The 15 Best Dog Breeds For Running
Last Updated: Oct 13, 2016
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If you want a workout partner who’s in great shape, has lots of energy and is always in a good mood, look no further than your four-legged friend. “Most dogs can run with you,” says Shelly Leibowitz, president and head trainer at Shelly's School for Dogs in Freehold, NJ. “But like a human, you need to train them properly, building up their muscles and tolerance.” While breeds with pushed-in noses (think Boston terriers, pugs and French bulldogs) should avoid strenuous exercise due to breathing difficulties and overheating, most others love to run -- though some do better on certain terrains than others. Whether you’re looking for a long-distance partner, a trail running companion or a fast-paced sprinter who’ll push the pace, here are 15 dogs that fit the bill.
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FIRST UP: LONG-DISTANCE DOGGIES
If you’re the type of runner who likes to count their daily miles on two hands, these breeds have the build, speed and stamina to go the distance with you. Just be sure to bring enough water for your pup, along with a small water dish he can drink out of. The bottom of a two-liter plastic bottle works in a pinch.
Related: 11 Myths About Running, Debunked
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Originally bred to herd sheep, these hearty dogs were born to run. With strong legs and a muscular build, German shepherds can sustain a fast pace and have endurance to boot. Innately active, they're always up for exercise, though their thick coat makes them more suited for cold-weather runs. Their stride is outreaching, smooth and rhythmic, and they can easily cover a lot of ground, making them great companions for runs 10 miles or longer. ALSO CONSIDER: Doberman Pinschers. Elegant, powerful and all muscle, these protectors have a body built for distance and make adventurous companions.
Related: Learn more about German Shepherds from the American Kennel Club.
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Each year, hundreds of huskies complete the grueling, 1,131-mile Iditarod sled race across the harshest Alaskan terrain, so it’s safe to say they can handle the run through your suburban neighborhood. Obviously, these guys do great in the cold, but acclimated animals are fine in more temperate climates as well (though make sure they stay hydrated and get sufficient rest). Perhaps the best part about a husky is you'll always have company on those miserable, snowy winter days when your human running partner bails. ALSO CONSIDER: Malamutes. Similar in appearance and size to huskies, these thick-furred beauties are also suited for chilly endurance runs. In fact, without enough exercise, they can get cranky and destructive.
Related: Learn more about Siberian Huskies from the American Kennel Club.
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Another dog with a herding pedigree, Australian shepherds are lithe and agile, with a gait that makes running look effortless. Requiring two to three hours of exercise per day, they’re the type to pull you out for a run when you’re dragging your heels. Another plus: These good-natured shepherds are people dogs, devoted to their owners and among the easiest breeds to train. ALSO CONSIDER: Shetland Sheepdogs (a.k.a. “Shelties”). These Lassie lookalikes are fast and love to bound around in wide open spaces.
Related: Learn more about Australian Shepherds from the American Kennel Club.
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As one of the most obedient breeds, golden retrievers aim to please and are happy to stick by your side on a run instead of chasing after everything that moves -- a great attribute if your route is busy with crowds, cars or squirrels. Their powerful legs allow them to keep pace, and they have the endurance for long runs. Added bonus: These pups are so cute, they can bring a smile to your face even as you gut out those tough final miles. ALSO CONSIDER: Labradoodles. This popular “designer dog” -- a mix of lab and standard poodle -- is a hearty, friendly breed. A labradoodle in Maryland reportedly ran most of a half-marathon after following runners who passed his home.
Related: Learn more about Golden Retrievers from the American Kennel Club.
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Rhodesian ridgebacks originally hail from South Africa, where they were bred to hunt lions by chasing and haranguing the beasts until hunters could shoot them. Their stride is efficient and long, and their short, sleek coats allow them to handle the heat better than most breeds (though temperatures higher than 85 degrees should be avoided). Despite their rugged ancestry, ridgebacks possess sweetness to match their strength and will be just as happy to cuddle on the couch as go for a run. Plus, they’re light shedders that require minimal brushing. ALSO CONSIDER: Catahoulas. Close to the same size as ridgebacks, these dogs are known for their intelligence and high energy levels.
