Running with a Dog

dog breed and size advice

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28/09/2012 at 09:30

We are a family of 4 with 2 boys aged 8 and 12. I am a 42 yr old lifelong runner of good club standard. We have never owned a dog before but are now looking to get one that will be a good family pet and a good dog for me to run with.

I am after advice regarding breed and size of dog.

We have pretty much decided on breed. We want a male labradoodle. It is more the size that is of concern. The puppies we are looking at are due to be born very soon and both parent dogs are around 23 inches in height so presumably the puppies will grow to a similar height.

Considering I regularly run anywhere in the 4 - 15 mile range at around 5.5 - 6.5 minute miling can I expect a dog of this size and breed to make a good running partner?

I understand the need for the dog to mature and to gain fitness gradually over time. I assure you the dogs health and welfare will be of paramount importance. I am not expecting it to handle this kind of running for a year or two but is it likely to cope with this sort of running as an adult dog or would a bigger dog handle it better?

Any advice, comments or suggestions would be most welcome and gratefully received.

happy running


28/09/2012 at 09:45

This is a toughn one.  I've run with many dogs, some mroe successfully than others.  I don't know labradoodle as a breed.  For a straight labrador I would say a no to 25 miles, probably closer to 7 or 8.  The breed needs to be one designed for distance and energy such as border collies, dalmations and some terriers.  I've done up to 8 miles with a dobermann and my current Springer can manage similar, though I'm only 9 min/miles.  Beyond that and the danger is the dog will carry on to keep up with you even if they are struggling.  I will also always carry water with me for the dog if I know there aren't streams etc regulalry along the route.

I'd suggest getting on to one of the canicross UK websites and get some advice from the specialists on there who may know the breed more.  Most canicross races in the UK don't go above 10K in distance and won't race if above a warm temp, just to give you an idea on the distances.

28/09/2012 at 10:01

I've never had a labradoodle but my brother had one who he tried to run with but as KK said - it's not the brightest dog in the bunch.

Saying that - i've ran with two German Shepherds and they can just keep on going. We built up slowly initially but it was nothing for them to run 10 miles and then want more in the evening!

28/09/2012 at 10:33

Hi Eddie - your running paces are pretty fast. I had a German Shepherd/ Belgian Malinois cross (basically, a slightly more athletic German Shepherd) and she couldn't handle much below 5min km pace which is 8min miling. She could sprint much faster than me but she really didn't njoy going long. The warmer the temperatures, the more difficult it became.

It was no fun at all for the dog or for me if i ended up dragging her, so more often than not, I left her at home.

I now have a Border Collie. He's not quite a year old but the difference is incredible. He wants to run all day long, any speed you want. I've not taken him beyond 15kms yet and usually keep him below 10kms - after 18 months I think his bones will be mature enough to build up his endurance. But the thing that makes this breed so good for partnering on runs is not JUST their athleticism, it's the brain inside.

When running, it's not great for you or the dog to be linked together. They need to stop and pee and sniff and rest and sprint and investigate etc. That's how dogs have fun. They stop start all the time. Their bodies aren't designed to run at a stable pace for a prolonged period (like a husky which operates in the cold). Dog's can't sweat and the persistent repetitive running can be bad for their hips, especially when young.

So, you also want an intelligent dog who is reliable off the lead. I don't think Labradors or Poodles are famed for their applied intelligence. Put together, they just aren't so bright (happy if someone calls this prejudice or limited experience). I can call to my dog 100m away to sit if I see a mountain biker coming through the forest at speed and he will instantly sit at the SIDE of the path. Or I can make him lie down, reassuring the person approaching that he is not a threat.

If i run alongside a road, he will wait at the kerb and won't cross until instructed. I can run past him while he is sitting and he won't move until I tell him. I can't tell you what peace of mind this brings, how much more enjoyable it is to be able to trust the dog. And he's still so young. Getting a dog can be a 15-16 year commitment. So don't be tempted to buying into the first set of puppies that are conveniently available. Make sure that all of your purchase criteria are fulfilled.

