German Shepherds are a breed of dogs that are well-known for their strong bodies and adaptability. Usually, they can run for several miles; however, this will highly depend upon several aspects, including training and health.
This means that when a German Shepherds has good health and perfect training, it will be able to build up endurance, and when the weather condition are good, they will be capable of running for many miles.
How far can a German Shepherd run? Most German Shepherds are capable of running from 5 to 20 miles, how far they will run will depend a lot upon their fitness, age and overall health.
In this article, we shall be discussing in depth how far can a German Shepherd run and what aspects can affect their running ability.
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German Shepherds history and running distances:
German Shepherds today come from a long successful line of herding dogs, dating back to the late 19th century. This means they have had many generations to improve their tolerance to long hours of running around herding farm animals.
Particularly those that are descendants of a working line. For more information on different breed lines please see our article on German Shepherd breed types compared.
This history of keeping up with livestock means that German Shepherds are naturally very energetic and with the right training to help build up their strength and stamina you’ll end up with a great running buddy who will be able to either keep up with you or egg you on to run further.
What factors can affect a German Shepherds’ speed?
An average a healthy German Shepherd is capable of running between 5 to 30 miles per hour; however, there are several factors which affect this big variance in speed including:
Training: The level of training your German Shepherd has had can make a big impact on their speed. Like us dogs need to work on building up stamina and their muscles to help them become faster.
Although dogs are naturally faster runners than humans over a short distance when it comes to long distances most human beings have more stamina so are able to keep going for longer distance without a break. Our lack of thick fur and ability to cool ourselves down easily via the sweat glands all over our bodies plays a massive role in this ability.
German Shepherds have an upper paw on most dogs because of their herding history, in order for your German Shepherd to keep up with you for longer runs you will need to help them by building their strength and increasing their stamina. Later on, in this article we will go into detail on ways to help train your German Shepherd to run faster for longer distances.
Age: Your dog’s age will affect the distance they can cover. If you have a puppy or an older German Shepherd, they will not have the ability to run for a long distance.
On the other hand, a well-trained and mature German Shepherd will be capable of running at fast speed over a long distance.
Diet: The type of foods your German Shepherd is feds can play a significant role on their ability to run fast for longer periods of time. Unlike humans who rely on glycogen (which is found in carbohydrates) for energy our canine companions rely on fats.
How much extra fat your German Shepherd will require will depend upon what kind of runs you want to take them on. If you want your GSD to join you for a 20 minute jog a couple of times a week they shouldn’t require more fat than what the average commercial dog food contains. Around 15% however if you want your German Shepherd to join you on regular 5+ mile runs you may have to add some extra fat into their diet.
The best fats for German Shepherds include extra virgin olive oil, cheese, whole eggs, fatty fish, chia seeds, coconut and coconut oil.
You will only need to increase their fat intake by 1-2% which is equivalent to one teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil, to help provide your German Shepherd with enough energy.
If you are adding fat to your GSD’s diet be prepared to carry an extra poop bag or two as fats can lead to an increase in bowel movements.
When training your German Shepherd to be a runner you will also need to increase their protein intake slightly to help build and repair their muscles.
The amount of protein an adult German Shepherd requires normally is 18%. For GSD who are undertaking more vigorous exercise they will need their diet to consist of around 25% protein. For more information on how much protein a German Shepherd require please see this article.
The best protein sources for German Shepherds include: beef, lamb, veal, chicken, turkey, duck, fish (not shell fish), lentils, plain chickpeas, natural cooked beans, eggs, cheese (for more information on best cheese types to feed your German Shepherd please see this article here)
At what age should you take a German Shepherd out running?
The best time to start taking your German Shepherd out for a fast pace run is around 12 months of age.
By 12 months your German Shepherds growth rate starts to slow down, although they will continue to grow until they are between 2 and 3 years of age.
German Shepherds as young as 6 months have been known to join their owners for a slow-paced jog with no long-term effects.
We personally wouldn’t recommend taking your German Shepherd puppy for any fast pace runs before 12 months as their muscles, bones and joints are rapidly developing which makes them more susceptible to injury.
It is also ideal to teach your German Shepherd how to walk politely on a leash before increasing the speed.
If you do decide to take your German Shepherd running before 12 months of age just look out for signs, they are over doing it. (We will go into this later on in the article).
For more information on how much exercise your German Shepherd puppy needs please see our article here.
When introducing a 12 month old German Shepherd to running it is important to make it a gradual process. Ensuring that your German Shepherd is comfortable with your pace and running duration will help to reduce any injuries which could affect them in the long run.
This same approach should also be used when introducing an elder German Shepherd dog to running or if they haven’t been out for a run in a while.
How much exercise does a German Shepherd need?
Exercise is essential for your canine companion. Compared to many other breeds of dogs a German shepherd needs a lot of exercise. It is recommended your GSD gets at least 2 hours of exercise a day.
Exercise is not only good for your Shepherds physical health and wellbeing, but it also plays an important part in protecting their mental health.
If your GSD is not getting enough exercise it can cause both health and behavioural problems.
Taking your dog for a run or jog is a great way to keep them fit and healthy. Although we recommend you also taking your German Shepherd out for a daily form of exercise which isn’t so fast paced so they have chance to take in all the smells and just generally be more dog.
Although on average your German Shepherd requires 2 hours + exercise like people they won’t all be the same. Not all GSD enjoy lots of exercise. You will often find dogs of the same breed who require completely different amounts of exercise.
If your German Shepherd still has loads of energy after exercising, they may need an extra form of exercise. If they struggle or refuse to join in on the exercise being provided you may need to scale it back a bit.
How to train your German Shepherd to run with you?
Ok, so you believe you and your German Shepherd are ready to start running but where do you start? Luckily, you’ve chosen a great breed as German Shepherds are very intelligent and obedient, which makes them easier to train that a lot of other breeds.
