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What is the best dog for a long distance runner

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Dogs are great fun, superb company and wonderful companions. They are full of optimism and always up for ‘walkies’. Owning a dog can be an enlightening experience and the ability to form a relationship with an animal such as a dog is incredibly rewarding.

But we have to remember that they are living, breathing creatures that require care and are not just here for our entertainment.

If we want to run or do any other form of exercise and we see a dog as the ideal companion to do this with, then that is great, but don’t let this be the only reason that you get a dog. There is a lot more to owning a dog than getting him out to go running and then putting him away afterwards.

If your sole interest is running and you’re asking what is the best dog for a long distance runner, then maybe you should re-phrase and ask what you might do with the dog when you’re not running? You might be better off joining a running club  if you can’t answer that question, and going off with them, and maybe going to the pub afterwards for a quick beer. Just having a dog to support your running would not be right, would it?

I live with two dogs right now and have had dogs around me for most of my life. We do lots of things together, and, in the past, that has included going running across the hills and fells where I live. I’ve also had the dogs out shooting and beating and done many other forms of exercise and activities with them.

Going running with your dog can be fun but it can also be a real pain. Firstly you need to think really carefully about your route. Is it safe for a dog? Will your dog be able to run freely? Believe me you don’t want to try running with a dog on a lead or cord, it’s tangle nightmare, old doggy will get under your feet, trip you up and you’ll probably only try it once or twice.

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You cannot really take your dog running out on hard surfaces, such as pavements or roads, honestly it can damage their paws. Although their paws are tough, they are also sensitive and can be easily injured. Running on hard surfaces for a long period of time can damage your dog’s pads and paws. It won’t be nice for him.

In addition to the type of running, you’ll need to bear in mind your climate. Just as we need water, so too will your dog. Dogs cannot sweat and temperature regulation can be tricky for many dogs, this is why dogs die in hot cars – if you live in a hot climate then your dog will find it really difficult to remain cool and comfortable if you take him out running and you’ll need to consider your schedule, maybe going early morning, late evening before it heats up.

How often do you run and for how long/far? Although most dogs are fit they also like to have a day off – dogs can get injured and tired. You’ll need to consider a dog breed or type that has the ability to stay the pace and not every breed is suited to an active lifestyle.

Before you get a dog consider other aspects of their care as well – the costs can add up. You might have to get a new car for transport….your dog will need feeding and, if you are taking him out running you’ll need to be prepared to buy him the best quality food that you can obtain, he’ll need the energy both for the running and for healthy growth and sustainability. Vet’s fees can be high, your dog will need innoculations and annual booster jabs. He’ll also need worming every few months, washing and maybe clipping, his nails will need attention. He will need somewhere to sleep, this might be a bed in your house or a kennel outside but he needs his own space – to get away from it all ( yes, they like downtime just like humans).

You’ll need to spend time with your canine companion. Training is always a must with any dog as a badly behaved dog is no pleasure to anyone and, in fact, is a nuisance and can be dangerous, both to himself, other dogs and people. So you need to invest time in his training, development and socialisation.

I’m fortunate in that I live in rural part of north west England. Outside my front door are fields and tracks where I can take my dogs. We also have a large garden (yard) where the dogs can play, run around and that we can use for training and doggy games.

We have woods nearby and the fells and hills provide large open spaces where we can walk and run with the dogs, without the worry of traffic or many other dogs or people.

So you need to consider all of these things before you embark on your quest to get a dog – make sure that it is right and that you can care for him properly.

Okay. So, decision made – what is the best dog for a long distance runner?

There are lots of dogs.

Any dog from the gundog breeds should be fit and adaptable to training both for general obedience and for running. These dogs include:

Retrievers – intelligent dogs, used for retrieving game on shoots and used to spending long days outside.


Spaniels – smaller but full of guts. Tireless workers who will give their all when working – if you take a spaniel out running then you may run 10 miles and the spaniel will run 20 – provided he is off the lead. ( I don’t recommend trying to run with a spaniel on a lead ).

Pointers – long legged, ambling gaits but capable of high levels of energy due to their shooting heritage.

Border Collies – arguably one of the most intelligent of breeds. Bred for sheep herding and use widely for this purpose in the UK and elsewhere. Tireless workers with endless amounts of energy.

Jack Russells – a small terrier, used traditionally for vermin control. Along with other terrier breeds they are intelligent and full of energy. Small dogs with massive personalities. Often they are the pack leader – even when there are larger, seemingly tougher dogs in the pack.


German Shepherds – used widely by security services such as the police. Trainable, intelligent and fit dogs.

You might be tempted to think of dogs such as Greyhounds or Salukis – now these dogs can run but, take one out and go running and it’s likely that within the first ten or twenty seconds the dog will have cleared off and you’ll never catch up. Too fast and too flighty. Can be ‘airheads’ .Not easy to train.

In addition to the known and recognised breeds you also have the option of a cross breed. Mongrels like this are often intelligent dogs that are receptive to training. Look for a dog that has a sleek, fit look and that perhaps has come from a ‘line’ that includes some of the breeds listed above.

The best advice however, is to find a dog that you like. That has a kind, intelligent look, that you can live with as this is the most important factor.

And if you end up with a sausage dog then maybe it’s time to take up another sport.

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