in to our exploration of the best dog breeds to run with.
Running with Dogs
There are three main issues to think through before embarking on a program of running with your dog.
Canine Health And The Best Running Dogs
Consider running supplies your pup will need such as water, treats, extreme weather wear (heat, cold, wet), a leash that won’t rub, and paw protection. And remember, your dog can’t sweat like you do—she only sweats by panting and through her paws.
If your dog has past injuries or his breed is prone to certain health issues (respiratory, allergies, cardiac, orthopedic) talk with your vet about how to minimize risks while running together. Be sure to incorporate rest days into your training as well.
Most importantly, it is vital to refrain from serious running and exercise if you are caring for a puppy. Large breed dogs in particular need time to mature into their full adult bone structure before attempting any endurance-type activity.
Endurance Training For The Best Running Dogs
Even for dogs who are born and bred to run, it is still advisable to talk with your veterinarian before beginning any kind of intensive running program with a dog. After all, a dog that goes from couch pup to fitness pup overnight is prone to overuse injuries just like her people. So the smartest way to start running with your pup is to approach it like you would any exercise program, and plan out a program that is designed to slowly and steadily build endurance for you both.
Depending on your dog’s age, breed, background and temperament, you may discover your dog isn’t quite down with the whole “running for miles right at your side” routine. The great outdoors is just too full of great scents and sights that can turn your run into more of a chase if your pup isn’t trained properly for fitness running. This means “how to run together” training will be essential both for your sanity and for trail courtesy when you encounter other runners and their pups.
Best Running Dogs
The best dogs to run with typically hail from the working dog group.
Some, such as the Australian cattle dog and the border collie, have been born and bred to literally work from sunup to sundown without ceasing. Other breeds, and particularly those from cold climates, can run all day and night if the weather is frosty, but may be severely compromised when running in hot weather. The consequences of running with my dog without factoring in weather can be severe, so try to learn as much as you can about your dog breed’s health, background and needs before venturing out together.
Without further ado, we introduce you to the best dogs for running partners who enjoy running with a canine sidekick.
Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler)
The blue heeler, like the border collie (see below), is an amazing working dog born and bred to herd cattle and other livestock. These are hands-down one of the best long distance running dogs. Having said that, this is a breed that does have similar health issues to the border collie—including hip and elbow dysplasia and Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD), a condition that can develop with too much joint stress and fast growth too early in life.
Blue heelers are very smart and curious—both traits that serve them well in their original job description but can get them into some trouble while out running with their owners. Your blue heeler’s natural curiosity can make new sights and scents so difficult to resist. Also, blue heelers are naturally protective of their people and naturally suspicious of strangers—both dogs and people. These dogs mature later rather than sooner, which means training will make all the difference in the experience you share on the running trails.
The border collie is one of those tireless breeds that has worked as a farm dog for generations upon generations. These dogs are intelligent and so driven that some owners call them “canine workaholics.” One of the best running dogs for any distance, they will run you off your feet and still be ready for more when you want to call it quits.
Border collies can struggle with hip and elbow dysplasia, and are one of the smaller dog breeds to be affected by OCD. So be sure your vet has cleared you to take your young collie out running before you begin.
Catahoula Leopard Dog
The Catahoula Leopard dog is the only dog breed that can truly say it is Louisiana-born and bred. This is a working dog breed to the core with the energy level to match any of the best running dogs. Your Catahoula Leopard dog is a natural athlete on the trail and in the water, but should not be over-exercised until his bones and joints have matured (around 24 months of age).
Catahoulas can be territorial and protective, which makes training a must before you take your dog out running around other dogs and their owners. These dogs are also bred to hunt, so here again training will make the difference between whether you spend your runs actually running or trying to entice your easily distracted Catahoula back to your side again.
The golden retriever is the third most popular pet dog in the United States. But this dog wasn’t always a stateside fixture—the retriever was originally bred as a Scottish gun dog and working dog breed. Golden retrievers are smart and can be headstrong, but they prize pleasing their people above all else and are very amenable to training.
They are not just some of the best running dogs but are great swimmers too. Their coat is thick and water repellant, giving this dog a natural raincoat for running on rainy days. Because these big dogs are prone to joint issues, it is important to wait until your golden retriever is fully grown before starting any high-exertion sports together. It is also important to be aware that they can suffer from cardiac issues.
Greyhound / Italian Greyhound
When you think of good running dogs, the greyhound is probably one of the first dog breeds you think about. After all, these are professional racing dogs. But greyhounds do not typically participate in long-distance races. They are sprinters, as are their miniature relatives: Italian greyhounds.
Sometimes described as “canine cheetahs,” these dogs are surprisingly lazy when not in racing mode. However, these dogs were originally trained as coursing dogs to hunt prey by sight and can get easily distracted while out running with you, making running training a must. They are one of the best running dogs for shorter distances and sprints.
Both greyhounds and Italian greyhounds can be prone to hip and joint issues. As well, greyhounds can develop a life-threatening condition called gastric torsion (bloat), which is sometimes triggered by intense exertion. Italian greyhounds can develop luxating patella (kneecap dislocation).
