It can be tricky when your German Shepherd runs long distances.
That why it’s great that you’re reading this article (it proves that you care about the well-being of your German Shepherd).
Here you’ll discover:
- Exactly how fast (and how far) your German Shepherd can run.
- From what age it’s safe to let your pooch run long distances.
- 15 tips to run safely with your German Shepherd.
- And more…
Table of contents
- How far can German Shepherds run?
- How fast can German Shepherds run?
- From what age can you run a German Shepherd?
- If German Shepherds are one of the fastest dogs, why don’t they race?
- 15 tips to run safely with your German Shepherd
- What to do when out running with your German Shepherd
How far can German Shepherds run?
German Shepherds can run from 5 to 20 miles (8 – 32 kilometers). How far they can run depends on their training, endurance and outside conditions. They are capable of reaching far distances with consistent training.
How fast can German Shepherds run?
German Shepherds are one of the fastest breeds of dog. They can run at a top speed of 32 mph (52 kph). This is if they are healthy, the weather is fine and the terrain is good. That’s an achievement considering how heavy they can get.
From what age can you run a German Shepherd?
A German Shepherd should run if they’re over 15 months old. If you take them running earlier, it may damage the growth plates of the long bones. It takes this long for their bones to develop properly. Take them running only when they are done growing.
If German Shepherds are one of the fastest dogs, why don’t they race?
German Shepherds are strong, have stamina and boundless energy. You’d think they can finish the race and still have lots of energy to burn.
If they can run at 52 kph, why aren’t they in a race?
Before answering that question, let me clarify a few things:
- Dogs have four main gaits: walk, trot, canter and gallop.
- How fast a dog runs refers to their speed at a gallop.
Now back to the question.
Despite being strong and agile, German Shepherds are not runners. They were originally bred to be herding dogs.
As a working dog, trotting is what they do best.
When trotting, a German Shepherd moves the diagonal pairs of legs simultaneously. They can trot 27 – 29 kph (17 – 18 mph).
They trot because it is more efficient in the performance of their job. It enables them to move fast to establish boundaries for sheep and prevent strays.
Another reason why they won’t be able to race effectively is the double-suspended gallop. Observe how a dog runs.
You’ll notice 2 things:
- When all the dog’s limbs are underneath themselves.
- When their front legs are extended in front of them and their rear legs all the way to the back.
German Shepherds can perform this double-suspended gallop at full speed. But they don’t have the spinal flexibility that Greyhounds have.
15 tips to run safely with your German Shepherd
#1: Get your vet’s ‘OK’ first
The first step is to get your vet’s approval.
Your dog should be healthy before embarking on any exercise plan. Have some tests done to ensure your dog is 100% ready for some running.
For German Shepherds that are still puppies:
Take them running only if they have reached the right age, which is 15 months. (I explained why in the next section).
If they are adults, get them a clean bill of health.
For senior dogs, strenuous running is not a good idea.
Note: You should also be healthy to pull off any exercise plan with your dog. It’s helpful that your energy levels match to get the best out of running.
#2: Wait 15 months before running
I know you’re very excited to take your dog running. But hold your horses!
As owner of this awesome breed, know that German Shepherds take a while to become fully grown. It takes 15 months for their bones and muscles to fully develop.
Petmd warns against excessive running (and other strenuous exercise). It’s because it impacts the growth plates of the long bones. Damage to these plates will cause the bones to develop abnormally.
If this happens, your dog is bound to experience joint problems when older. It’s best to wait for the right age than subject them to pain later on.
Until then, let them play fetch and run in dog parks until they get tired. But don’t take them jogging or running until they are done growing.
#3: Train them first
Trust me, 15 months isn’t going to be long. Particularly if you keep yourself busy with your German Shepherd.
Now you have plenty of time to condition and train your dog. This presents the right opportunity to begin obedience training.
Obedience training should begin with basic commands. Sit, stay, stop and leave it will keep them safe in dangerous situations.
Your dog will also have plenty of time for leash training. Make them comfortable wearing an adjustable leash while running.
But if they’re going off-leash, make sure to teach them the stay command. When you’re out there, it will work wonders to keep them from running away.
It’s not funny looking for a lost dog. Especially if you’re in an unfamiliar place.
