If you’re looking for a four-legged friend who can keep up with your active lifestyle, you’re in luck. A number of dog breeds are natural athletes who are perfectly suited for high-energy pursuits and outdoor adventures.
But before bringing home a new dog, it’s important to do your research and carefully consider your day-to-day lifestyle. While certainly fun, active dog breeds aren’t content to spend a lazy weekend on the couch.
“If you’re looking for an active breed, you need to be prepared to provide the proper amount of exercise, both physical and mental,” says Gina DiNardo, executive secretary at the American Kennel Club (AKC). “When a dog doesn’t get enough activity and mental stimulation, it can lead to destruction because the dog is trying to find an outlet for their energy.”
If an active dog is, indeed, a fit for your family, consider the following fun-loving breeds.
Don’t be fooled by their prim reputations – in reality, Poodles are extremely athletic dogs.
“Poodles are actually very active and energetic,” says Steffi Trott, a certified professional dog trainer and owner of SpiritDog. “They were originally bred to be water retrievers, and worked with their owners all day long during a hunt. Standard, Miniature, and even Toy Poodles can showcase an insane amount of energy.”
Before considering any active breed, Trott urges pet parents to understand the daily commitment. “Many owners think that owning an active breed means they have a companion for their weekend hike or going camping once a month,” she says. “This could not be farther from the truth! An active dog needs exercise every single day and tends to have increased training needs.”
Labrador Retrievers have been the most popular dogs in the United States for 29 straight years, according to AKC registrations. And for good reason: The outgoing, spirited breed is famously friendly and versatile. When it comes to active family dogs, Labs top DiNardo’s list.
Originally bred to retrieve ducks on hunting excursions, Labs have a natural love for swimming and games of fetch. You might also consider enrolling your Lab in canine sports including agility and dock diving.
You can’t mention active dog breeds without the Golden Retriever. Enthusiastic and eager to please, Goldens are beloved for their winning personalities and classic good looks.
DiNardo also recommends Golden Retrievers for active families. Like Labs, Goldens were bred to retrieve prey, and especially enjoy fetch and Frisbee games. They also excel at dog sports, and make great running buddies.
An iconic working breed, German Shepherds are known for being loyal, smart, and confident. Although historically herding dogs, Shepherds are now more often employed as police and military K-9s. Because of their mix of brawn and brains, German Shepherds require healthy amounts of both physical and mental exercise, so plan on consistent, reward-based training.
Shepherds are considered “a dog lover’s dog,” and have a somewhat niche fanbase. If this is your first time owning a dog, Trott warns that the breed might be overwhelming. “German Shepherds can exhibit breed-specific reactivity and aggression, and should not be adopted by inexperienced owners,” she says.
The word “terrier” is almost synonymous with “active.” “Terriers are pocket rockets!” says Trott. “They’re small, sturdy, and have unlimited stamina.”
Russell Terriers are especially popular for their upbeat, spunky attitudes. As former fox hunters, Russell Terriers have boundless energy and love to spend time romping around the great outdoors. Extremely playful, they make wonderful companions to dog-savvy children.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
An established Instagram darling, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi recently broke into the AKC’s top 10 breed rankings. While on the smaller side, these adorable low-riders are far from ornamental lap dogs.
“The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is a great active breed,” says DiNardo. “It’s a lot of dog in a smaller package.”
Lively, bright, and affectionate, Corgis are herding dogs and love staying busy. Plan for daily training exercises and long family walks. While Corgis make great jogging companions, their shorter legs rule out faster runs or bike rides.
In addition to Corgis, there are a number of other smaller breeds that suit active lifestyles. DiNardo specifically recommends the ever-popular Beagle.
Known for their merry demeanors, Beagles were traditionally used to hunt rabbits. Because they were bred to work closely beside humans, they need large amounts of social interaction and physical activity. It’s not enough to simply let your Beagle out in the backyard – get ready for long walks and lots of sniffing.
If you can keep up with a Border Collie, the famously energetic herding dog is an excellent companion. Trott counts Border Collies among her favorites, and has two of her own.
Border Collies need vigorous daily activity – no quick walks around the block for these guys – and plenty of space to run, run, run. Eager to learn, Border Collies and their busy brains require regular training to stay engaged, and greatly benefit from agility work.
Although commonly associated with firehouses, Dalmatians got their start trotting alongside horse-drawn carriages and then guarding the unattended coach. Not surprisingly, these high-energy dogs are gifted runners and enjoy accompanying their people on jogs, bike rides, and hikes.
When properly exercised and trained, Dalmatians can make great family dogs, says Trott. They don’t have a strong natural prey drive, so aren’t prone to “herding” children or nipping at heels, she adds.
Australian Shepherd & Miniature American Shepherd
Popular among cowboys and ranchers for their tireless work ethic, Australian Shepherds are agile, enthusiastic herding dogs. They’re closely related Miniature American Shepherds – commonly called “Mini Aussies” – which are increasingly popular pets thanks to their small size and big spirit.
Trott notes that both breeds are highly trainable, and can make great pets for dedicated owners. But keep in mind that both Australian Shepherds and Miniature American Shepherds are herders at heart, meaning they need to run, hike, and “work” regularly. Despite their size, Mini Aussies are not lap dogs and require as much exercise as their cowboy cousins.
Protecting Your Active Pet: Parasite Prevention
All dogs should be on year-round parasite preventives. The most active dog breeds, however, are at even greater risk of contracting fleas, ticks, and worms while exploring the outdoors.
Parasites aren’t simply inconvenient or uncomfortable – they can cause serious health problems. Severe flea infestations can lead to anemia, while tick bites can cause complications including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Tick Paralysis. Heartworm disease is potentially fatal and may result in permanent organ damage.
Your veterinarian can recommend a quality parasite control plan that is appropriate for your active dog. The sooner your pet is protected, the sooner you can enjoy the great outdoors together!