Most dog owners at one point or another found out how fast their dog really is, whether it was through a backyard escape, a game of tag, or a squirrel chase down the street. There’s no denying it, our canine companions are incredibly fast and most of them can outrun even the world’s greatest athletes. Even with little to no training, how can our furry friends run so fast and not get tired unless they have covered the whole neighborhood or ran at least a few solid miles? Should we let our furry friends run with the wind or is moderation the key to maintaining a healthy, happy pooch?
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The Root of the Behavior
There are several solid reasons why dogs make such impressive runners, the first one being their physical build. Though their body structure varies depending on breed, all dogs share certain characteristics that make them such speedy sprinters. All dogs have a complex skeletal system, consisting of a strong spine that contracts and expands as they run, enabling them to maximize their run. The spine’s structure and the way it operates is similar to that of cheetahs who are able to run at a speed of 70 mph and thus are considered by many to be the fastest land animal on earth. Dogs who run fast also tend to have long, lean legs and powerful muscles that support their frame and provide them with speed and endurance. These ancestral, physical traits have evolved over decades to enable our four-legged friends to effectively chase and hunt down prey in the wild. In addition, unlike humans, dogs don’t have collarbones and thanks to their disconnected shoulder bones have a greater flexibility and stride length for sprinting. Lastly, fast dog breeds tend to have aerodynamic head shapes that further add a few points to their speed.
While all dogs run fast primarily due to the natural physical characteristics that they have inherited from their ancestors, certain dog breeds run even faster as some of them have been bred specifically for that purpose. Greyhounds are a great example as they can run at 45 mph and embody all of the physical features that were covered above. With a body designed to run consisting of long, lean, and muscular legs and a long-nosed head shape, they are considered to be the second fastest land animal in the world. Salukis, Afghan Hounds, and Borzois are some of the other fast dog breeds that share a similar love for speed and appearance to Greyhounds.
On the flip side, short-legged and flat-faced breeds tend to be much slower due to their build. These include English and French Bulldogs, Pugs, and Pekingese. Corgis and Dachshunds don’t make the best sprinters either due to their short legs. Slower breeds aren’t always necessarily small though. Old English Mastiffs, Bullmastiffs, Saint Bernards, and Chow Chows are perfect examples of bigger breeds that are tough but usually not very fast. This can actually be a good thing as some of them have heavy, hot coats that could cause them to overheat while others are prone to joint issues.
Encouraging the Behavior
As long as your dog is not chasing after and terrifying all the neighborhood cats, there is no reason he should be discouraged from running. Quite the opposite, regardless of breed, running and physical exercise is incredibly important for a dog’s health and happiness. Dogs love running in general as it feels natural to them and it can help them fulfill their natural and instinctual urges to explore areas and chase things - even if it is just a tennis ball thrown across the backyard! In fact, most domesticated dogs don’t get as much exercise as they need, which can be detrimental to their physical and mental health. Pent-up energy can also cause dogs to misbehave and try to expel it in other less healthy ways, such as trying to demolish the couch or chewing away at all the shoes in the house. This bad behavior usually stems from boredom and too much energy, which is especially common in puppies. The best way to prevent such behavior is dog training and allowing your dog to run around as long and as often as he wants to and thus tiring him out.
If trained properly, all dogs can make great jogging companions, though some breeds are better suited for it than others. Lean, long-legged dogs with narrow but strong hips make great long-distance runners although most active, medium-build dogs will do a great job keeping you company during a jog too. Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes make great exercise buddies as despite their thick coats, they love to run and explore new areas. It is important to remember that due to their coats they are best suited for colder climates and should not run too much in the summer as they can easily overheat.
Other Solutions and Considerations
While most dogs share a passion for running, many dogs also don’t know their limitations. It is important to allow our canine companions to get an adequate amount of exercise on a daily basis but also to take into consideration their physical limitations and health history. For example, short-nosed dogs are prone to overheating and the amount of exercise they get should be moderated. While other dogs might have joint or heart issues and should also run only as much as is advised by their veterinarian. In addition, as much as our pooches love to run, it is incredibly important to keep them safe at all times. Regardless of breed or health, you should never let your dog run freely on the streets as there is a risk of them accidentally running across the street and getting hit by a car. Letting your dog roam freely can also spook other pedestrians, even if your dog is the friendliest, most innocent dog on the block. Allow your dog to run in leash-free areas, dog parks (where specifically stated), and in your own backyard to ensure his safety.
Most dog owners at one point or another have stopped to marvel at their canine companion’s grace and speed when running. While it is primarily their physical build that makes dogs run so fast, it is also partially due to their passion and natural instinct to want to chase things. Making sure your dog gets regular exercise is the key to raising a happy, healthy four-legged furry sprinter, so don’t worry if your dog is obsessed with racing through the yard.