Some people just aren’t satisfied relaxing at home on the couch. The urge to get up and get out of the house is overpowering. If you’re looking for a new four legged pawtner in crime to join you in some outdoorsy escapades, then it’s important to take your potential new pooch’s breed into consideration.
Despite their adorable chonky cuteness, most English Bulldogs aren’t ideal running partners. Taking an all day hike isn’t the typical Chihuahua's idea of a good time. If you plan on bringing your new four legged friend on outdoor adventures, it’s undeniable that certain breeds will excel while others would prefer to be left asleep on the couch at home.
We spoke to Camilla Grey-Nelson also known as the Dog Talk Diva, about this decision and she emphasized taking a dog’s health into consideration stating: “For the dog’s well-being, one should avoid breeds with physical characteristics not conducive to free breathing (IE: smooshed-in faces) or thick-bodied dogs that cannot rapidly expel heat and lower their body temperature upon exertion.” While admittedly there are breeds that belong on the couch at home, Camilla made sure to emphasize the fact that, “personality is more important than energy OR breed.” when finding your canine best friend. Sometimes it’s even beneficial to find a dog whose personality and nature provide a counterbalance to their owner’s tendencies. For example, “A family with an ‘active household’ of preteens bouncing off the wall may not enjoy a dog that does the same thing. [They] might do better with a calm, tolerant dog.” With this in mind, let’s delve into the world of dogs to discuss the benefits of getting to know some different breeds and what they have to offer.
In order to help breakdown the best breeds for your outdoor needs we’ve utilized the American Kennel Club’s seven breed groups. The AKC breaks all their recognized breeds down into following groups: Herding, Toy, Terrier, Working, Hound, Sporting, and Non-Sporting. We’ll touch on some basic characteristics and highlight some standout breeds from each group.
First up is the Herding group. These outdoor all stars are generally a safe bet when looking for a canine who’s happy to explore the great outdoors. Herders are bred to spend hours in the field running back and forth. They thrive on a regular physical fitness regimen and are at home when they are out of the house! Most dogs that belong to this group can match the energy of any person but some will be especially up to the task.
German Shepherds are probably the best known breed for this group. I used to live with a German Shepherd named Ivan who had been a kind of a couch potato before my roommate at the time brought him to live with us. He was a bit overweight and just liked lounging around for the most part. However, after making trips to the park a regular part of his routine, Ivan the terribly good boy became a stellar athlete. He would tear up the grass chasing down tennis balls like a black and tan bolt of lightning. He could run almost as fast as we could throw the ball. His energy and mood at home improved too with the increase in exercise. It really showed that the out-and-about lifestyle was what he was all about.
Another classic herder is the Border Collie. One of my childhood friends had a Border Collie named Phillip. I don’t think it’s a very common dog name, but Phillip wasn’t a very common dog. He didn’t love to play, he lived to play. Exercise was essential. Fetch was his religion. Playtime was his job and boy did he love to work. I wish someone would look at me the way Phillip looked at a tennis ball. Not all Border Collies have this intense of a relationship with playtime. However, they generally tend to have an innate drive, focus and intelligence that suites an outdoorsy lifestyle. Just make sure you can keep up.
The next group put forth by the AKC is the mysterious Non-sporting group. This is a conglomeration of breeds that just don’t quite fit into any other category. For the most part, these dogs won’t be your first choice for an outdoor adventure pal. However, there are a few that break the mold. An outlier in this group is the Dalmatian. These pooches are streamlined and built to go the distance. Known for their working role alongside firefighters, for many years these dogs were trained to sprint in front of fire engines to clear a path. They’re athletic and get along great with people and other animals. Another breed from this group whose athleticism might surprise is the Standard Poodle. Generally pictured as a more prim, posh and pampered pooch, the poodle can produce surprising results when put to the test. As unlikely as it seems today, they were originally bred as retrievers and still display the qualities of a powerful athlete.
Although not traditionally thought of as classic endurance athletes, the Terrier group is bursting with energy. Most breeds that belong to this group are smaller in stature but make of for it with pure zeal. While they might not be able to keep up with a long distance runner, their adventurous spirit brings energy to any outing. While all terriers have a feisty courageous spirit, both the Amstaff and the Staffordshire Terrier are two particularly well-muscled, robust breeds from this group.
When it comes to putting in hard work, there are few breeds that do it better than those of the Working group. Almost all breeds of the working group will find an active lifestyle to be a perfect fit. Most of these dogs generally aren’t ideal for endeavors of pure endurance, as they have a bit more muscle to them, but they will still be game for most hikes and adventures. When adventuring t’s a good idea to keep a steady pace and work in plenty of opportunities to take a quick recuperative rest.
