I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much I should run Hershey and at what mileage he should stop. I did a little research about it but didn’t find much so I thought I’d share my personal feelings and opinions on the topic.
I believe dogs can easily mold and fit into our activity level whatever that may be. That being said, there are reasons to be careful and make sure we aren’t pushing our dogs too much. A lot of breeds are determined to please so they won’t necessarily tell us that they are tiered. It is our job as their owners to watch for the signs and to know our dogs. Here are some factors that I think of when I think about how much a dog should run.
Not all dogs are purebred, I know, but you can usually tell the main group that the dog belongs to. For example, I feel like herding dogs, sporting dogs, and working dogs usually make for good runners. These breeds were bred to work for hours on end and have the stamina and energy to run. When deciding how much to run your dog look into what his or her breed was bred to do and that can give you a good idea.
Is your dog short and stocky, is he/she tall and lean, does he/she have a long muzzle or is it pushed in like a pug or boxer? This is important because these traits can be a huge factor in overtiring and overheating. For example, dogs with pushed in muzzles, like boxers and bulldogs will most likely overheat more easily than a dog like Hershey who has a longer muzzle. Very large dogs might not be able to go as far because it could be harder on their legs and joints.
Is your dog used to a lot of exercise or is he/she used to staying at home with only a quick walk around the block? We didn’t start running by doing ten miles right out of the gate so we shouldn’t expect that from our dogs. Just like us, our dogs need time to become accustomed to the exercise and build mileage gradually. When I’m not training for a race, Hershey and I usually run maybe 10 miles a week. Now that I’m training for a 50k I am obviously running a lot more than that. Whenever I start a training cycle, I usually start Hershey at about 10 miles (He is already used to doing 6 or 7 at once when I’m not in training) and slowly increase from there. The most he’s ever run with me is 17, I think he could do more than that but I’m going to introduce it gradually.
A lot of vets say you should wait until a dog is at least a year old before you do serious runs with him or her. I tend to agree. Every breed grows differently but I’d say a year is when most of them start slowing down when it comes to growing. I started running with Hershey when he was about 9 months old. I really wanted to wait until he was a year old but he was driving me insane. Hershey’s “teenage” stage was from about 7 months to 2 years old and he was CRAZY, a run wouldn’t even calm him down. At that point I was just starting to get into running too so we didn’t do any runs that were more than 3 miles. For larger breeds, like Great Danes, I would personally wait until they were about 18 months because they take even longer to grow.
Please note that all of this is just my opinion and knowledge from my experience with Hershey. I’m not an expert on this. Listen to your individual dog for signs that he or she is getting overtired. Every dog is different so what works for me and Hershey may not work for your dog.
I also wanted to list some breeds that in my opinion would make for good running partners.
Ok maybe I’m a little biased on this one but Vizslas are really great dogs for runners. I’ve found that Hershey is great for many types of running. He goes with me on my speed workouts, long runs, and easy runs. They are very high energy when they are young but that’s a plus in my opinion because it’s great motivation to get outside with them.
At the dog daycare I worked at there was a young German Shepherd. She was the craziest dog in the place. German Shepherds love to work and they are extremely loyal. They need a job to do. They are great dogs for off leash trail running because they are pretty easy to train. Just make sure to socialize them well when they are young because they can be wary of new people that you may meet on your runs.
Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes
These dogs are great for colder, longer runs. Be careful in the summer that they don’t overheat. They were bred to pull sleds for miles so they have great endurance when it comes to running in the snow. The huskies I’ve met do seem to be very independent so make sure they are obedient before you let them off leash because they may wander.
I don’t have a lot of experience with this breed but this is another breed that loves to work and have a job to do. They are lightweight so it’s easy for them to get around obstacles.