You’ve probably heard of Greyhound and Dachshund races. You may have even attended one. But, have you ever wondered just how fast dogs can run? While this is a hard question to answer - as there are many different dog breeds and different breeds have different abilities - we can explore the top speed ever recorded for a dog and what the fastest dog breeds in the world are.
In this article, we will also delve into just how dogs are able to run so fast (is it their four legs or their body shapes?), and the history of dog racing as a sport.
Signs That Dogs Can Run Fast
It is obvious that dogs are fast. Just watch them run through your yard! Trying to catch an escaped dog is hard because they are so quick. The battle over a dropped piece of food can also prove just how fast dogs can run when they really want something.
If you want to see just how fast your dog can run, you can put them to the test. Take your dog to a dog racing track or to a local track and time their runs. Unfortunately, it can be extremely difficult to determine an exact run time, but with a good stopwatch and little math skills, you can determine an approximate speed that your dog can hit.
When dogs run, their body language completely changes to allow for a higher speed. Dogs with erect ears will push their ears down to combat wind resistance, and dogs with floppy ears push them further back to keep them out of the way.
As your dog walks, it often moves both right legs together and both left legs together. When running, however, dogs often move the front legs in conjunction with one another and the back legs are generally in sync as well. The change in motion allows for a faster movement than the dog could reach with the motions it uses to walk.
While dogs are generally able to run fast, there are some obvious signs that your dog has been pushed to its limit:
- Shortness of Breath
- Inability to Continue Walking or Standing
- Staggering or Swaying
History of Dogs Running Fast
Unfortunately, not much is known about the history of dog racing except for Greyhounds, which kind of makes sense because they are the fastest dog breed. For thousands of years, Greyhounds were bred to hunt by outrunning their prey. Once dogs were less commonly used for hunting, Greyhound racing became a popular way to show off the skills these amazing dogs possess.
Greyhounds can reach an average top speed of 45 miles per hour, which is more than 20 miles per hour faster than the fastest human ever recorded: Usain Bolt. Bolt was recording running at 27.8 miles per hour, while the fastest Greyhound ever recorded ran at a speed of 50.5 miles per hour. Fanta, a retired Greyhound was logged at 50.5 miles per hour during a race in 2013.
Greyhound racing saw its highest popularity in the United States during the 1990s. Since then, interest in the sport has steadily declined. The dogs that participate in the races run various distances and are timed. Dogs race in heats and generally there are numerous heats per day of racing.
As for Dachshund racing, which doesn’t host the fastest dogs in the world, but is still a common racing event for the short-legged pooches, the sport began in the 1970s in Australia. The races quickly garnered interest in the United States as a fun sport that is often used to help raise money for various charitable causes.
Science Behind Dogs Running Fast
Now that we know just how fast the fastest dogs can run, let’s find out exactly how they are able to do it. Like Greyhounds, Whippets, Salukis, and Afghan Hounds are also quick on their feet. The shape of these dogs’ bodies helps them to be so speedy. These sighthounds are built with large chests that hold large lungs and a large heart. Their slender waists allow them to bend in a way that allows each stride to bring them forwards more than a body length.
As the fastest dog breed, the Greyhound’s heart can rise to between 300 and 360 beats per minute during a sprint, which allows the heart to contract and refill with blood five times each second. This spectacular feat allows oxygen to get into the greyhound’s muscles at a rate that helps it keep up its speed.
Greyhounds can reach their top speed of around 45 miles per hour with just six strides from a standing start. The cheetah is the only other animal with that kind of acceleration power. Unlike the cheetah, however, the Greyhound can sustain that speed for a distance. While cheetahs can only keep their top speed, which is 70 miles per hour, for about 200 or 300 yards (less than two-tenths of a mile), greyhounds can run at over 35 miles per hour for up to seven miles. This means that in a long race, the Greyhound will leave the cheetah in its dust.
To go back to the comparison of Usain Bolt, his 100-meter race world record was 9.58 seconds at a speed of 22.9 miles per hour. A greyhound would be able to finish the same race in just 5.33 seconds.
Training Your Dog to Run Fast
While most dogs are able to run fairly quickly naturally, if you are looking for a dog to compete in races, you should consider a Greyhound. You can then continue to train the Greyhound to race at top speeds. Most racing dogs have a trainer that helps them down at the race track starting at the age of 15 to 18 months. At this point, many race dogs are separated from other animals, so they don’t use all of their energy during play time.
Using a lure, the trainer will gain the dog’s attention. At first, Greyhounds or other racing dogs aren’t put in the starting box, just so the trainers can see how they react to the lure. With all the dogs ready to chase the lure, they are put into the starting box in pairs. Eventually, the puppies are put into the starting box in larger and larger groups until they are comfortable with how the racing works.
These young dogs are trained using this method until the trainer is ready to put them in front of a crowd. At this point, they will be entered into schooling races. Schooling races take place before the main race, but no bets are placed on these dogs. Schooling races are used to get the dogs ready for running in front of large, loud crowds. While all racing dogs must do at least two or three schooling races, some dogs need more time and could do weeks’ worth of schooling races. After the trainer is satisfied with the results of the school races, the dogs are ready for the main races.
Safety Tips for Safetly Training Your Dog to Race
Bring your dog to a licensed, professional race trainer.
Provide your dog with exceptional veterinary care.
Give your dog access to plenty of food and water to stay healthy.
Make sure your dog is given time to rest between races.