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German Shepherd owners are no strangers to the fact that our beloved breed is a high energy one and often requires frequent exercise. Many German Shepherd owners are also high energy people themselves and will seek out physical activities that they can enjoy alongside their four-legged friends.
Plus, for owners who are short on time or prefer to have a good running buddy, having your pup with you is a great way to condense your activities for the day and to help motivate you to stick to your running schedule!
While most breeds of dogs are capable of being running companions, some breeds are more capable of it than others. So, what about German Shepherds? Do German Shepherds like to run?
Most German Shepherds like to run and they make an excellent choice for a running companion. They are highly athletic, intelligent, and easily trainable. With proper conditioning, they can complete long distances and run over a variety of terrains in various weather conditions, making them a good option for marathon and endurance runs.
Below we’ll discuss why German Shepherds like to run, and what exactly makes them such a fantastic choice for a running partner. We’ll also talk about how fast German Shepherds can run, how far they can run, and how they can be trained to run with you.
Finally, we’ll discuss how to keep your German Shepherd safe while running with you, and some related physical activities you can do with your German Shepherd.
Do German Shepherds Like To Run?
Today’s German Shepherd is not far off from the original German Shepherd-type dog that was originally bred by Captain Max von Stephanitz in 1889, where he favored the work ethic and intelligence of the dog over anything else.
This led to the German Shepherd being utilized for highly athletic and physically demanding activities like herding, farm work, and guard dog duties.
The athletic prowess of the breed did not go unnoticed by the police and military, and the German Shepherd became a staple in police and military units. From there, the German Shepherd has been seen everywhere from the agility ring to spending long hours in the wilderness working as a Search & Rescue K9.
This history of athleticism, endurance, and work ethic has resulted in a dog that enjoys being physically active. German Shepherds do love to run, whether in short bursts of speed or at a more steady jog over longer distances.
The breed’s history as a herding dog can also be seen in their love of running and chasing, and some German Shepherds still enjoy engaging in those natural herding instincts and short bursts of speed from time to time.
As the breed is very tolerant of various working conditions, this also makes them a good choice for those who don’t let poor weather conditions stop them when it comes to their daily run.
Other similar sized breeds of dogs, like the Boxer, Rottweiler, or Pit Bull, may enjoy running but they have additional physical limitations that reduce their ability to run for long distances and they are more restricted by external conditions such as weather. For the German Shepherd, despite their larger size, they have no such restrictions and are capable of great physical feats when it comes to running.
Do German Shepherds Make Good Running Partners?
In addition to their love of running, the German Shepherd’s physical and mental capabilities also make them excellent running partners. German Shepherds are naturally athletic and muscular dogs and they can withstand heavy physical activity.
With proper conditioning, they can also develop excellent endurance, and their medium to large size makes them ideal for running as they are big enough to keep up with their human companions but not so big that they tire out before the run is over.
German Shepherds are also intelligent, loyal, and easily trainable. They love to be with their owner, which is great for a running partner (but maybe not so much if you need to leave them alone for the day) and their attentiveness also makes them a good choice for first-time dog owners.
Certain other breeds of dogs, such as some hunting breeds, may become distracted by their natural instincts if you are jogging out on the trail and come across a flock of birds. Not so with the German Shepherd!
If properly trained, a German Shepherd’s priority is usually their owner and the job they are given, which in this case would be the run itself.
Teaching your German Shepherd leash manners or even off-leash behaviors is easy due to their high level of intelligence, which means you can worry less about your pup misbehaving out on a run and focus more on the run itself.
German Shepherds can also be intimidating due to their size and breed stereotypes, so if you run alone or in an unsafe area (whether due to people or wildlife), the presence of your German Shepherd may help deter any potential threats.
How Do I Train My German Shepherd To Run With Me?
Before training your German Shepherd to run with you, the first few steps you need to take is to assess your and your dog’s fitness level and how much both of you actually want to get into running. Once you’ve made sure everyone is capable and on board then the next steps are all about training.
