It's great going running with your dog, but can a dog run a marathon? The answer is some can, but like you, they need to train first!
If you love nothing more than going for a jog with your furry best friend, you may have wondered how far they can run. Dogs can outsprint humans any day of the week, but can a dog run a marathon?
Yes! Fido can run 26.2 miles with you, but you must consider your dog’s breed and age. Not all dog breeds are suitable for long-distance running. You should wait until your pup is at least a year and a half to start training. And your dog will need to train like you, so pay attention to their comfort levels.
Can a Dog Run a Marathon? 5 Main Considerations
1. Training Your Dog to Run
Just like training your canine friend to sit, speak, and roll over, you’ll also need to reinforce good running habits. The best place to begin is with leash training. You’ll want your dog to run beside you, not to pull on the leash. Nothing is worse for long-distance runners than getting off to the wrong pace or falling; a break in your momentum will confuse your running buddy too.
Teaching your pup the difference between running and walking will be similar to teaching the difference between “speak” and “quiet.” You’ll want to avoid sprints at first on your long-distance runs to keep your dog focused on the big picture. Reinforce the behaviors you wish to teach with treats and specific commands.
If you’re familiar with interval training, you know that adding short bursts of activity into your walk can help improve aerobic capacity, speed, and efficiency. So, as you further your training with your fur baby, add the occasional running sprint to vary your workout and build up stamina for going at higher paces for longer amounts of time. Just don’t confuse training with playtime!
2. Best Breeds for Running
Your dog’s breed helps determine if it will make an excellent running partner. The following is a list of some dogs that make good long-distance running partners:
- German Shorthaired Pointers
- Parson Russell Terriers
- Golden and Labrador Retrievers
- Rhodesian Ridgebacks
- Border Collies
- Portuguese Water Dogs
- Standard Poodles
Even with an excellent long-distance running dog, you’ll need to consider the weather, fur length, and leg size. Dogs with hot, heavy coats may not be the best partners for a run during the summer.
Check out our article on the best dogs to go running with.
3. Weather and Terrain
You’ll want to avoid certain types of weather when running with your dog. Temperatures over 80 degrees Fahrenheit can endanger your dog’s health. Humidity over 70% can also cause overheating. If temperatures are cooler, still be sure to keep an eye out for your dog's behavior.
It is best not to take your dog out for a run if it is below freezing. Runners love challenging conditions, but you must ensure your dog is up for the same challenge. Working out in rain, snow, and ice allows runners to prove themselves against Mother Nature. Those same things can make dogs miserable, considering they don’t have the same cold-weather gear!
In addition, you need to consider their feet. Even if you have put time into toughening up their paws as part of their training, consider the terrain you will be running on and look at additional protection such as dog booties. The toughest paws can still wear, get cuts and burn on hot or cold surfaces.
4. Diet for the Running Dog
Your dog will need a proper diet to train with you, which will look different than what you’ll be eating for maximum running potential. Don’t carbo-load your dog. Dogs burn through carbohydrates much quicker than humans. Instead, look at increasing their protein and fat intake. Look for dog food with metabolizable energy and low fiber counts.
You don’t eat pasta immediately before your run, so don’t feed your dog right before you leave either. Make sure to give your dog time to digest their food. If you run in the morning, it may be best to save breakfast until after the run, and if you like evening exercise, either get dinner early or wait until you’re done.
5. Pace and Distance
Running a marathon with your dog means you won’t necessarily be running at highly competitive levels. Your dog relies on you to tell them when it is time to take a break, so keep their condition in mind while running your marathon. Even if you don’t need a break, your buddy might!
When your dog is showing signs of needing a break, take it. Have water available and find a shady place to take a rest. Consider training on trails rather than pavement, as it will benefit you and your dog to run on terrain with more give. You don’t want shin splints, and your pup won’t enjoy the doggy equivalent.
To fully develop as runners, set intermediary goals. Start with a 5k that will allow your dog to participate. Then build up to a half marathon before reaching your final goal. Treat your pup like any other new runner by giving them time to develop.
And remember, dogs are still man's best friend. At the end of the day they want to be with you and often tolerate more than they should to do so, so be mindful of their needs and don't ask too much, they will give it to their own detriment.
If you are new to long-distance running yourself you might like to read our article on what to expect from your first 5K race.