How Fast Do Dogs Run?

One of the many reasons that dogs make great pets is because they make excellent exercise partners. Plenty of active people look for active dogs to accompany them on walks, hikes, and runs. Dogs are naturally athletic. Their ancestors would chase down prey by running after them and pulling them to the ground. Moreover, humans trained dogs to chase down live prey and carcasses for them and now we even have dog racing (Guagnin et al., 2018). Therefore, it is no surprise that dogs make excellent running companions. In this article, we will discuss how fast dogs run, the factors that affect running ability, and how to train your dog to be a good running partner.

How Fast Do Dogs Run?

On average, a domestic dog can run up to 20 miles per hour. However, factors such as age, breed, gender, health status, and motivation will affect running speed.

What Factors Influence A Dog’s Running Speed?

  • Age

Depending on the breed, dogs should not be brought for runs before they are 1.5 to 2 years of age. But consult with your veterinarian for your dog’s situation. After proper training, dogs should be at their prime running form at around 2 to 3 years of age. Greyhounds typically retire from running by 4 to 5 years of age, but they are involved in vigorous training and are raced for speed (GRA; Gramm & Marksteiner, 2010). Normal pet dogs can continue running for as long as they physically are able to and as long as they enjoy it. In comparison, humans reach peak running ability in their mid to late 20s, although some people continue to improve well into their 30s and 40s (Lara et al., 2014).

  • Breed

Running ability will vary largely by breed. Breeds tend to have specific strengths and weaknesses based on the traits they were bred for. Some dogs were bred for their athletic ability, endurance, and energy level. Other breeds have been bred for certain body conformations that may affect their running ability. For example, brachycephalic, or flat-faced dogs such as bull dogs and pugs, have difficulty breathing due to the shape of their skull. They also have short, stocky bodies that may make it hard for them to run. These dogs should not be brought for runs, especially not in warm weather. On the other hand, a breed like the Rhodesian Ridgeback is built perfectly to be a good running companion. These dogs were bred to track down lions in Africa, and therefore have great endurance and are well adapted for running in warm weather (Anastasio, 2018).

  • Gender

In many other species of animals, including humans and mice, males often run faster than females (Rezende et al., 2006; Cheuvront et al., 2005). For dogs, this is no exception. Generally, male dogs run faster than female dogs. But for lions, females are faster than males. Differences between males and females in running ability will be a result of body conformation, muscular strength, and aerobic capacity (Ferber et al., 2003; Cheuvront et al., 2005). 

  • Health Status

Dogs that are sick or have chronic health conditions may have a difficult time running, and they should be allowed to rest. If your dog is normally very active and enjoys running, and suddenly seems lethargic and reluctant to run, you will want to contact your veterinarian. Sudden decrease in energy levels could be a sign of illness or injury.

  • Motivation
Just like humans, dogs differ in their desire and motivation to run. Some dogs enjoy running and will happily run at your side for miles. Other dogs will not enjoy running and may drag behind you waiting to stop. If your dog is physically able to run, but does not love it, you may want to only bring them for a 1 to 2 mile run while you warm up or cool down. Dogs that enjoy running can be trained to run with you for longer distances as recommended by your veterinarian.


Should I Take My Dog Running With Me?

The most important factor to consider when running with your dog is whether they are physically fit enough to run and if they enjoy it. High energy dogs tend to enjoy running and quickly pick up the activity and will look forward to running with you. Some dogs may not enjoy running and may prefer other types of exercise, like long walks, hikes, and swimming. If you have a high energy dog, you may be able to get your dog to run with you for many miles. But dogs that do not enjoy running may be reluctant to run longer than 1 to 2 miles. Dogs are great athletes. But just like human athletes, they need to train for certain activities. Dogs are built to run short distances at high speeds. They are not built for long sustained running that most humans do for exercise.

However, you can train your dog to run with you. It is best to start by getting your dog checked out by your veterinarian to make sure your dog is physically fit enough for running. Discuss with your veterinarian the best way to build up your dog’s endurance and come up with a training plan. It is important to consider the age of your dog. Juvenile dogs should not be trained to run with you. You will need to wait until their body is done growing before training them for running because their joints, bones, and muscles are still developing. Intense physical activity can cause damage. Some veterinarians may recommend waiting until your dog is around 1.5 to 2 years of age before beginning a running training program. It is best to consult with your veterinarian as dogs of different breeds develop at various speeds (Anastasio, 2018; Gibeault, 2019).

If you know you want your dog to be a running companion, you will need to consider the breed of dog most appropriate for this activity. Brachycephalic dogs and short legged dogs tend to be poor running companions. According to the AKC, some of the best breeds for running include (Anastasio, 2018):

  • Weimaraner
  • Dalmatian
  • Vizsla
  • Pointers
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback
  • Spaniels
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • American Foxhound
  • Saluki
  • Belgian Malinois

The best dogs for endurance running are working breeds such as pointers, Dalmatians, huskies, poodles, and retrievers.