So, let’s check the steps one at a time!
1. Assess Your Fitness Level
Training your German Shepherd to run with you will depend a lot on your own level of training. So, before starting to run with your German Shepherd, I’d first suggest seeing where you are at with your own fitness level before attempting to add in a dog.
If you are a seasoned runner and try to bring in your German Shepherd on one of your regular runs, you may ask too much of them, too soon, and could potentially sour your dog’s interest in running at best or injure them at worst.
On the other hand, if you are new to running and try to bring in your pup right off the bat, you could wind up frustrating both you AND your dog when trying to form good running habits, so it’s usually best to get started on your own first and then add your dog in once you have gotten into the groove of things.
2. Assess Your Dog’s Fitness Level
Once you are ready to add in your pup, you will want to make sure your German Shepherd is in good physical condition first.
Puppies and younger dogs who are still growing are not the best candidates for running as they are still developing and too much physical activity (which includes running, jumping, and any strenuous impact on their joints) could cause issues later on in life.
Similarly, senior German Shepherds or those suffering from any sort of medical condition may also not be a good candidate for a running partner.
German Shepherds can be prone to joint issues including hip and elbow dysplasia, so if your dog has any sort of history of this you should check with your vet first before running with them. A lot of this depends on how frequently you wish to run, the terrain you are running on, and the pace at which you are running.
When in doubt, discuss your interest in running with your pup’s veterinarian and have them conduct an exam to see if your German Shepherd is in good condition to start running with you.
In most cases, if you are just interested in jogging around the block a few times a week, it’s likely your German Shepherd will be able to accompany you.
But if you are wanting to start running trails or have a vision of competing in a 5k alongside your dog, then you may need to be more mindful of your dog’s physical abilities.
3. Check In With Your Dog
Even if your German Shepherd is physically capable of running with you, they may not want to.
Just as with people, some dogs just aren’t interested in certain activities. While German Shepherds do tend to love being physically active and enjoy running, there are certain individuals where it’s just not their thing.
If this is the case with your pup, then it’s best not to force them to do something they don’t want to do and to find an alternative activity that they can enjoy instead.
4. Start With Basic Leash Training
To begin training your German Shepherd to start running with you, you’ll want to start with basic leash manners if your pup doesn’t yet have those.
Using positive reinforcement and reward-based training is best for teaching this, and if your pup is a puller you can also use humane pieces of equipment such as a front clip harness or a head halter to help with the leash training process.
While you may eventually be able to run with your German Shepherd off-leash, it’s best (and safest) to start running with them on leash first.
5. Train Your Dog To Understand Different Paces
Once you’ve completed leash training with your dog, you can move on to helping your German Shepherd understand the different paces required for jogging and running.
Unlike walking, running can have greater differences in pace and it may take a bit of learning until your German Shepherd understands what pace they should be running at in order to stay in line with you.
This can take a little bit of trial and error and is largely dependent on your own individual pace and running style, but again using reward-based training can help teach your pup to stay by your side rather than behind or in front of you.
Rewarding your dog when they are in the location you want them to be will help encourage them to stay in that place, and you can also teach them verbal cues for pace changes such as “faster”, “slower”, “left”, “right”, or “stop” which can make for an easier run.
If your dog does get ahead of you or tries to zig-zag, you may have to go back to some leash training basics to help teach them where you want them to be, and you may have to stick to shorter and slower runs until your pup learns the ropes.
6. Endurance Training
If you are interested in training for longer distances, trail running, or anything that requires more effort and endurance from your German Shepherd, you will also need to start a conditioning program to help build up your dog’s cardiovascular health, muscle strength, and overall physical fitness (just like you would do for yourself!).
As this type of training can vary greatly depending on the individual dog and what activity you are wanting to do, it’s best to talk with your veterinarian or a canine physical therapist who may be able to help you come up with a good training program for your German Shepherd.
