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How Fast Can Dogs Run?

By Aviram K.
February 21, 2021
4 min read

Everybody is probably familiar with the old adage “as fast as a greyhound.” However, just how fast is “fast,” and is it possible for greyhounds to keep up with the line of coach buses named for them?

And what about other dog breeds? Do all dogs have the ability to match greyhounds stride-for-stride in a foot race?

When all breeds are considered, dogs’ average speed is between 15-20 miles per hour. However, the fastest dogs, such as the greyhound as mentioned above, can top out at speeds of 45 MPH. In comparison, the slowest dogs have difficulty going faster than 5 MPH.

As you can see, there is a large disparity in the range of top-end speeds among dog breeds. For the most part, though, dogs are built for running faster and longer distances than their human counterparts.

Let’s take a look at the factors that influence how fast a dog can run and explore some ideas on how to improve your dog’s running ability.

Why Some Dogs Run Faster Than Others

Most dogs can run at impressive speeds due to an advanced skeletal system that promotes high velocities. Some of the dogs’ unique skeletal features that make them well-equipped to run fast include:

  • A flexible spine that contracts and expands while running, allowing the dog to cover as much distance as possible with each stride
  • Long, lean legs and powerful hip muscles that support their frame and provide them with speed and endurance when running
  • Disconnected shoulder bones that support greater flexibility in their joints and allow for longer strides while running
  • Long, nose-shaped heads that cut through the wind with ease

However, while these general characteristics make dogs strong runners, not all breeds display these characteristics as prominently as others, which helps account for the discrepancies in their running abilities.

Famously fast breeds such as greyhounds, Salukis, and Afghan hounds display these characteristics in droves.

On the other hand, it is unsurprising that slower breeds, such as English bulldogs, with their large, flat faces; short, stubby legs; and weak hips prone to dysplasia are comparatively much slower.

Now that you know what makes a dog run faster, it is time to look at some of the world’s fastest and slowest dog breeds.

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Fastest and Slowest Dog Breeds

Unsurprisingly, the fastest dogs in the world display a strong combination of a fast runner’s characteristics, such as long legs; lean, modestly sized frames, powerful muscles; and a pointed snout. The world’s fastest dogs include:

  • Greyhound (45 MPH)
  • Saluki (42 MPH)
  • Afghan Hound (40 MPH)
  • Vizsla (40 MPH)
  • Ibizan Hound (40 MPH)
  • Jack Russell Terrier (38 MPH)
  • Dalmatian (37 MPH)
  • Borzoi (36 MPH)
  • Whippet (35 MPH)
  • Pharoah Hound (35 MPH)

On the other hand, the world’s slowest dogs will be conspicuously lacking one or more of a fast runner’s qualities. Some of the slowest dogs in the world are:

  • Shih Tzu (6 MPH)
  • Lhasa Apso (7 MPH)
  • Japanese Chin (7 MPH)
  • Pomeranian (7 MPH)
  • Basset Hound (<10 MPH)
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi (10 MPH)
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (10 MPH)
  • English Mastiff (12 MPH)
  • Australian Bulldog (12 MPH)
  • Saint Bernard (15 MPH)

Does Your Dog Seem Slower than Its Same-Breed Peers?

If your dog is not able to match the world’s fastest dogs in terms of top-end speed, the following reasons can help explain why:

  • Physical Differences- the fact that your dog is the same breed as its peer doesn’t necessarily mean that they are built the same. Your dog may be slightly heavier, has shorter legs, or fewer quick-twitch muscle fibers—all of which may slow it down.
  • Age- like all living things, dogs will get faster until they reach maturity. Once mature, they will have a few years where they are at the peak of their top-end speed and then gradually see their running ability decline as they increase in age.
  • Training- the more a dog runs, the better it will become at running. Conversely, if a dog lies around too much and never exercises, it will not be able to run as fast.
  • Temperament/Specific traits- the other dogs may simply have a different, more fun-loving personality that makes them want to run as fast as possible.

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Can You Train Your Dog to Run Faster?

While you may never be able to turn your Shih Tzu into a greyhound in terms of running ability, there are definitely some ways you can train your dog to be a faster runner.

The following are a few easy ways to put a little more pep in your dog’s step:

  • Make exercise a priority - sprinting at top speed does not have to be an everyday occurrence for your dog. However, it will not be able to run faster if it falls out of shape. Ensure that your dog is getting regular exercise to train its muscles and maintain manageable body weight—both factors that will help it run faster.
  • Use toys - even some of the slowest dogs on our list have playful personalities and perk up at the sight of their favorite toys. A good game of fetch is a surefire way to get your dog used to zooming around as fast as possible.
  • Run with them - it is no secret that a dog is a person’s best friend. Therefore, if your dog sees you running, it is likely to do everything it can to match your stride-for-stride
  • Change up the scenery - most dogs love to go exploring and get excited by new experiences. Therefore, if your backyard run is getting a little commonplace, take your dog to a new location for a game of fetch.
  • Keep the sessions short - dogs are just as susceptible to burnout as humans. Dogs will approach running with more vigor if they are subjected to brief, regular sessions instead of trying to get them faster in a single day.

How Long Can Dogs Run For?

The average dog can comfortably run anywhere between 2 and 5 miles. However, just as with top speeds, there is a significant disparity in a dogs’ distance running abilities. Sporting and herding dogs, such as collies, can run 10 miles with relative ease, while short-legged bulldogs will be spent well short of two miles.

And while running is a healthy, enjoyable experience for most dogs, it can be dangerous to push some dogs too hard on their runs. Keep the following in mind as you consider making your dog your running buddy:

  • Always have your dog checked by the veterinarian before starting a regular running regimen.
  • Make sure that your dog has access to water during the run.
  • Older dogs may be unable to keep up for extended distances.

Conclusion

The average top-end running speed for dogs across all breeds is between 15 and 20 MPH. However, there is a significant variance from one dog to the next, with some greyhounds capable of reaching 45 MPH, with short-legged Shih Tzus topping out at a leisurely 6 MPH.

Whatever your breed of dog, there are safe and effective ways you can help increase its running ability to make him or her the perfect companion on your morning jogs.


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