If you were told that your dog could run a marathon, would you scoff at the idea? Most dog owners – and non-dog owners – would believe that dogs running a marathon is impracticable.
Can a dog run a marathon? Yes, with a little bit of patience and heavy-duty training, any dog can run a marathon which is approximately 27 miles.
It’s one thing to know that your dog could run a marathon, it’s another thing to actually get your dog to do it. There are a couple of important things to keep in mind if you don’t want to hurt your canine companion. And that’s what this article will explore in greater detail.
The Physiology of Your Dog
One of the first things you will learn as a dog owner is that dogs need regular exercise for several reasons. However, not all pooches can endure the excessive stress of running marathons.
You can readily tell whether or not your canine friend is suited to long-distance running by, first of all, examining his muscles. What do they look like? Are the muscles pumped up and short or long and sleek?
If your dog’s muscles appear pumped up and short like that of a bodybuilder, then stick to running short distances or sprinting.
But if his muscles are longer and sleek, it is an excellent sign that your dog is highly capable of engaging in long-distance running.
The dog’s breed is also a determining factor as to whether or not your canine friend can marathons.
Dog breeds that could run a marathon
For instance, dogs that make excellent running buddies include:
- Rhodesian Ridgebacks
- Labrador retrievers
- Jack Russell Terriers, etc.
Other dogs that can run marathons include the following:
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- Australian Shepherd
- Border Collie
- Alaskan Malamute
- Airedale Terrier
- Belgian Shepherd
- German Shepherd
- Vizsla, etc.
Dog Breeds that could not run a marathon
But dog breeds that cannot go the distance – which is quite apparent – include the following:
- English Bulldogs, etc.
Most of these dogs will have difficulty in keeping up with a long-distance runner as a result of their stature. The English Bulldog usually experiences shortness of breath after running a short distance.
There is no doubt that these small-statured or stout-bodied dogs enjoy a good run once in a while. But you shouldn’t force them to engage in long-distance running with you.
The Age of Your Canine Friend
The age of your beloved pooch also determines – to a large extent – whether or not he should go for a marathon. Most of the time, dog owners assume that the younger the dog, the more active they are.
That may be true, but not in this particular case. If you have a six-month-old puppy, for instance, do not think for a moment that the young dog is good for running long distances.
This is because the growth plates of your dog at this tender age are not adequately fused. And if you force your puppy to run long distances, you will inadvertently increase the chances of your dog developing lameness and elbow dysplasia.
The growth plates of dogs of large breeds fuse at approximately twelve months. So, to be on the safe side, you should wait until your furry companion is at least thirteen or even fourteen months old before making any attempt to take engage him on a marathon-training program.
The Marathon Temperature
Another factor to bear in mind is the marathon temperature. Is it too hot for your dog to run a marathon?
According to a scientific review, the perfect running temperature for professional marathons is 45 degrees. This is the temperature in which long-distance runners have shown their best performances. So how does this temperature relate to your dog?
This temperature is not all that bad for most dogs to run marathons. But here are a couple of things to also take into account:
- Your dog cannot release heat or even sweat in the same way that humans do;
- Your dog’s breed will also go a long way in determining whether or not he is suited to the perfect marathon temperature. Some breeds perform better during warm weather while others do well in winter.
What Type of Training Would a Dog Need to Run a Marathon?
You need to know the type of training that your dog must undergo if you want him to go all the way. And the funny truth is, the kind of training a dog needs to run a marathon is not all that different from what a human being needs to accomplish the same feat.
When it comes to training for long-distance running, you do not just jump into it. You ease into it slowly and ramp it up from there. That is the same way you should ease your dog into training for marathons as well.
Dogs are natural runners, but for much longer distances, you must ease them into it.
An excellent place to start long-distance training with your dog is by building your canine friend’s endurance. This entails priming his muscles with fun activities such as playing fetch, agility training, flyball, frisbee, etc.
If you are starting to run with your dog from scratch, you will need to train your dog to become a running partner.
This can build up the stamina of your beloved pet while remaining a fun-filled activity for both of you. This is the best way to go about building up your dog’s endurance before you introduce long-distance training to your dog within a fun-loving environment.
And so, once you are sure that the foundation has been built and set in stone, you can start training your dog to run long distances.
You should also take note that training a small dog for long-distance running will be slightly different from teaching a large-breed dog. A smaller dog will also take about four times as many steps as a human when running.