7. Off-Leash Training
For off-leash runs, you’ll want to first check local laws and ordinances to make sure it’s even legal to run with your dog off-leash. In many areas (including many national parks and open spaces), it is illegal for dogs to be off-leash.
In other areas, while it may be legal for your dog to be off-leash provided you have verbal control over them, it’s not always safe for them to be off-leash due to wildlife in the area, dangerous terrain, or other off-leash dogs who may not be as friendly as your dog.
If you do opt to run with your dog off-leash, make sure you have established a reliable recall first before ever attempting to run with them off-leash. Practice this recall repeatedly in a variety of environments and with various distractions, including other moving objects, people, and animals.
If your dog doesn’t return to you during these practice sessions each time, every time, then they are not ready to run with you off-leash!
If your German Shepherd does have a solid recall, always make sure they stay in your general vicinity while running and that you maintain eyesight of them at all times. You should also always have a leash available to attach, and if you see an approaching person, dog, or other animals, you should always call your dog back and leash them up rather than continuing forward with your dog off-leash.
In the video below, you’ll find some tips and gear suggestions for running with your German Shepherd:
How Fast Can A German Shepherd Run?
German Shepherds are capable of running short distances very quickly and can reach speeds of between 15-25mph in that short burst, which is about average with most dogs of similar size.
They are also capable of maintaining a slower jogging speed and can match pace with a human’s average jogging pace of 4-6mph, as well as matching the average human’s running pace of 9mph.
Can German Shepherds Run Long Distances?
Due to their athleticism, German Shepherds are capable of running long distances when properly conditioned. They are not able to maintain high speeds for long distances, but they can maintain a slower, steady pace over longer distances.
Their ability to run over long distances makes the German Shepherd a good candidate for those owners interested in trail running, endurance runs, or marathon runs.
While some types of runs may be too physically demanding, other types of runs are suitable for a well-trained and properly conditioned German Shepherd to complete alongside their owner.
In the video below, an ultra runner and trail runner describes his process for how he runs with his German Shepherd, and how he keeps his dog safe while running:
How Can I Make Sure My German Shepherd Is Safe While Running?
When running with your German Shepherd, you want to take some precautions to make sure both you and your pup are safe.
If you are running at night or during low visibility times (such as at dawn or dusk), using a reflective leash, harness, or collar will keep your dog visible. Alternatively, attaching a flashing light to your dog’s collar or harness (or even using a glow-in-the-dark collar, leash, or harness) can also make sure your dog is visible to everyone.
Being aware of the temperature and weather conditions is also important when running with your German Shepherd. Before heading out on your run, feel the pavement with your hand. If you can’t keep your hand on the ground for more than a few seconds, then it is too hot to take your dog out.
Monitoring your pup for signs of heatstroke while out on your run is also important, and taking hydration breaks is vital in making sure your dog stays healthy.
If you are running on varied terrain, pay attention to any loose footing, sharp objects, or toxic plants or substances, and don’t let your German Shepherd eat anything unknown while out on your run.
Educating yourself on signs of illness or injury in dogs can help prepare you in the event your dog needs assistance while out on a run, and if you are running in a more remote area, it’s wise to keep a small first aid kit on hand to help with any small injuries your pup may sustain.
What Other Physical Activities Can I Do With My German Shepherd?
If running is not of interest to your German Shepherd, or if you are interested in exploring other physical activities to do with your German Shepherd, there’s a whole host of other things you can do with your pup.
German Shepherds make great partners for hiking, swimming, boating, obstacle coursework, trick training…the list is virtually endless!
Their intelligence, athleticism, and trainability make them prime candidates for any activity you can put your mind to. The sky is the limit!
Running is a great activity to enjoy with your German Shepherd, and is a great way to have fun with your pup while also helping exercise them.
Whether you are wanting them to accompany you around the block or you are working on training them to join you on your next 10k, a German Shepherd makes a great choice for a running partner and they are a popular choice for those owners who crave physical activity and want a dog that loves it just as much.