I bought a sheepdog with an ISBS pedigree, not one trained for looks but for working instinct and intelligence. I think it was worth the little bit of extra time it took. Good luck.

28/09/2012 at 10:39

I don't think 15 miles will be too much of an issue but at that speed it might be.  There is huge variation in how athletic labs are - some of the working ones will go all day and have the physique to do it - some of the heavier ones are not natural athletes at all.    With a labradoodle I'm guessing athleticism will partly depend on what kind of labs they have in their ancestry.   

The other thing to consider with a running dog is a big part of it is a dog that stays close to you - I reckon a herding breed is typically easier to train to do that than a labrador or poodle.   I know both can be pretty good at obedience but they can also both be pretty loopy types of dog that like meeting anything and everything.  I wouldn't look at bigger dogs as just with people smaller is often better for running (within reason) - some small dogs have a lot of endurance - as mentioned some terriers just keep going forever - we've got a Manchester Terrier who is pretty much impossible to fatigue - but you'd have to keep him on a lead for running and he keeps trying to stop to sniff stuff.

The other thing you might want to think about is a dog with a short coat is much better for running off road - my Belgian Shepherd needs a shower after any off road running at this time of year - that means carrying her upstairs to avoid getting mud all over the carpets.  

edit - the mention of Malinois above - a straight Malinois would make a great running dog and would easily keep up but they can be pretty full on dogs in other ways.   As above my belgian shep would not fancy 15 miles at 6 minute miling - she has done half marathon distance OK but get her under 7 minute miling and you can see she is starting to work hard - I think it's partly the heavyish coat.

Edited: 28/09/2012 at 10:43
28/09/2012 at 11:34

Dont think its a question of size #smirk as i have a jack russell cross and he runs for ever. He did all my marathon training with me up to 17 miles this year, and although i dont run fast, he does easily, most of the time i cant keep up with him. No good me putting him on a lead as he would just pull all the time, as i go too slow for him!

28/09/2012 at 11:51

I don't have a dog but saw a thread on this somewhere once (possibly not on this site) and one comment made me smile, somebody with a greyhound who said their dog thrashed the legs off them for the fist mile but then wanted to be carried home

28/09/2012 at 15:51

Glad to see the comments about collies. Our first dog was a collie and has yet to be matched by any other in terms of intelligence and loyalty. He would have walked for miles and miles - we never ran with him but he had great traffic sense and probably wuld have been a great wee runner. Also fantastic with young kids; I caught my niece using him as a step to climb up onto the sofa when she was a toddler and he just lay there until she was safely up, before relocating.  Fiercely protective, too. My friend ran over to give me a hug one day and the dog must have thought I was being attacked. It was the only time I ever saw him growl at anyone.

All great qualities for a running dog, and a family dog in general. But I am very biased, because I really loved that dog.


28/09/2012 at 17:32

We looked at Labradoodles and breeder told us they were a stop start kind of dog and therefore not really suited to running with long distances. She said probably be fine over short distances and whatever shouldn't run with them when below 12-18 months.


28/09/2012 at 17:32

You should search for the other threads on this subject, there have been at least four over the years. We've had German Shepherds and White Shepherds for over 30 years and all but one have been great runners, our Snowy ran the Frankfurt marathon with my OH, and Oz did numerous half-marathon and 10km races. In fact the German endurance exam for dogs is 20km running alongside a bike. It's rare for one to fail.

28/09/2012 at 19:07

I do a lot of my runs with a working lab, and he has done up to 20m with me without any problems. However, I'm a fair bit slower than you, and my runs with the dog range from around 7min/mile upwards. At this kind of pace he is still running ahead of me, slowing down, sniffing around and then pelting past me, etc...

