By: Sarah Burnside Menuck | Reviewed by Dr. Clayton Greenway, B.Sc., DVM | Mar 5, 2017
It’s a classic scene: A family of seated in front of the fireplace on a cozy evening, their faithful four-legged friend curled up on the hearth. It’s comfortable and ideal — if you’re a couch potato.
Even the least active of dog breeds need at least 30 minutes to two hours of exercise every day to maintain good health. It’s important to choose a dog breed that suits your lifestyle. If you’re extremely active and want to take your pet with you on your adventures, there are certain breeds that are better suited to you than others.
Among the large breeds, the hounds, sheepdogs, retrievers and collies top the list as the most active dogs, requiring at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise a day in addition to one to two hours of regular activity. Rigorous activity means playing fetch, chasing balls, running obstacle courses – or joining you, their human, on hikes, runs or other activities outside.
Breeds such as the Labrador retriever or the golden retriever are popular among first-time owners because they are highly enthusiastic and energetic, while also easily trainable. Retrievers are gaming dogs, bred to chase and catch game for hunters, so they’re naturally eager to please and intelligent. Other common choices for less experienced owners include the German shepherd dog and the Australian shepherd: Both are bred to work, originally as herding dogs used to tend flocks, but make excellent companions in almost any type of activity.
For more experienced dog owners, the Siberian husky, the Dalmatian and the Weimaraner are excellent companions, but they are notorious for being independent and sometimes difficult to train. All three, however, were bred for endurance: Dalmatians were bred as coach dogs to run alongside horse-drawn carriages for hours at a time; Siberian huskies are sled dogs originating from harsh climates of Northeast Asia. Like Dalmatians, Weimaraners are fiercely intelligent, and both breeds need to be kept mentally and physically active throughout the day.
The border collie deserves a special mention: often regarded as one of the most intelligent dog breeds, the border collie is excellent for owners interested in training their dogs to complete obstacle courses or to do other tricks.
The drawback of large, active dog breeds is that they often need a lot of space, which is a disadvantage for those who don’t have ample square footage. If you’re seeking a smaller four-legged friend, there are a number of options among the terrier and toy breeds. Bear in mind that while these smaller breeds love to play, their shorter legs are better suited to walks, light jogging and learning tricks rather than endurance runs.
At the top of many “best small dog breeds” lists is the Pembroke Welsh corgi. Though adorably small, with long bodies and short legs, the corgi is one of the most athletic dogs, thanks to being originally bred for herding cattle.
Among the terriers, the Jack Russell is well known for its high energy and playful temperament – they can be a handful, but are well suited to an active, outdoor lifestyle. Similarly, the beagle is a quick and curious breed but needs a lot of playtime to keep them occupied. Both of these breeds are notoriously good at finding trouble to get into on their own, so it’s important to keep them mentally and physically busy learning new tricks.
Speaking of learning new tricks, if you’re interested in a breed that truly excels at agility-based exercise, don’t overlook the Papillon – though it’s easy to do, as this tiny dog stands only 8 to 11 inches tall. These pipsqueak-sized athletic dogs are competitive and energetic.
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