Fitness Articles

Sporty Dogs: The Best Breeds for Active People

The Best Dogs for Running, Biking and Other Outdoor Activities

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If you're an active and outdoorsy person who likes running, hiking or boating, it's nice to have some company who shares your passion. When your friends and loved ones aren't available, there's a dog for that.  
 
Before you adopt a cute little puppy, consider your choice carefully. Some dogs love tagging along on your active pursuits and climate, but others, no matter how hard you try, will never be your go-to sporting buddy. While every dog has an individual personality and temperament, certain breeds (or mixes of those breeds) are more likely to enjoy (and keep up with) certain physical pursuits.
 
Find out which breeds are most geared toward specific activities, sports and climates so you can find your perfect match!
 
Long-Distance Walking
Nearly all dogs love to go for walks, but if you plan to cover serious ground (more than a mile or two) the average canine might not be willing to go the distance. These three breeds will walk the line.

Doberman pinscher: This large, energetic dog's behavior improves when he gets plenty of exercise. Long walks are perfect for this breed, which is known to excel in obedience training. Many people are afraid of Dobermans because of their reputation as guard dogs, so be prepared to get some looks on your walks—which could be a good thing if you walk alone and want to feel safer.

Rottweiler: Proper training and early socialization is crucial for this powerful breed. The cute puppy can reach more than 100 pounds in weight in a matter of weeks. Long walks are a healthy choice for these dogs who can easily become overweight if they're given too much food.

Border collie: This herding dog has virtually limitless amounts of energy and curiosity, which can make him a challenging pet to own. Keep him busy or he'll get bored. This is also a perfect breed to explore dog sports like agility and flyball.
 
Running
For running, you'll want a companion who can keep up with you in both speed and distance. A long-legged dog will be better able to match your stride and stay the course. These are the best breeds to consider if you prefer a four-legged running partner.

Rhodesian ridgeback: Bred in Africa to hunt lions, these dogs can be stubborn if not trained early in life. But their stamina will impress even the most avid runners.

Saluki: For fast runners, there's no better companion than this ancient breed. These sleek dogs are difficult to train and tend to be quiet and shy. Always keep this breed on a leash, otherwise their strong prey drive could cause them to chase a squirrel (or a cat) right into the street.

Vizsla: This hunting dog needs an hour of exercise a day to be happy, but he'd rather stick beside you than stray far away. Help him stay warm during winter runs; his short coat won't do the trick.
 
Biking or Rollerblading
It's tough to imagine an animal that could keep up with a human on a bicycle or inline skates, but these three energetic, long-legged breeds will happily run mile after mile beside you.

Dalmatian: Many people are attracted to these striking dogs, but most aren't ready to deal with their high energy. Dalmatians were originally bred to run alongside carriages to protect them and then used to lead horse-drawn fire carts, so they have no problem keeping up with bikes.

Weimaraner: This highly intelligent, extremely energetic dog can be challenging to own. But if you can provide an hour or more of strenuous exercise a day, you can cut down on this breed's less wonderful behaviors like chewing and barking, and be delighted by your pet's cheerful antics.

Greyhound: Though this breed is known for speed, these long-legged dogs are actually quite happy to be coach potatoes most of the time, which makes them less challenging to own than other dogs who like to run. They're happy to keep up with your bike, but don't push the distance too much.
 
Hiking and Camping
For short hikes and family camping trips, most dogs will be happy to join you. If you're the more adventurous type, a strong dog will actually be able to help you carry gear and will be willing to hike deep into the woods for a weekend getaway. Here are some good breeds for outdoor explorers.

Bernese mountain dog: Originally bred in Switzerland to herd cattle and pull carts, the Bernese mountain dog is truly a hard worker. This dog has the reputation of being easy to train and eager to please. A large dog (up to 115 pounds), he needs more living space than the average canine. You'll want a family size tent if you plan to share with this dog!

Australian cattle dog: These tough, medium-size dogs were bred to herd cattle in Australia so they're quite hardy. They are very energetic and smart and need lots of activity to keep them busy. They don't mind harsh climates or roughing it, which makes them perfect for serious camping trips.

Australian shepherd: Another working dog, the Australian shepherd actually hails from the United States where he was bred to herd livestock. This busy animal is ready to go from morning to night, and you'll want to give him plenty of activity to keep him from becoming destructive. He's great for camping because he'll let you know when an animal or human approaches.
 
Boating or Fishing
If you spend a lot of time on the water, look for a dog who is a natural swimmer. Eeven with these breeds, you should keep a close eye on your pet while he's in the water (and consider keeping a dog-size life vest with you). Learn more about dogs and water safety here.

