Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Looking for a Dog that Likes to Run

Dana and I are looking to add a dog to our family here in the foothills. Neither of us grew up with dogs so we're taking our time on the research to make sure we find a dog that will fit into our lifestyles without being too much of a burden as we learn to live with him or her.

Somewhat selfishly, I am primarily interested in breeds that will tolerate daily runs from 8 to 20+ miles. I guess I get a bit lonely on longer runs, and as I'm planning a lot of those this year I figured some dependable company on the trail would be nice. Ideally, I want a dog that is not genetically predisposed to sniffing around and can focus on forward progress. I've run with a number of dogs in the past that have tugged around and become endlessly sidetracked with scents, birds and other animals, which is pretty frustrating when trying to achieve steady forward progress.

Aside from running considerations, the dog needs to have a friendly attitude towards young children, while a smaller breed would be a preference.

After a number of conversations and some research on the interwebs, we have developed something of a shortlist of breeds that include:

Husky (Alaskans are reportedly more focused and easier trained than Siberians):

German Short (and Wire) Haired Pointer:

Border Collie - or other herding breeds (Australian Shepherd/Cattle):

Springer Spaniel:

Rhodesian Ridgeback (see a great post on RRs by Rick M here):

We plan to get the dog from a rescue or shelter, so ultimately it will likely depend on what we feel is a good fit as we meet dogs, but it's always good to be as informed as possible before making a decision like this.

So I figured I'd throw this one out there in hopes of some feedback from runners with dogs. Any and all advice is welcome.


  1. Of course, you have to make sure a dog is matured to take that sort of mileage (a year or so, with gradual build up).

    The wirehair is undoubted the strongest dog I have ever seen - and is ridiculously friendly. But you have to be committed to getting out every day.

  2. I have a beagle. He is slow and fat. So if you want someone that you can run against to boost your ego, that would be a good choice. :)

  3. Hi Nick. Did you get that e-mail I sent you on the RR? It will be hard to find one in a shelter, but there is a great RR rescue program which is why they are rarely found in shelters.

  4. Border Collie. We have a Border Collie. He can easily run 50+ miles a week and not even be tired. He has done some 8+ hour runs with me and be just fine. He even went on CT with Scott Jaime. Very smart and easily trainable.

    Came here from JT's blog.

    Hi, BTW. We paced Harry together last year at Leadville.


  5. Harsha - good to hear from you, and thanks for the input. Eight hour runs! That's one fit dog.

    As I'm sure you've heard, Harry didn't get any better after you handed him off to me - more puking, an hour kip at Mayqueen and general suffering. Hats off to him for getting it done though.

  6. Border collie, for sure. I've got three freinds with border collies. My life is too chaotic, and bad marriage cured me forever of being capable of loneliness, but if I were to get a dog, it would have to be either a Malimute or Border Collie. I think the latter is far far more endearing.

  7. Hey Nick, I understand that Basenjis are quite the runners.

  8. I grew up with a German Short Haired Pointer named Daisy. Boy could she run. She loved to run so much that my dad would take us out in the Jeep, drop the dog off and she would run next to the Jeep for 20 miles.

    But...she was a hunter in her heart and she love love loved to run away. Got herself into mucho trouble many times running away. And chased cows, deer and especially chickens...

    I have a mutt now. Some sort of german shepherd, lab, chow thing and she is an awesome runner.

    If you go to the shelter you can probably find some sort of border collie mix, that will probably work pretty well for you!

    Good Luck!

  9. The husky is going to have a tough time in the summer heat here in Colorado. But pretty much any of the herding or hunting dogs will be good runners. As for the pulling and roaming, that can be fixed with good training. And training is easy as long as they get enough exercise - I don't think you'll have any trouble with that. The herding dogs with medium coats might be the best for year round running. My bully mix has very short hair and overheats and gets cold very quickly - she's pretty much a spring and fall runner. And try to find a small to medium dog. My larger dog Baxter loves to run and could probably go all day but he's heavy and tears his pads up on the trails. I don't think you'll have any trouble finding a hunting/herding mix in any shelter or rescue around here. And you can foster a dog to see if it's a good fit for the family before you commit to adopting.
    Good luck!

  10. Hi Nick,

    I don't have a dog yet, but have thought about it, and have a couple of flyby thoughts.

    * I've joked that a 20 mile run might necessitate a dog with 30-mile capacity, in case I got stupidly injured and the poor thing did a back-and-forth, Lassie-like rescue (which would totally happen, of course).

    * Since -your- optimal best friend would be doing a bit more than trotting around the neighborhood, another good relevant resources might be climbing forums, e.g.
    Good stuff there (as well as very strong opinions!) on breeds, training and acclimatization, dog diet, etc.

  11. Definitely border collie! I take my border collie, Cap, on long runs all summer of up to 30 miles at a time. He is my best training partner. Of course you have to build up to it, just like a human, but the distance is no problem. He is also very smart and well-trained, and this is pretty typical of the breed. He LOVES people, and especially kids.

    I would stay away from the huskies, personally. I've had two, and worked as a sled dog handler for a season in Minnesota. They love to run and pull, and usually have a great temperament, but they are very poor with obedience. They're just on their own plan. So....fun if you have a lot of land for them to roam free, but otherwise, a pain in the ass because they never come when called.

    Hope that helps, and have fun in the search!

    BTW, congrats on Banderra. That's kick ass!

  12. Dogs have a game-playing attitude, which can be a good diversion if your own run feels lacking. If you are looking for some fun on a run, the attitude of a dog will do the trick.