Related: Learn more about Rhodesian Ridgebacks from the American Kennel Club.
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GERMAN SHORTHAIRED POINTER
These dogs just look like runners: A streamlined body, sinewy limbs and about the same body-fat percentage as an elite marathoner (read: none). And they have the stamina to match. The pointer’s idea of fun is at least an hour of exercise per day. If you need a consistent running partner who’ll help you work up a sweat, this is the breed for you. Like ridgebacks, pointers are undaunted by heat. Their distinctive close-cropped spotted coats let them cool off more easily than their long-haired counterparts. ALSO CONSIDER: Dalmatians. Despite having similar spots, Dalmatians aren't related to pointers. But they are sporty and equally equipped with the endurance to log plenty of miles.
Related: Learn more about German Shorthaired Pointers from the American Kennel Club.
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FOR OFFROAD RUNNERS: TRAIL-RUNNING POOCHES
If off-road trails are where you prefer to log your miles, these pooches make perfect partners. However, if they’re not trained to ignore wildlife, keep them leashed -- unless you want to push the pace every time they spot a critter on the path.
Related: 26 of the Best Places to Run in the World
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Weimaraners are “long legged, sleek and full of energy,” says Cathy Alinovi, a veterinarian at Healthy Pawsibilities in Pine Village, IN. Originally bred in Germany to hunt game like deer and bears, these grey beauties have major lung capacity and are well-suited for wilderness and off-road runs. They also love running long distances. In fact, this breed does not do well cooped up in an apartment -- regular outings are a must or they get restless. As in, they'll chew up your favorite pair of shoes. How's that for motivation? ALSO CONSIDER: Belgian sheepdogs. Fast and adaptable, these dogs distinguished themselves during World War II, doing everything from carrying messages to pulling machine guns.
Related: Learn more about Weimaraners from the American Kennel Club.
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These trim, toned dogs have a Hungarian lineage and were bred as hunters and bird retrievers. They have plenty of speed and the agility to adapt to just about any terrain. Vizslas are great at navigating rocks, roots and other obstacles you might find along the path. Some vizslas can even jump a six-foot fence. This breed requires lots of strenuous exercise, so be prepared for them to outlast you on a run. ALSO CONSIDER: German Wirehaired Pointers. Their versatility and impressive athleticism make pointers popular with runners.
Related: Learn more about Vizslas from the American Kennel Club.
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Originally called the Brittany spaniel, this leggy breed is now simply referred to as the Brittany and was developed to point and retrieve on different types of terrain, making them strong and sure-footed enough to handle the unevenness of a switchback trail or a narrow dirt path. Ruggedness is a hallmark of these bird dogs, and they require routine exercise (at least an hour a day). And according to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the dog’s loose skin “rolls with briars and sticks,” so they’re less likely to get pricked and scratched by underbrush. ALSO CONSIDER: English Springer Spaniel. The biggest of the spaniel family, this breed is a hunter at heart, yet playful and inquisitive. Its combination of medium-length outer coat and dense undercoat protects against brambles and bad weather.
Related: Learn more about Brittanys from the American Kennel Club.
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Considered the world’s premier sheep herder by the AKC, these dogs are great at switching speeds and direction on a dime. Bred as work dogs, they actually need a daily challenge to keep them happy. They’ll do fine on a trail, but their sheep-herding pedigree makes them perfectly suited for open-land runs, so a long stretch of beach shoreline will really keep them calm and content. They also love a dip in the ocean after exercise. ALSO CONSIDER: English Shepherds. Working dogs descended from the border collie, they were also bred to herd and have a boundless store of energy.
Related: Learn more about Border Collies from the American Kennel Club.
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FOR FAST RUNNERS: HERE ARE SOME FLEET-FOOTED FIDOS
On shorter, speedier runs, these sprinting canines will help you push the pace. If you’re running on pavement, remember that summer sun can head up a road’s surface and burn your dog’s paws. If you can’t walk barefoot on the asphalt, neither can she. It also may take a few weeks for your pup’s paws to toughen up to pavement, so start slowly and build up (great advice for human and canines). Make sure to get her checked out if you see any signs of injury to her pads.