#4: Start slow
If you are not a runner, then you don’t join a marathon. Your body is not conditioned for it.
The same applies to your German Shepherd. They need to take it slow before going on long runs.
Note: German Shepherds need at least 2 hours of exercise each day.
But it doesn’t mean they are automatically made for distance running. They need training as much as you do.
Do a warm up first to get your blood going. Then start with jogging and interval training.
Introduce variation by walking for 2 minutes, then running for a minute. Do this for about 20 minutes the first week so your dog gets used to it.
After the first week, reduce the amount of time walking. Then progress to running the whole time.
Ensure that you can still talk to your dog and they can still hear your commands. If they don’t, it means you need to take a break.
Note: Keep your dog on a loose lease for now so you have the same pace.
#5: Warm up and cool down
Just as you warm up and cool down before and after a run, so does your dog.
Warming up prepares your body for a more rigorous exercise. Conversely, cooling down helps the body transition to a resting state.
Loose leash walking for 5 minutes is a good way to warm up (and also cool down). If you can’t do this outside, there’s an alternative way:
Connect your dog’s leash to a belt around your waist. Have them follow you throughout the house while you do chores.
On the other hand, have your dog do stretches when cooling down. Here’s one way to do it:
- Have your dog stand up.
- Hold a treat between your dog’s front legs so that they look toward their belly.
- Let them return their head to a neutral position (nose in front of the body).
- Give them the treat.
Active vs. passive stretching
Muscles perform most efficiently if strong. You can make them strong through stretching as it helps avoid injuries.
Humans and dogs alike can get the most of stretching when used right. Now, there are two types of stretching to think about: active and passive.
Active stretching promotes blood flow to the exercised muscles before an activity. It’s called active because there is no external force.
The dog moves one muscle group to stretch another on their own.
Passive stretching, on the other hand, improves flexibility. In addition, it relies on the use of external factors such as you helping your dog stretch.
Note: The American Sports & Fitness Association recommends active stretching for warm up and passive stretching for cool down.
After running, consider giving your German Shepherd a massage. It helps to ease muscle soreness. Use your fingertips to make circular motions along the spine muscles and legs.
And while you’re at it, check their paws for scratches or foreign objects. Wash them clean and keep them dry.
#6: Take water breaks and rest
Your dog’s body is not a machine. Endurance running is a process and your dog is still learning.
This is not to say that your dog can’t go far. In fact, they can run for 5 – 20 miles (8 – 32 kilometers). This is especially true if you train them properly.
Training aside, have as many water breaks and rest as needed. That’s why it helps to bring a portable drinking bottle on runs.
There are a variety to choose from, based on capacity, portability and material.
Since you’re running, get a bottle with a cap that doubles as a dispenser. It should be of lightweight material and leak-proof.
#7: Build distance
There’s nothing quite like running with your doggo. It’s a bonding experience that improves loyal companionship.
What’s more? Every run is an adventure for them. It’s a chance to see a world bigger than the dog park.
You may find it enjoyable to take your dog farther as they become used to running. Now the question is, how quickly can you add mileage?
It really depends on your German Shepherd. If they can run for a good amount of time with no problems, then it should be okay. Some are good with running 8 kilometers (5 miles).
Caution: Do not force them to run far distances if they are not up to it.
Here is a suggestion (though you can make your own running plan):
- Run for 2-3 miles (3-5 kilometers) 3-4 days a week.
- Add half a mile every week or so.
Note: Monitor your German Shepherd during and after increases.
You know you’re doing it too fast when they don’t want to continue running. Or stop altogether mid-run. Here are other signs that say your dog is tired:
- Refusing to start a run.
- Prolonged lethargy after a run.
In cases like this:
- Stop for water breaks.
- Rest under the shade.
- Keep their leash loose.
What to do when out running with your German Shepherd
#8: Deal with distractions the yummy way
Remember: When you’re out there, distractions will be everywhere. There may be animals to chase. Or sounds that may take their attention.
You wouldn’t want your German Shepherd to entertain these distractions.
By now, your dog has learned useful commands such as ‘leave it.’ Use this cue and carry some yummy treats such as cheese to reward them.
Eventually, your German Shepherd will figure out that you’re the best thing around. Or at least the one carrying the good stuff all the time.
This is quite helpful when you’re in high distraction places.
