If you need motivation to move, it's hard to beat Canis familiaris to get you out the door. But note that a dog isn't an impulse buy like a Bowflex. You can't ignore them or let them become a coat rack. This is one workout partner you mustn't bail on. If you want a new four-legged friend to accompany you on your fitness endeavors, it's important to consider breed and build to make sure you're evenly matched. The dog for the workout warrior isn't the same one as for the casual walker. And some dogs swim well, while others should stay land-based.
For any breed, you want to start out with an exam to give them a clean bill of health, says Idaho-based Marty Becker, the veterinarian for VetStreet.com and author. Wait until the dog is fully matured until you really start pushing the mileage, said Katrina Mealey, a professor of veterinary medicine at Washington State University. Mealey and Becker agree that there are simple but significant differences to identify which dogs are better workout warriors than others.
Dogs with pushed in faces — pugs, Pekingese and Shih Tzus, for example — they have a hard time breathing normally, Becker said. If you take them too far or too fast, they are at a risk of dying.
But they can still be a good fitness companion for the walker. If you're not up for lengthy and intense exercise, an older dog and/or one that is bulkier with a shorter muzzle that isn't built for speed or endurance may be more your style. Little dogs like Yorkshire terriers and miniature poodles are good too. If you do happen to have a dog with more energy than you, there is always the game of fetch.
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.