Related: 17 Proven Motivations to Get You Running
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As their name indicates, labs like to retrieve. They were originally bred to fetch wayward nets for fisherman in Newfoundland. So while they may not be best for, say, a marathon-training run, they're great for helping you push the pace on a tempo run. That's not to say they can't be trained to join you for some quality distance here and there. With their ability to hunt all day in just about any condition, they can develop endurance. ALSO CONSIDER: Standard Poodles. Another big dog that loves to run, these guys will happily join you on quick jaunts or for some slow, longer distance efforts.
Related: Learn more about Labrador Retrievers from the American Kennel Club.
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JACK RUSSELL TERRIER
They may be tiny, but Jack russell terriers pack a powerful punch in those sturdy little legs. “Generally speaking, medium-sized dogs are best for running, but Jack russell terriers are the exception,” says Melissa Bacelar, an animal behaviorist and founder of the rescue organization, the Poopie Foundation in Studio City, CA. These terriers require more activity than most smaller breeds. But take note: They can be aggressive with other dogs and require a lot of attention, discipline and patience from owners. So you should be willing to put up with their feisty nature. ALSO CONSIDER: Whippets. Mini English greyhounds, these guys can clock speeds up to 35 MPH and are amazing sprinters, rivaled by no other breed.
Related: Learn more about Russell Terriers from the American Kennel Club.
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AMERICAN STAFFORDSHIRE TERRIER
Bold. Fearless. Intelligent. The American Staffordshire terrier is all of these things, and one more: fast. Stocky yet graceful in action, “Amstaffs” are best suited for runs under six miles but can turn on the speed, making them perfect for a tempo run. Plus, they're focused and less likely than other breeds to chase after a bird while you're cranking out seven-minute miles. ALSO CONSIDER: American Pit Bull Terriers. Close relatives to Amstaffs, pit bulls are just as athletic and fleet-footed.
Related: Learn more about American Staffordshire Terriers from the American Kennel Club.
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This long-legged terrier has an esteemed background. In World War I, Airedales worked as guard and messenger dogs and were the first to be trained for police work in Germany and Great Britain. These days, they're popular as pets, and rightfully so. Enthusiastic, funny and a bit mischievous, Airedales love to run, and their wiry coats keeps them cool in hot weather. Just keep your distance under a 10K to keep these dogs chipper. ALSO CONSIDER: Fox Terriers. Svelte and short-haired, they do better running in warm weather.
Related: Learn more about Airedale Terriers from the American Kennel Club.
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CHESAPEAKE BAY RETRIEVER
Bred on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, these dogs are comfortable by the water and will feel right at home running alongside you at the beach -- though it may take a few runs for you to train them to stay alongside you. Playful, happy and affectionate, Chessies are great family dogs. And because they're low-maintenance (their glossy coats require weekly brushing but minimal bathing), you won't have to scrub the dog down... again. ALSO CONSIDER: Irish Setters. These gorgeous red-haired dogs approach life with gusto and love swimming as much as they do running. They’re comfortable on all types of terrain.
Related: Learn more about Chesapeake Bay Retrievers from the American Kennel Club.
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WANNA RACE WITH YOUR FOUR-LEGGED FRIEND?
If you and your canine have a competitive spirit, these dog-friendly races allow you and your pooch to test your speed: All-Star Dog Run (10K and 5K), Santa Cruz, CA, allstardogrun.com; O'Donovan's Mill City Suds Run (5K), Minneapolis, MN, millcitysudsrun.com; Better Days Animal League Peace 4 Paws (5K), Shippensburg, PA, betterdaysanimalleague.org; Hounds and Harriers Run (3 miles), South Orange, NJ, houndsandharriers.com; Run for the Dogs Naples (5K), Naples, FL, runforthepaws.wordpress.com.
Related: 7 Races for Couples to Celebrate Their Love of Running (and Each Other)
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WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Do you own a dog (or more than one)? What breed? Have you ever owned any of the dogs on this list? What did you think of them as running partners? Do you think you'll consider one of these breeds for your next dog? Are there any other breeds we missed? Have you ever run a race with your dog? Was it one of the ones listed on the previous slide or a different race? Share your thoughts, stories and suggestions in the comments section below!
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