Before you start running with your German Shepherd its good to make sure they know basic commands such as stop and sit.
This will come in useful when you have to cross road or give way to other pedestrians.
Despite the fact that German Shepherds generally have plenty of energy and are capable of exercising for 2+ hours a day, they will still require endurance training in order to be able to run for an extended period at speed.
Leash training: It is important your German Shepherd is able to walk well on a leash before you pick up the speed.
Leash training is good for numerous reasons when running, it helps to keep your shepherd with you, preventing them from getting lost and also helps your German Shepherd to maintain a similar speed to yourself.
The average healthy German Shepherd adult can run around 30-32mph, whereas the average healthy human can run around 25-28 miles per hour.
So, to be able to keep your German Shepherd at a speed you are both comfortable with a leash plays an important role.
Later on, once you German Shepherd gets used to your average pace you may feel comfortable to ditch the leash when it’s safe to do so.
Interval training is a great way to help get your German Shepherd get used to running. This variation of walking and running will help them to gradually build up their stamina and strength.
When you first start out or are running for the first time in a while it is worth doing approximately 2 minutes of walking followed by 1 minute of running. Repeat this process for about 20 minutes.
Over the next few weeks gradually increase the amount of time you spend running between your 2 minutes of walking.
Once your German Shepherd can comfortably run a solid 20 minutes without showing any signs of distress or slowing down to a walking pace you might like to consider moving onto step 3.
Once your German Shepherd is used to running, you might consider increasing the distance. Depending upon your fitness level and ability your 20-minute run will cover approximated 1-2 miles.
If your both ready to take on a few more miles it is recommended you gradually increase your running distance by around 10 minutes the equivalent of around ½-1 mile. If needed take a few walking breaks in between.
After a few weeks, once that extra 10 minutes is able to be comfortably completed add another 10 mins, repeating the process until you are able to reach the required distance.
What are the signs you are overexerting your German Shepherd?
It is important to not push your German Shepherd too hard, too fast.
With patience and determination they will soon be able to join you for longer distances.
It’s important to remember no two dogs are the same and some will take a bit more convincing than others.
There are several signs that show you are overexerting the German Shepherd. Some of these signs include;
- Missing the cues as well as commands
- Excessive panting and heavy breathing
- Excessive thirst
- Not wanting to continue or start a run
- Difficulty in lying down and getting up
- Refusing to stand
German Shepherd are at a higher risk of developing muscle and joint injuries because of their size and weight.
They are also well-known for having hip dysplasia, with overexerting being one of the leading causes.
It is extremely important to not over exercise your German Shepherd and be on the constant look out for early signs of overexertion because a lot of injuries including hip dysplasia are irreversible and will cause permanent damage.
Safety tips that you need to consider when training your German Shepherd:
Terrain: When exercising or training your German Shepherd, you should be aware of your terrain.
Where possible prevent your German Shepherd from running too often on the hard floors; this is because the lack of shock absorbance with regular exposure could be too hard on their joints. Icy surfaces should be avoided at all costs when running to avoid injuries.
The best terrains for your German Shepherd to run include: dirt, trails, grass and beaches.
On a hot day it is important to check how hot the terrain is on your bare foot or palm of your hand before taking your German Shepherd on it. If it feels too hot for you, it will be too hot for your furry companion.
Weather: German Shepherds are said to be double-coated; this means that they have two layers of coat that aids in protecting them against weather conditions.
The double coat aids in protecting them during winter and helps to cool them in the summer however, it can causes them to overheat during humid heats or when exercising in excessive heat.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not be tempted to shave your German Shepherd. For reasons on why you shouldn’t shave a German Shepherd please see this article.
You should avoid running with your German Shepherd when temperature exceed more than 88 degrees Fahrenheit.
Whenever the heat and humidity levels are this high, the chances of heatstroke increase massively.
Heatstroke can rapidly become a medical emergency and possible even a threat to life. It’s important to remember that your German Shepherd can only sweat through the pads of their paws and by panting.
With temperatures around 77 degrees Fahrenheit it is recommended you limit the distance your run and ideally keep it to a shaded area.
During the hot months try running with your German Shepherd during cooler times, such as late evening and early morning.
Signs of heatstroke in a German Shepherd:
If you suspect your German Shepherd has heatstroke it is very important to remove them from the heat source, give them a little water (do not give them too much in one go as this increases their risk of bloat. For more information on bloat in German Shepherds please see this article) and get them to a vet as soon as possible.
Some of the signs that show your dog is having a heatstroke include;
- Excessive panting
- Increased heart rate
- Difficulty in breathing
Tips for making your run with a German Shepherd successful:
- It is best to keep your running speed to a pace where you don’t find it difficult to communicate commands and praise to your German Shepherd. Communication is key in building a strong bond with your running partner and for safety reasons.
- Increasing the distance can be better than increasing the pace. Higher speeds are more likely to cause worse injuries that slower speeds.
- Regular breaks are not bad for you nor your German Shepherd and can actually help you to be more productive long term.
- Always have fresh water available for yourself and your German Shepherd.
Avoid letting your German Shepherd drink too much too fast to reduce the risks of bloat.
- It is important to warm up before running and cool down after running for both yourself and your German Shepherd. Doing this reduces the risk of injury significantly. For you GSD a slow walk for a few minutes at the beginning and end of the run should be enough.
We hope this article has helped you to get a better understanding on how far a GSD can run.
Your German Shepherd can make an amazing running companion and are capable of running many miles. However, age, diet, training, perseverance and patience will play an important role on determining how far and fast your German Shepherd will run.
If you have any questions relating to German Shepherds, you would like us to answer or if you have any more tips please leave a comment below or contact us using this form here.