Sorry to ask loads of questions, but are both the parent dogs labradoodles, or is it a first generation mix? Do you know anything about the heritage of the labs? Are they working labs or show?
28/09/2012 at 19:08
Ps - when I get home I'll measure my dog and let you know his size. I know he is tall and long legged for a lab, but couldn't tell you how many inches he is.....
28/09/2012 at 19:16

Kittenkat - they are both gorgeous dogs.

As for the waistbelt, I took the kids out to cheer on a 10k about a year ago, and they were amazed to see a man being pulled along by two dogs attached to his belt; my son, who is 3, accused him of cheating!

28/09/2012 at 21:01

thank you everyone for your enthusiastic and helpful replies.

It seems that maybe size of dog and leg length is less of an issue than breed and ancestry. That is, if the lab heritage is from working dogs rather than show dogs then the offspring are likely to be better runners.

My understanding has always been that poodles are intelligent athletic dogs with great endurance and labradors are also pretty athletic and have great temperaments so a labradoodle, assuming it has the good bits of both should be a good family dog and a good runner.

Any more suggestions or advice would be very welcome, especially from anyone with experience of running with labradoodles. I shall question the breeders carefully about the parent dogs and find out as much as I can, and shall share all this with my family before we make a decision.

thank you again for all your useful input.

I wish you all health, happiness and good running


28/09/2012 at 22:43

I run with a German Shepherd  x husky and a working line German Shepherd. The husky mix in my dog means he has a lot of endurance and the WL sheps are lighter and more athletic than the heavier show dogs; one of the WL tests is a 14 mile run. Mine can do that no problem; she'll come back after a long run and pick a ball up.. 'What's next?'  The only thing that truly tires them is being out on the hill all day, if we've done mountains.

Agree with TD, you want an intelligent trainable dog for running - mine will run at my heel, off-lead, past distractions. They have good recall. They know left right steady get on and whoa! for commands, which is useful when harnessed to me as their combined weight is more than mine. Sometimes I do unexpected speed work when prey like rabbits or cats are about!

Poodles are bright dogs (they're in the top 3 with border collie and GSD), but as yet I've never met a bright labradoodle, though they make good family pets. There's a trend for crossing everything with a poodle in the hope of a dog which doesn't shed fur. This isn't the case, most moult unless you get a first line gen, and there will be grooming costs if there's poodle in it to keep coat knot-free.

Also don't assume the breed defects like hip dysplacia, skin problems etc will be eradicated with a cross - you can end up with the worst of both breeds. Research the lineage well. Breeder should be able to produce 5 gens of health tested dogs - if they can't, walk away.

Some large breeds don't reach skeletal maturity until 2 years old, so don't run them  a lot in the first year. I waited til my dogs were 1.5 to run them. A herding or working breed will have the drive to run. My friend's working lab hated running. Allow rest days for the dog too. I run mine every other day and vary the route; it's mostly off-road. In warmer weather I run them early to avoid heat and keep runs short and near streams.

Use a good harness - like KK's dog, when I put harnesses on mine they know it's run and not a walk. They have K9 power harness used by the military.. you can attach side bags to it for them to carry stuff, it has a handle on the top and loops for attaching a torch and it's reflective. It is the 007 of dog harnesses, just needs a gun on top! 

28/09/2012 at 23:55

Just started running with our English Pointer about a mile at a time looking for a decent harness had a few reccomended but hes got deep manly chest (Like me) so a couple of harnesses we tried didnt fit him in the shoulder

29/09/2012 at 12:47

We never run with any of our dogs until they are at least a year old and have had hip and elbow X-rays done to show the joints are healthy.


29/09/2012 at 13:10

Goldbeetle, I'm not sure if links are allowed on here, but if you google Julius K9 power harness you'll see it. The girth and chest straps are both adjustable, so good for non-standard dog shapes. My GSDs wear a size 2 and there's a big difference in size between them (one's 40kg, the other 27kg) yet both harnesses fit.

Bionic Ironwolf, your dogs look lovely in your avatar 

29/09/2012 at 14:27

Feral they look good cheers

29/09/2012 at 14:50

oooh they come in camo too I think red might be better

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