Karen B. London
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The Any-Pace Running Partner
Another way in which dogs are perfect

For most runners, finding training partners is a challenge because of many factors:  social compatibility, scheduling issues, trail versus street preferences, tendency to be competitive. Additionally, and perhaps most limiting, they must run at close to the same pace.

Enter the dog, and voilà, problem solved! Dogs have the ability to run at a wide variety of paces. As long as they are healthy and free of any prohibitive medical issues, including injuries, most dogs can comfortably run at the pace of any human runner.

In my town of Flagstaff, Ariz., you can see that range of paces daily. On the most popular running routes, you’re bound to see slow folks with a dog trotting along side as well as professional elite runners zipping by in a serious hurry with their dogs, and everything in between. One of my running partners is a mixed breed named Marley, and he is happy at a lot of different speeds.

Here’s me running with Marley while we cool down at a very slow pace after our run.

And here’s my husband with Marley going at a much faster pace.

Marley is equally comfortable at either speed.

It’s true that sometimes dogs do better with faster runners and are more likely to pull or leap around with slower runners, but specifically training the dog to run nicely on leash at the slower pace is the key to enjoyable runs for both people and dogs. Also, there are occasionally intermediate paces that a dog struggles with simply because that pace is not quite right for any particular gait, but mostly, our dogs adjust to any pace.

As a bonus, the social and scheduling issues that face us with most humans are irrelevant. People enjoy running with their dogs, and suggesting a running outing and having our dog beg off because of being tired or because of another appointment isn’t going to happen. Dogs are the perfect any-pace running partners. As if we needed a reason to love them any more. . .


Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

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Submitted by Anna | December 16 2013 |

I totally disagree.

I run for about an hour every morning with my dog in the bush, and it is a great start of day that I love and would warmly recommend to anyone:-)

However, out of the four dogs I've had, she my the first and only suitable running dog running buddy. I have two dogs and tried for the first year to run with both but have had to give up on the second dog as running buddy (she still gets her walkies of course) because she is too lazy, slow, unfit and not motivated.

I've also been running with dogs that were not my own, and of these, I did run successfully with a Kelpie for a while. He didn't care for the running part but was passionate about retrieving, so the deal was that we would pass through 2 parks on the way, and I would pause to throw a few sticks for him each time.

Almost all dogs love to run as play... chasing things or training, but they tire quickly when they don't have a specific, concrete goal in front of them. Most dogs I've experienced find it boring and pointless to run-as-exercise, as in running next to the owner on a leash just for the sake of moving. They need a purpose with going out: like exploring, playing or training. Running asks them to run fast past all the interesting stuff... that's almost too much to ask from a dog!

It is great to run with a dog, my point is just that it can't be expected from most dogs to be fit for that purpose, so it is important to factor it in when buying the dog. Perhaps by and adult, athletic rescue dog described as fit for that purpose, and then use the trial period to test whether it is true, and return the dog if it is not up for the job!

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