Labrador retrievers are the most popular dog breed in the country for more than 26 years running. These dogs are all-around fun with fur, and are great family dogs and companion dogs. Labs were originally bred to work, although today they are primarily bred to be pet dogs. These dogs do need lots of activity, however, which makes running a great choice to burn off some of the Lab’s natural pent-up steam.
Labradors can be prone to a variety of health conditions, including hip and elbow dysplasia, cardiac conditions, and muscle weakness. Exercise-induced collapse and bloat are the two most serious issues when it comes to distance running, however, so you should talk with your veterinarian before you take your Lab out running for any distance.
Parson Russell (Jack Russell) Terrier
The Parson Russell terrier may be small, but this small dog running partner can go the distance and then some with much bigger dogs. These dogs were born and bred to run with horses on the hunt, and to run down quick small rodents in barns and kitchens. They are smart, confident and quick to make up their own minds about how to handle new situations, people and pups.
The Parson Russell terrier, like many smaller dog breeds, can suffer from patellar luxation (kneecap dislocation), which can make movement a challenge. They are also hunters by nature, so training will make or break your experience out on the trails with this dog breed.
Portuguese Water Dog
In the world of working dogs, Portuguese water dogs are the fishermen’s assistant of choice. As their name implies, these dogs are apt swimmers and even like to dive off docks. The Portuguese water dog has become more popular after being chosen by past-President Obama and his family to be the official first dog.
These dogs can struggle with some orthopedic and cardiac issues, and can also develop ear infections easily due to their long, floppy ears. Because the Portuguese water dog does have a thick coat, you may want to go with the “retriever clip” (one inch all around) if you plan to do long runs in warm weather.
Siberian Husky / Alaskan Husky / Alaskan Malamute
The Alaskan Husky, the Alaskan Malamute and the Siberian Husky are three separate breeds, but each of these dogs were born and bred to run nonstop and side by side with people in cold climates. As working sled dogs, these dogs come well insulated to brave some of the coldest weather conditions on Earth, often hauling heavy loads along with them as they run. However, these are not the dogs for you if you live in a warm climate and want to train for a marathon—their coats are simply too warm and thick to allow them to join you safely.
Standard poodles may look like they belong in the show ring exclusively, but these extremely intelligent dogs are also great athletes. Of course, miniature poodles don’t have the long legs to give them stamina in distance running, but standard poodles came up in the working dog group as gun dogs and retrievers and they have plenty of energy to run with.
Poodles also aren’t finicky about their terrain and are actually great swimmers. But standard poodles can be prone to orthopedic issues and to gastric torsion (bloat). So having a consultation with your vet in advance of launching into any serious running regimen “with pup” is always a good idea.
The Weimaraner’s nickname is “grey ghost,” which tells you just how naturally gifted these dogs are at running. One great thing about the Weimaraner is that their coats are short, so they are not as prone to overheating on longer runs in warm weather. Even better, these dogs really need vigorous exercise to keep them calm and well behaved while in the house. They are smart and amenable to training and tend to be all about tackling the next challenge on the trail, which can make them great running accountability buddies as well.
One health concern you should address before you go trail running with a dog is bloat (gastric torsion). This potentially fatal condition is more likely to occur if your dog exercises vigorously after eating a meal or drinking a lot of water, but it can also occur for no reason. There is a preventative surgery you may want to talk with your dog’s vet about.
The Vizsla is one of those dog breeds that just seems like it was born and bred to run—and in fact it was. The best running dogs for any weather, they excel at both flat trail running and in agility and obstacle course training. The Vizsla’s short coat makes it an ideal running companion in warmer climates. However, these dogs can suffer from seasonal allergies, so keep an eye out if your dog starts to itch or scratch after a long spring run.
Vizslas can also develop ear infections due to their long, floppy ears. Breeders caution against running your Vizsla too early in life (before 24 months of age) to avoid joint trauma. These dogs can also be prone to hip dysplasia.
Best Running Dogs
Have you found your perfect canine running mate in this list? We would love to hear what type of running you do and which dog breed you choose to accompany you on the trails.
References and Further Reading:
Griffioen, L., DVM, “Are You Looking for an IG Puppy?” Italian Greyhound Club of America
Guynee, C., et al., “ACDs Need Consistent Training and Firm Leadership to Keep Their Noses Out of Trouble!” Australian Cattle Dog Rescue Association
Hamilton, H., DVM, “About the Greyhound,” Greyhound Club of America
Hubbs, A., “Health Screenings for Parent Dogs,” The Golden Retriever Club of America
Martel, N., 2015, “The Perfect Running Program for Your Dog,” Runner’s World/VCA South Paws Veterinary Hospital
Montague, Z., 2017, “What Is Jogging Doing to Your Dog?” The Atlantic
Neary, M., et al., “Health and Genetics,” American Border Collie Association
Schroeder, K., et al., “Health,” The Vizsla Club of America
Smith, M., MD, 2015, “Portuguese Water Dogs – AKC Health Statement,” The Portuguese Water Dog Club of America
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