For the more ambitious athlete, you, of course, want the dog that simply looks fast: sleeker and with a longer muzzle. Although as shown with Mealey’s Jack Russell, they don’t have to be big.
Some specific recommendations from Becker and Mealey for dog breeds that are good distance runners are: border collies, German short-haired pointers, Dalmatians, Labrador and golden retrievers, whippets, greyhounds and standard poodles. Even if you want to run sprint intervals, they can keep up. These dogs also make good swimmers.
I asked Becker what he thought of using a dog as a swimming companion, and he thought it was a great idea. If you’ve got access to some open water and want someone alongside, a dog trained to swim is fine, but stay close to shore, just in case.
For the hiking aficionado, Becker said the Bernese mountain dog, Alaskan malamute and Siberian husky are all good choices. He also endorses doggy backpacks. “They can bring water and snacks,” he said.
Some final words of caution from both experts are that if you don’t fulfill your duties by exercising your pet, you’re asking for behavioral problems. Dogs are not a home gym you can ignore.
Becker, who also wrote the book “The Healing Power of Pets,” says that pet ownership is more than just having a dedicated workout partner.
“Pets don’t just make us feel good, they are actually good for us,” he told me. “There is a real affection connection. … It’s a bedrock you can stand on. They help people learn empathy and responsibility, and there is a lot of evidence that they promote longevity.”
So if you’re ready to be a good human, there is a four-legged friend out there waiting to become your new workout partner.