Labrador retriever: The friendly Lab is the favorite dog breed in the U.S. Since the breed was originally developed to help fishermen, this dog is a natural swimmer with a love for water. Ensuring your Lab gets plenty of exercise will help balance the breed's propensity to become overweight.

Portuguese water dog: This is another breed created to help fishermen do their jobs. The Portie's love of water and webbed feet make him a perfect boating companion. If you can't take him for a swim, this dog will need daily walks to manage his energy.

Standard poodle: The poodle was originally bred to be a hunting dog, retrieving game from the water. Poodles tend to excel at obedience training and need regular exercise to manage their energy and intelligence. Their curly coat usually requires professional grooming, though, unless you want to learn how to tackle it yourself.
 
Winter Sports
Most short-haired dogs are sensitive to the cold, so if you like to spend a lot of time in the snow, choose a pet who can take the low temps. These breeds were born for winter weather.

Alaskan malamute: Intelligent, stubborn and large, the malamute probably isn't a good choice for a first-time dog owner. But, if you're willing to put in the training time, this active dog will happily participate in many strenuous activities including skijoring (pulling a person on skis). Because of his thick, double coat, you'll need to keep him cool during warm months.

Siberian husky: These athletic dogs are known for their ability to escape enclosures, so don’t plan on leaving this dog unsupervised in the yard. Huskies were bred to be sled dogs and are still used in sled racing today, so they have lots of energy to burn, as well as a thick coat to keep them warm.

Samoyed: A working breed developed in Siberia, the Samoyed is known to be friendly, if a little stubborn. This thick-coated dog needs lots of brushing, but he won't have any trouble staying warm in cold weather. Keep him on a leash or he's likely to go chasing after small animals.
 
Couch Surfing
As humans, our first instinct might be to choose a dog that's cute or soft or cuddly. But, if you want your dog to be a part of your active lifestyle, there are several breeds that just aren't cut out for temperature extremes or heavy physical activity. These guys will be happy with a quick walk around the block and an evening sitting beside you on the couch. But avoid these breeds if you want a dog who can run, swim, hike or join you for other outdoor pursuits.

Bulldog: Though they were originally used to drive cattle and fight animals like bulls and bears, today's bulldog is gentle and lazy. The size of his head and shortness of his snout make breathing difficult. He's willing to play for short periods, but he'd usually rather take a nap or have a snack. He's also sensitive to both hot and cold weather.

Pug: Originally bred in China, pugs were the pets of royalty before they became popular with the masses. The shortness of his snout make both hot and cold weather difficult for this small dog. While they enjoy playing and short walks, they'd just as soon sit in your lap.

Mastiff: The mastiff may have started out as a war dog, but today he thinks of himself as a lap dog despite his size (up to 220 pounds or more). While he both needs and enjoys a good walk, he can easily get overheated, so keep walks short (or keep him inside) during the hottest times of the day.
 
Whichever kind of dog you choose, pets—like people—need to ease into exercise slowly and take precautions to stay cool and hydrated during physical activity. Be patient and help your dog gradually build up to the level of activity you're used to. If you plan to go for long distances, make sure there are water sources along the way or bring a dog-friendly water bottle or collapsible bowl with you.

Finally, puppies aren't suited to the same level of activity as adult dogs and their growing bones need to be protected from hard surfaces like sidewalks and paved roads. Talk to your veterinarian to determine when your puppy is ready for more physical activity.
 
This article has been reviewed and approved by Kristi Snyder, DVM.

Sources
DogTime, "Low Energy Dogs Breeds List," www.dogtime.com, accessed on June 26, 2013.

DogTime, "Dog Breed Center," www.dogtime.com, accessed on June 26, 2013.

OutdoorLife, "Best Hunting Dogs," www.outdoorlife.com, accessed on June 26, 2013.

The Clymb, "Best Dogs by Outdoor Activity," www.theclymb.com, accessed on June 26, 2013.

VetStreet, "12 Coach Potato Dogs," www.vetstreet.com, accessed on June 26, 2013.

WebMD, "The Best Dog Breed for Your Health and Personality," www.webmd.com, accessed on June 26, 2013.

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About The Author

Megan Patrick Megan Patrick
Megan Lane Patrick has been a professional writer and editor for the past 16 years, and was a chronic dieter for at least 30. A combination of weight-loss surgery, mindful eating and daily exercise finally allowed her to maintain a weight loss of more than 100 pounds. When she's not lifting weights at the gym, you can find her walking shelter dogs as a volunteer for the SPCA.