Top 10 Dog Breeds for Trail Runners
What to look for when selecting a four-legged partner for the trails
Creative Commons / Photo by Flickr user Tony Alter
Sometimes, the best running companions are the ones who don't talk, and let you make all the decisions about where to run, how fast to go and how long the run should last.
Sometimes, the best running companions are our dogs.
“When choosing a dog as a running companion, look for a high-energy dog that is fast, agile and spunky," says J.T. Clough, professional dog trainer and handler and author of the 5K Training Guide, Running with Dogs.
Here are a few other guidelines to keep in mind on which breeds are best suited to running.
Similar to humans, lean, long-bodied dogs tend to run easier than stockier, heavy dogs. Weimaraners, for example, make great companions since their bodies are naturally muscular and wiry. However, says Clough, “Hard rules can’t always be followed. Short-bodied dogs, like pit bulls and American Staffordshire terriers, can also make excellent long-distance partners."
Are there any breeds that shouldn’t run long distances? Unfortunately, yes. Short-nosed breeds, like pugs and bullmastiffs, are not well suited for running. Known as brachycephalics, these breeds have abnormalities in their noses and throats that make breathing difficult–especially, explains Clough, when they have a raised heart rate due to extended periods of labor. “In warmer climates,” she advises, “these dogs are also more susceptible to heat stroke.”
Energy level and temperament are among the most important factors for determining whether you’ll be dragging your dog along–or trying to keep up. Looking at the history of the breed, consider whether the dog was originally bred for hunting or herding. Labrador retrievers, for example, can make great shorter-distance trail companions due to their high energy and retrieving capabilities. But, Clough cautions, “Depending on their breeding line and owner responsibility, they can carry extra weight, making them prone to laziness.”
Climate and Fur Quality
Dogs are amazingly adaptable, says Clough, and because their sweat glands are located on their paw pads, noses and tongues, a long coat doesn’t necessarily mean the dog should be kept in a cold climate. What determines the ideal climate for your dog then? Fur thickness.
“Dogs with multi-layered coats like huskies, Akitas and labrador retrievers can more easily handle cold weather. That can also make them vulnerable to heat, particularly humidity,” says Clough. On the flip side, dogs with thin, short coats, like Jack Russell terriers and Vizslas, are better suited for warmer climates. If you do want to take your cold-prone dog on a run, Clough advises, make sure you have a quality coat to cover your dog’s torso. Ensure that there are no seams or material rubbing under the armpit; dogs hate chafing just as much as we human runners do.
While mixed breeds, better known as mutts, can make great running companions, too, Clough lists these 10 breeds as the best trail-running partners.
1. Border Collie
Creative Commons / Photo by Flickr user Brida Anderson
The energetic, agile border collie was originally bred to herd sheep, but this dog is just as happy to be running circles (or loops) on the local trails. Because the border collie is considered to be one of the most intelligent dog breeds, it's possible to train him to stay under voice control in off-leash areas.
Creative Commons / Photo by Flickr user Pedro Lozano
Described as "versatile Continental hunting dogs," weimaraners make great long-distance running companions. Their long limbs make them natural runners and their short coats allow for warmer conditions.