Whether your canine companion is a slowpoke or a speed demon, at times you may have wondered, "How fast can a dog run?" Like humans, that depends on the dog.
The greyhound, with its sleek lines and aristocratic look, is one of the oldest breeds–so old, in fact, that its likeness appears on an Egyptian tomb from 3000 B.C. A member of the sighthound family, it was originally bred to hunt hares and other small game.
The greyhound became a popular racing animal in the early part of the 20th century. Greyhound racing has its origins in "coursing," a contest in which dogs chase down a rabbit. In 1912, a mechanical rabbit was introduced, ostensibly for humane reasons, to prevent the unnecessary killing of jack rabbits. Today, many consider greyhound racing itself to be inhumane, with opponents claiming its animals are bred for speed without regard for their welfare.
The greyhound is generally considered to be the fastest domesticated dog, reaching average speeds of approximately 45 miles per hour. However, on longer runs, the saluki gives the greyhound a run for its money.
Saluki is another of the oldest breeds; DNA indicates that it was among the earliest to evolve from the wolf. In appearance, it is similar to the greyhound, but with longer, silky fur. Like its sighthound brethren, it too appears in Egyptian tomb art.
The Saluki has been clocked at top speeds of about 40 mph on short runs, but its remarkable endurance allows it to run fast for long periods of time, unlike other dog breeds.
A non-domesticated cousin that can outrun the greyhound and the saluki is the African wild dog (Lycaon Pictus), also known as the African hunting dog. This animal travels at a speed of about 50 mph and can cover a tremendous distance as it hunts in relay race style. When the alpha dog tires, another comes to the front of the pack, allowing the chase to continue.
The Coyote, another member of the canidae family, can also run quite fast, averaging about 45 mph.
Domestic dogs vary in size and shape so significantly that it's difficult to get a bead on just how fast they can run in general. However, most seem to travel at top speeds between 18 to 31 miles per hour, with 19 or so being the average.
This puts dogs at slightly over a three-minute mile on average. The human per-mile record is slightly under four minutes.
Most dog breeds enjoy running. However, age and general fitness play a role, as in humans. Breed and physical build are important, as well.
Hunting or herding breeds tend to be better at running longer distances, while dogs with shorter muzzles are generally not well suited to running.
If you want to take your dog running, be sure to pay close attention to his breathing and stamina. Since dogs don't sweat, their excess body heat is dissipated through their mouths and feet. That's why it's important not to run dogs for more than 25 minutes without water. Check paws for injury after every run, since your dog doesn't get to wear running shoes.