So, if you have a shorter dog and he appears not to be able to keep up with you during training, you shouldn’t be too impatient with him. He is trying his best, so love him the way he is.
Physical training is all well and good when it is done in moderation. But there are additional things that you need to also introduce to the training if you want your dog to be a champ at running long distances.
The first thing you have to start working on as soon as possible has to do with obedience commands. It is vital, both for your safety as well as your dog’s and even for the protection of others as well.
Start by teaching him simple commands like “stay,” “sit,” etc. Not only will these commands help your long-distance runs to go as smoothly – and safely – as possible, it will also prevent other runners like yourself from getting harmed or scared out of their wits when they chance upon a running dog.
You should also teach your dog not to growl or bark at other dogs or runners while running, and be able to pull towards you to allow other runners to pass by.
You should also teach your pet to focus only on you at all times during training and not be easily distracted. You will appreciate this aspect of the training if your dog ends up getting drafted to run in a marathon event that is filled with spectators.
The second most important thing to add to your dog’s physical activities is the introduction of stimuli or new sounds that your dog may encounter, especially on his first few runs.
This is also important if you are not used to letting your dog off the leash outdoors. The first few times you remove the leash from your pet’s neck will be somewhat overwhelming for him.
So, start this aspect of the training by limiting your run – or walks – to a familiar environment; areas where you used to walk your dog. And as time goes on, mix the walk with a run when you seek out new trails.
If you want to see positive results, you need to be consistent and repetitive. Let your dog’s commands be very simple; let them work without deviating each time both of you go for a run.
Dogs are incredibly smart – and though it may take a short while – they will eventually grasp the basics and catch on quickly.
So, when your dog understands how to run next to you, you should start taking him to new trails as soon as possible. This will help him to readily become familiar with the new surroundings as he clips alongside you.
What to Do When the Time is Ripe to Test out Your Dog on the Trails
Now that the time has arrived for you to test out your dog on the trails, you need to do a few things to make the experience a good one for your dog:
Feed Your Dog Well
You must feed your dog well before you go for long-distance running. A general rule or principle to bear in mind if you plan to run at least 10 miles every week is to increase your dog’s intake of fat-loaded meals.
When dogs run, fat is their source of energy which they burn up fast. So, if you want your canine companion to keep up with you when you go for long-distance running, feed him with fat-laden foods.
And the best way to amp up your dog’s fat intake is by ensuring that you buy good, grain-free food, most of which are very affordable. That does not imply that you should go for some cheap dog food since the quality of such foods usually increases along with the price.
You can also choose to do it this way instead of breaking the bank in order to feed your dog with good, fat-laden dog food: add some beef or chicken broth to your dog’s regular food.
Beef or chicken broth is considerably easy to make in bulk, and you can even use it several times as well.
You can also befriend your local butcher who will be able to supply you with ample amounts of offal meats at low prices. This second method will require some time to enable you to form a working relationship with the butcher.
Protect Your Dog’s Feet
The majority of marathon runners out there are trail runners, and you may belong to that category as well. There is nothing wrong with that, but if you intend to bring your dog along with you when running on the trail, you should protect his feet.
This means you should consider getting your pooch a lovely pair – or two – of doggy running shoes to protect your dog’s incredibly sensitive paw pads. This is important so that you can prevent the scraping or cutting of your dog’s paw pads by immovable pebbles, broken glass on the trails, rough concrete or hot asphalt.
Don’t be swayed by anyone’s opinion that your dog looks weird with his doggy running shoes. Taking care of injured paws is not funny business, and the havoc it will wreak on your wallet is not worth it.
Don’t Be in a Hurry
Do not rush your dog; when running; ensure that you keep the pace with your dog’s natural gait. No fast-paced running or sprinting. You should also take breaks from time to time, and if you run along river trails, permit your dog to take a dip or two in the water.
This will help your dog to cool off quickly; and of course, make sure you take clean, fresh water along with you on every run.
There you have it: the entire gamut about taking your dog on a marathon. Take all these considerations and put them to work, and you will soon be enjoying your long-distance running with your best, four-legged buddy keeping you company at all times.
Dog Breeds Suitable to Running
We have investigated whether specific breeds are suitable for running:
- Boxers (coming soon)
- Rottweilers (coming soon)
- Small dogs (coming soon)