Running with a dog can be fun but can also be risky if your dog is not used to running. A dog that pulls on the leash or that is likely to dart after small animals could pose a risk for you as the runner. Training your dog to not pull on the leash and to ignore squirrels and other animals will be important for successful running. For dogs that enjoy running, they may ignore these normal distractions while running, but a squirrel could still trigger them to dart off at any moment. Establishing running sides can also be important for safe running. You do not want your dog darting from side to side. This will increase the chance of you tripping over the leash (Gibeault, 2019). The best way to see what issues your dog might have running is to take them on short runs to start and see how they do. Some dogs naturally pick up running and are great running companions. Some may require some training. Short runs will help you identify problems and come up with a plan to address them. Also, be sure to have poop bags with you! Some dogs may respond to running with more frequent bowel movements while on the run. It is important to be prepared for this.

You will also want to see what your dog’s natural speed and gait are. Dogs that are good runners may be able to run faster than you and think you are slowing them down. Some dogs may be slow runners and drag behind you. It will likely take some work for you and your dog to match your speeds so that the both you are having an enjoyable time running. You can add a cue to your running bouts to warn your dog that you are about to start running or that you are going to pick up the pace (Gibeault, 2019). However, dogs are highly perceptive and can usually tell based on your outfit and body language that you will be running or that you are about to run faster.

Just like humans, dogs need to build the strength and endurance for running. You will want to start slowly by adding in small, quick running bouts to your normal walking routine a couple of times a week. Gradually increase running time and distance. Pay close attention to your dog. Do they enjoy running? Do they tire quickly? Do they seem tired and sore the day after a run?

Average Top Running Speed Of Different Dog Breeds

Excluding greyhounds and other top running athletic breeds, the average dog running speed is about 19 miles per hour (mph). Here is a list of the average top running speed for certain dog breeds:

Dog Breed

Miles Per Hour (mph)

Pug

5 mph

Bassett Hound

5-10 mph

Shih Tzu

6 mph

French Bulldog

15 mph

Bulldog

15 mph

Average Dog Running Speed Excluding Top Running Athletic Breeds

19 mph

Jack Russell Terrier

25-30 mph

Italian Greyhound

25-30 mph

German Shepherd

30 mph

Border Collie

30 mph

Saluki

40 mph

Vizsla

40 mph

Deerhounds

40 mph

Gray Wolf

40 mph

Fox

42 mph

Coyote

43 mph

Greyhound

45 mph

African Wild Dog

45 mph

Who Is The Fastest Dog On Record?

The fastest dog is the Greyhound. The fastest speed for a Greyhound is 45 mph.

Conclusion

If you are a runner and are looking for a running companion, a dog is a great option. Proper exercise helps reduce behavioral issues in dogs and is good for human mental health too, which is a win-win. However, running with a dog may require some training to reduce the chance of injury for both you and the dog. Dogs will need their endurance built up gradually, starting with short runs, and slowly building the duration and speed of running. Moreover, dogs should be physically mature before they begin a running program. So it is best to consult with your veterinarian before you start running with your dog.

Works Cited

Anastasio, A. 2018. Dog breeds that could make good running companions. American Kennel Club.

Buckley, C.E. 2013. Speed is relative (human and animal running speeds): Are you a cheetah, a chicken, or a snail? Faculty and Staff Publications – Milner Library, 46.

Cheuvront, S.N., Carter III, R., DeRuisseau, K.C., and R.J. Moffatt. 2005. Running performance differences between men and women. Sports Medicine 35(12):1017-1024.

Gibeault, S. 2019. Training your dog to be your running companion. American Kennel Club.

Gramm, M., and R. Marksteiner. 2010. The effect of age on thoroughbred racing performance. Journal of Equine Science 21(4):73-78.

Greyhound Racing Association of America. Farm Life. Retrieved July 12, 2019.

Guagnin, M., Perri, A.R., and M.D. Petraglia. 2018. Pre-Neolithic evidence for dog-assisted hunting strategies in Arabia. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 49:225-236.

Lara, B., Salinero, J.J., and J.D. Coso. 2014. The relationship between age and running time in elite marathons is U-shaped. Age 36(2):1003-1008.          

Rezende, E.L., Kelly, S.A., Gomes, F.R., Chappell, M.A., and T. Garland Jr. 2006. Effects of size, sex, and voluntary running speeds on costs of locomotion in lines of laboratory mice selectively bred for high wheel-running activity. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology: Ecological and Evolutionary Approaches 79(1):83-99.