Athletic performance requires diligence, supreme effort and a desire to win. This includes all forms of physical endurance, from long distance running, sprints and other sports, such as football, tennis – to almost any sporting pursuit.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s pure running, or the skills of other sports that require speed, stamina or flexibility – not forgetting mindset.
Enter the dog! Whilst no breeds of dog are faster than animals such as the cheetah, their combination of athletic prowess and complexity of their brains, make them the perfect partner for most forms of sport. Some dogs will not take to it, purely because of their physiology, size and general lack of interest in anything competitive! But others can be an absolute bonus for driving their owners as well as themselves to be the best at what they do.
But it’s not just about physical stamina. Athletes and sportspeople have now logged onto the fact that they benefit from using their dogs to increase their mental performance and endurance. Dogs who are intent upon achieving the best for their owners can improve their mindset, to show the same determination that they exhibit themselves. There is an unbreakable bond between a dog and its owner, both encouraging each other to be the best. They are the perfect running mate, pacer and mentor!
Hunting dogs are the prime category for athletes looking for an endurance companion. Equally so, dogs such as shepherding or ‘caretaking’ animals also hit the brief. Many of these types of dogs will run and run, never tire and be keen to keep pace, if not lead it. Once a run is over, they will still be keen to carry on with only a few minutes rest!
Perfect breeds for pushing the boundaries of long-distance running are Australian Shepherd Dogs, Border Collies, Short-haired pointers, Siberian Huskies (they are also good for strength exercises) Vizslas, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Weimeraners and some breeds of terrier, such as the Parsons Russell. All of these dogs are extremely active, intelligent and able to cope with the stresses and strains of long-distance running. If you measure out a distance for your route, they will only have to be shown once what that route is. They will take the lead, and the faster your speed, they will surpass that.
Undoubtedly, the greyhound must top the list, due to their aerodynamic design. Falling into the category of ‘sighthound’, they were originally bred for hunting, although in today’s world we know them more as racing dogs. Their paws have ‘in built shock absorbers’, so covering any hard terrain is never a problem at any speed. They also make wonderful family pets, so an athlete will have a win-win situation. However, be prepared to keep this dog happy – running is what really makes him tick, and this can also be said for their smaller counterparts, the whippets.
The graceful Saluki is another prime candidate for fastest dog. Beautiful creatures, their physiology is also perfect for the running game. Originally bred for hunting down medium-sized deer, they have the speed and tenacity to follow the chase for as long as it takes. Their striding and running action are a sight to behold, combining speed with grace. They also make affectionate pets for families but need a great deal of exercise.
The Pharaoh Hound, which is not as well known in the UK, is also an ideal dog for short distance running. They are extremely fast, due to their sleek but sturdy build, but they still enjoy the comfort of a friendly home and lots of affection. Anyone looking for a dog to increase their own personal speed, would certainly not go wrong with this breed.
These are a few suggestions of suitable dogs for athletic prowess but do check out our breed profiles before choosing a specific dog, that also needs to fit into your family home.
In this category, the main emphasis seems to be on agility dogs, who can react quickly to any challenge put in front of them. You only need to watch a Crufts Flyball or agility competition to see how dogs interact their mental ability with their actual movement. They are thinking and ‘doing’ dogs with a singular aim.
Dog and ball, ball and dog – a match made in heaven! Yes, we know dogs love playing with balls, but a dog can also help improve your skills on the playing field, as good as any training in flexibility, body movement, you name it. Agility dogs are perfect for footballers and rugby players, who need to swerve and body counter in a fast-paced game.
Tottenham Hotspur and star England player Harry Kane can often be seen in his local park or pacing the pavements with his dogs, while Alexis Sanchez of Manchester United fame normally trains with his dogs, both on the pitch and off the pitch in his own personal time.
Ex-UK No.1 tennis player Tim Henman has taken it a step further, and actually trains dogs to be ‘ball dogs’! He doesn’t mean to usurp ball boys and ball girls of their normal duties but does feel that dogs can cope better in various weather conditions with their need to please.
Dogs are an incredible aid to your mental health – once they know what their ‘goal’ is, nothing is going to deter them – this is what is needed by athletes and professional sportspeople. Whilst we believe that we need to train dogs, the favour is reciprocated, you can certainly learn from your dog when it comes to positive thinking.
Neuro-scientific studies have shown that dogs have an incredible mental strength which they can pass on to their owners by way of releasing a chemical called oxytocin in our brains (also known as the neurochemical of love). This creates a positivity in our minds via the love and bond that we have with our pets.
Dogs will push you to achieve when you see them in action. Physically, they will improve your body stamina, flexibility and ability to react quickly. Mentally, they will give you confidence to achieve and the desire to win. Don’t expect to come first over your dog though – his desire is probably greater than yours!