Looking for the perfect canine running companion is like being Goldilocks amid bowls of porridge. They’re all great in their own way, but you want to find the one that’s just right for you. This guide will help you narrow down the search and help you to adopt a dog that will be your ideal running companion.

Before you can look for a dog to run with, you need to assess what kind of runner you are. Are you a speedster or do you jog at a leisurely pace? Do you like rugged mountain trails or suburban park paths? Do you run with other people and dogs around or do you go where you can be solo? Do you run for short distances or do you take in mile after mile? Knowing what kind of running you do will help you to pair up with a dog that is built for that type of running. Ultimately, the best running partner is one that loves to go at your same pace for your chosen distance, and still be a dog that fits into your life when you’re not out running.

Because there are so many specific breeds and breed mixes that can be great running partners, we’re focusing on types of breeds that work best for speed and endurance. So take this information as a basic guideline for beginning the process of finding the best dog for you. Overall, working dogs are going to be your best bet. Dogs built for herding and hunting are primarily bred to have high energy, high drive, high endurance. They have the lanky body type and strong musculature to keep up with you over varying speeds and varying distances. However, some working dogs are bred to be obedient and some are bred to work independently. This distinction can have big implications on how well you and your dog get along when it comes to training and obedience, so take this into consideration as well.

The types of dogs that don’t do well as running buddies are heavier, stockier dogs, since hauling around a lot of weight hurts their joints; and short nosed breeds like pugs, English and French bulldogs and mastiffs, since they typically have breathing problems that don’t allow for the heavy panting of a long run. Also you want a breed with the right fur type for the conditions you run in — dogs with short fur do better in hot areas, and dogs with multi-layered or longer fur do better in cold areas.  

border collie

Photo: Anna Tyurina /Shutterstock

Herders and heelers (Examples: Border collies, cattle dogs, Australian shepherds, German shepherds, Belgian malinois)

These are dogs that have the ability to run all day long in different weather conditions and on different types of terrain. They are also highly intelligent and can be easily trained for obedient behavior around other people and animals encountered on the road or trail. However, they are high drive dogs so a leisurely jog every morning is not going to be enough activity for them. These dogs are best for people who plan on running long distances every day, or who plan on doing speed work on a daily basis. Or, of course, you can go on your shorter run together and then play fetch or other activities to help them burn off leftover energy. These dogs can potentially make excellent family dogs as well, but their high energy and high drive requires daily interaction and training, something that needs to be considered before you bring them into a home with children.

pointer dog

Photo: Denise Allison Coyle /Shutterstock

Pointers (Examples: German shorthaired pointers, weimaraners, vizsla) 

Pointers are great high energy dogs built to run. They can keep up with any marathoner without a problem. For anyone looking to run 15 or more miles at a stretch, these are great dogs to consider. However, they're also dogs that tend to bond closely with their family which means that they can be prone to having separation anxiety. They won't do quite as well if you plan to do a morning run and then leave them alone all day. But if you have an energetic family with kids, and they won't be alone for more than a couple hours at a stretch, then these are definitely breeds to consider.

retreiver dog

Photo: Jaromir Chalabala /Shutterstock

Retrievers (Examples: Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, labradoodles)

Retrievers are the quintessential family dog. Loyal, gentle, friendly, and obedient, they tend to make excellent companions on or off the trail. As for running buddies, they have abundant energy for short periods. They're speedy for 5 or 7 miles, but can get fatigued at distances longer than that. They can also have trouble with overheating due to their thick coats. If you enjoy low-key morning or evening jogs, or short weekend jaunts on busy hiking trails, then a breed like a Labrador retriever is a wonderful option.

sled dog

Photo: AnikaNes /Shutterstock

Sled dogs (Examples: Siberian huskies, samoyeds, malamutes)

Smart, exuberant, agile, and famous for their endurance, mushing breeds like huskies are excellent running buddies. This is especially true in cold areas with snowy winters, since these breeds are built to handle icy temperatures. But they're also bred to be independent thinkers and can have their own, rather stubborn opinions about the world. It takes someone with patience and a willingness to have daily training sessions (and a hefty sense of humor!) to make a great companion for a husky. That said, a tired dog is a good dog and a long 15- or 20-mile run in the morning will make it easier to train them later in the day!

hunting dog

Photo: Vera Zinkova /Shutterstock

Hunting dogs (Examples: Rhodesian ridgebacks, Jack Russell terriers, wolfhounds)

Hunting dogs are excellent running buddies since they are born for endurance. And note that sometimes size doesn't exactly matter as much as strength, speed and energy level, such as is the case with a Jack Russell terrier. Usually dogs with smaller legs aren't as great for distance running since they can get tired faster. After all, they have to move their legs many more times to go the same distance as a longer-legged dog. However, a Jack Russell has loads of energy and has the musculature to run for miles without a problem. For shorter 5-10 mile speedy runs, they're excellent partners. Meanwhile, the Rhodesian ridgeback was bred for lion hunting and still has that high endurance level. They can handle those longer runs, even in heat, making them excellent partners for marathoners.

Because different dogs bring different skills and abilities to the table, we have to remember to look at a dog as an individual, not as a breed statistic, and decide if its individual build and personality is going to be the right running companion for you. That’s why we can’t ignore the all-important category of mutt.

dog on hiking trail

Photo: Jaymi Heimbuch

Mutts (Examples: simply go on build, endurance level, and personality)

My mutt, in the photo above, is (most likely) a cattle dog-border collie cross adopted from a rescue that focuses on herding breeds. Because he is adopted, all I really know about this dog is what I've seen. I know he's built to run all day long and is agile and sure-footed enough for rugged terrain, needs mental stimulation as much as physical activity, is bonded to me and obedient when off leash. All this adds up to a great trail running companion, and we both love to run the trails on the coastal hills near our home. However, despite the fact that he has cattle dog in him -- a breed that usually handles heat like a champ -- I know he doesn't handle heat very well, so I need to keep our runs to early mornings, evenings, or cool days. Always take your individual dog into account, not just breed statistics, when planning your runs together. Consider athletic ability along with mental needs and personality traits. When you do, you'll have the best time with your four-legged running buddy!

Say you have a canine companion and you're ready to hit the road or trails. There is actually a lot to know about running with a dog before you get rolling. For instance, running with a young dog before he or she is fully developed can actually cause joint and bone problems, including arthritis. And dogs can suffer heat exhaustion so it is important to know the signs before serious trouble sets in. But don't worry, we have you covered. Everything you need to know about starting out running with your dog and building endurance, staying safe during runs, and maintaining your dog's health between runs can be found in this guide: How to run with your dog.

Related posts on MNN:

Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.