Despite the tendency for working class dogs to be larger, well muscled and lacking in stamina, there is a subclass within the working group who are the perfect endurance athletes. These are the ultra marathoners of the dog world: sled dogs. The most famous breed among sled dogs is the Siberian Husky. I dog-sat a six month old husky (Appa) for a friend once and had the most stupendous walk of my dogwalking life. While most puppies run on high octane fuel to begin with, the combined puppy power and Husky energy blew me away. I was power walking like a lunatic after her and still felt like I was a snowflake getting swirled up in a blizzard of Husky energy. We spent over an hour walking non-stop before heading back home. When we got back I looked over at Appa hoping to see any sign of exhaustion, but no. She looked exactly like the same bright eyed energy filled pup who walked out the door an hour ago.
And now we’ve arrived at the Toy Group. Unless you plan on putting them in a fanny pack, these little pups are better suited to small outings and apartment lounging. There are a few breeds that break the mold in this group like the Min Pin and the Italian Greyhound but really If you’re looking for a best friend who’ll help you break a sweat, look elsewhere.
Somewhere more like the Hound group. They can keep pace in the field all day. A majority of the breeds belonging to the Hound group were bred as hunters and trackers. Nothing is more thrilling than capturing a scent and tracking it down, even if it takes all day. Classic hounds are athletic and full of focused energy. This group also includes sighthounds like the Greyhound and the Afghan Hound and when it comes to speed, they’re canine royalty.
The last group is perhaps the best suited for people looking for a dog to match their active lifestyle. Breeds that fall into the Sporting Group are among the most athletic and are as game as they come. It’s hard to go wrong with this group when it comes to finding an active adventure loving friend. These dogs love regular exercise and might even tucker you out with their ceaseless supply of energy and enthusiasm. We reached out to some of our favorite Instagram dog accounts to get better acquainted with some members of these breeds.
The gold standard when it comes to the perfect balance of activity, personality and friendliness is indubitably the Golden Retriever. Bred as a gun dog, they have an intense love of nature and are natural swimmers. They’re one of the most popular breeds and Vinnie and Ozzy (@vinnieandozzy on Instagram) show us why. Their dogmom enlightened us to their adorable antics. Their account @vinnieandozzy highlights their love of water displaying the pair of sun-soaked Goldens launching themselves into the pool every chance they get. According to their dog mom, playtime at the pool is “their favorite activity.” When they can’t get in the water, they “run after each other in [the] backyard and wrestle.”
The rambunctious playful nature of the Golden is truly highlighted in the times when they’re not outside. Often Vinnie and Ozzy sit at the glass door leading to the backyard just staring wistfully out at the crisp green grass and the enticing blue of the pool. “When playtime really can't wait, they will even start playing their games inside the house.” Golden Retrievers are great for outdoorsy people but quite truthfully, they’re great for any person. Vinnie and Ozzy have unique personalities and each could fit in any home. When describing them, their owner states, “Vinnie is very agreeable and avoids confrontation at all costs. Ozzy, on the other hand, is very stubborn and likes to push for things to happen his way. He's usually the one that initiates the wrestling matches.”
Some key factors to keep in mind about these lovable breeds. While they love spending time outdoors and flourish with plenty of physical activity, they are more inclined to rely on socialization as their main form of brain food. Goldens love being around people and are nourished by social interaction. A lonely Golden is a broken heart. You can’t just send them into the backyard by themselves and expect them to exercise on their own. While this need for social interaction is true for most dogs, it’s especially true for Golden Retrievers and Labradors.
Classic gun dogs are a great option for anyone looking to spend a lot of time outdoors with their pooch. Most of these dogs were bred by hunters. They developed impressive endurance and highly versatile athletic abilities in order to spend all day working their tails off. But even among this capable group, there are some standouts.
Vizslas and German Shorthaired Pointers are certainly among the most impressive breeds for people looking to spend extended periods of time outdoors. Mattie, of the instagram account @sanderszoo is dog mom to both Rhett the Vizsla and Scarlett the GSP. She gave us some insight into what life is like with these incredible pooches.
When describing playtime at their house, Mattie does a great job communicating the effervescent energy that bursts forth. Rhett is still a puppy so he’s “...interested in exploring everything, [he] loves stalking and chasing anything and everything that moves.” Their GSP Scarlett “loves to play fetch and will play until you get tired...and still want to play more.” This is the quintessential characteristic of the GSP, an outdoorsy happy go lucky lover of playtime marathons!
Sometimes when they’re itching to get their excess energy out, they even take matters into their own paws. “Scarlett, will bring you a toy and politely place it in your lap to get your attention.” The younger Rhett will, “get the 'zoomies' where he runs around rapidly jumping on and off the couches and dog beds in a his own puppy parkour world.” If this go-go-go energy sounds like a dream come true, then a dog that belongs to the Sporting group is worth looking into. They’re also friendly breeds who can fit into any home. Rhett and Scarlet live harmoniously alongside Otis the Prairie Dog and many other members of the Sander’s Zoo!
Hopefully the above information can help you narrow down your search and give you a better idea of the breed you’re looking for. Adventures are fun but they're better with a buddy, especially one with paws.
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