However, temptations sometimes get the best of them. Who can resist running after that butterfly?
Your best defense is a squeaky toy or tasty treats. These help to keep them away from distractions and back on track.
#9: Watch out for animals on the loose
What’s the worst that could happen while running?
For one, you or your dog could get bitten/attacked by an un-leashed dog.
For unexpected situations such as this, bring lots of treats. You can throw some on the ground far from you. Hopefully it distracts the dog long enough for you and your pooch to pass by safely.
#10: Watch out for overexertion
German Shepherds love a good workout.
But when you’re running, be in tune with your dog’s body language. The weather, their overall condition and double coat can all lead to exhaustion.
Check if they are:
- Lagging behind.
- Reluctant to run.
- Breathing heavily.
- Panting excessively.
- Not following commands.
- Difficulty getting up or lying down.
These are signs of overexertion. Slow down for a few days if needed.
#11: Make sure the terrain is paw-friendly
Humans have shoes to help with running. But German Shepherds run on their bare paws.
Even with shoes on, you’ll experience almost tumbling down when running on rugged terrain. Can you imagine how difficult this is for your dog?
Paws are tough but not invincible against sharp rocks and twigs and hot pavements. Even in winter, paws can get injured by ice.
Soft terrain such as grass and dirt trails are the best places for a run.
In summer, place your palm on the pavement. If it’s too hot for your skin, then it’s not safe for your dog’s paws. If you can find grassy areas for your run, your dog will thank you.
#12: Run when the weather is right
German Shepherds’ double coats protect them against the cold in winter. So your dog should be fine running during the cold months.
However, it’s another story during summer. It’s true that their double coats protect them from the heat. However, it’s not smart to take them running under the hot sun.
But how hot is too hot? If it’s over 70 degrees, do not run with your dog. This is dangerous for them.
Your dog can still run in the summer though. But limit the time and distance of running. Do it early in the morning or late at night when it’s cooler.
Caution: It’s the hottest between 10 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon. Stay indoors during this period.
#13: Watch out for heatstroke
Heatstroke is German Shepherd’s nemesis in summer or hot days.
If it’s too hot, don’t take the risk. And even if it’s not that hot, always bring water.
Always check for the following signs:
- Too much drooling.
- Difficulty breathing.
If you see one of these signs, stop running and give them water. Then take them to a vet.
#14: Respect their bad days
Dogs have their bad days, too.
What a disaster if you find out while running that they have a tummy ache. Or tired already even before running.
So before going out of the house, check your dog’s behavior.
You’ll see their excitement for a run when they sit (if you have trained them to do so). They are also in attention, smiling wide with their tongue out.
But if they don’t get up from their bed or appear to be lethargic, there could be problems. It could be a sore limb or swollen paws.
Perhaps they simply don’t feel like running today.
Always monitor their condition and react accordingly. If they’re not up for a run, perhaps they’d agree to short walks. Or maybe some puzzle games can lift their spirit.
#15: Hip dysplasia and your German Shepherd
Who isn’t proud knowing that their dog is one of the fastest dog breeds?
Did you know that German Shepherds can run at a top speed of 52 kph (32 mph)? That’s quite an achievement considering how heavy they can get.
This makes them as fast as Great Danes, Standard Poodles and Border Collies. The fastest dog, the Greyhound, can run at a top speed of 72 kph (45 mph).
Your German Shepherd doesn’t have to run that fast with you. Besides, they may not be able to maintain this speed over long distances.
What’s more important is setting a weekly goal and meeting it. This way, your dog still meets their exercise requirements.
The only thing that could stop them is diseases such as hip dysplasia.
Hip dysplasia is hereditary and more common in large dogs. Including your German Shepherd.
This is characterized by the hip socket getting loose and causing damage. This makes it very painful for a German Shepherd to even jog.
The best prevention is what you can do when they are still young. For starters, wait for them to grow fully before taking them for runs.
It’s also a huge help to give your German Shepherd the right kind of food. This is because poor nutrition can put them at greater risk of developing hip dysplasia.
Caution: Watch out how much you feed your German Shepherd. Obese dogs are prone to hip dysplasia because too much weight puts stress on your dog’s joints.
Too much exercise – or too little – is also a factor here. That’s why I previously suggested getting your vet’s approval for your exercise plan.