8 active and energetic Australian dog breeds

Australian Cattle Dog
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Australian dog breeds are amongst the most hard-working pups on the planet, with bucket loads of energy that make them well suited to homes with active lifestyles. Whether you’re looking for a herding dog or a canine companion who will be as enthusiastic about adventures in the great outdoors as you are, Australian dog breeds are well worth considering.

While Australia is well known for producing cattle and sheep-herding breeds of outstanding quality, these strong, tireless and agile dogs aren’t the only type to hail from the land down under. Spirited and mischievous toy dog breeds, like the Australian Silky Terrier, and gentle and empathetic therapy dog breeds, like the Cobberdog, also got their start in this breathtakingly beautiful, but at times, harsh and unforgiving land. 

Even the non-working breeds to emerge from Australia, however, are known for being incredibly active and while not all are prone to boredom-induced destructive behaviors, the dogs on this list do require a great deal of physical and mental stimulation by way of the best dog toys and plenty of outdoor games to keep them happy and healthy.

Because of that, we recommend that you only choose an Australian dog breed if you have the time and energy to devote to them. The majority were developed to hunt or work the land, so they need a lot of exercise to prevent them from getting into mischief, and training and socialization from a young age is key to stop their natural herding instincts from being directed towards children or smaller pets.

If you feel you live the the sort of active and outdoorsy lifestyle that these dogs thrive on and you have the patience and perseverance to train them to channel their natural instincts appropriately, the Australian dog breeds on this list will reward you ten-fold with a level of love and loyalty that will make any hard work up front well worth it.

1. Australian Cattle Dog

Australian Cattle Dog

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A compact but sinewy little canine, the Australian Cattle Dog is a hard-muscled herder that’s well known for its sturdy build and outstanding strength and agility. Resilient and intelligent, they have a reputation for being able to run rings around humans and yet, while they are highly independent, there is a depth of loyalty and affection to them that is almost unrivaled.

Curious, alert, obedient and very protective of those they love, these brave dogs are born with a white coat that will turn either blue-gray or red as they mature. Their fur features distinctive mottling and speckling patterns and they tend to have deep brown eyes that serve as the window to their beautiful hearts. 

Make no mistake, this is a dog that was born to work hard and their boundless energy means that they can go all day, from herding on a farm to serving as your faithful running partner, the Australian Cattle Dog thrives on being active and busy. It’s important that they are challenged both physically and mentally, as without this, they are prone to boredom that can lead to mischief. 

2. Australian Kelpie

Australian Kelpie

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With an almost inexhaustible energy, the Australian Kelpie descends from Collie type dogs that were imported from Scotland and has been bred to ensure it can withstand the harsh conditions of the vast Australian outback. They are extremely alert, eager, loyal and utterly devoted to their work and are happiest when given a task to do, which they always complete to the highest possible standard.

A lithe, medium-sized dog that weighs between 31 to 45 pounds, the Kelpie has excellent herding abilities but they do require early and consistent training and socialization as their natural instinct to nip at the heels of livestock to round them up can be transferred to children and domestic pets if they’re not taught how to channel this appropriately.

Kelpies make excellent watch dogs and will bark to let you know when someone shows up on your property and their high level of intelligence makes them extremely responsive to training. That being said, they see their owners as equals, not as the boss and they respond best to a human that is firm but respectful, uses lots of positive reinforcement and allows them to get on with the job at hand with minimal supervision. 

3. Australian Silky Terrier

Australian Silky Terrier

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With the kind of soft and glossy hair that many of us can only dream of, the Australian Silky Terrier hails from Sydney and is the cousin of the smaller Yorkshire Terrier. Playful, loving and adventurous, the Silky Terrier is active and mischievous with small, almond-shaped eyes and a diminutive stature, standing, at most, 10-inches tall. 

These little dynamos may be a toy breed but what they lack in size they make up for with bags of personality. They are delightfully high-spirited and always up for a challenge, but while they adore their owners and can make for great playmates for considerate children, they are known for being aggressive towards other dogs and pets - this is one little rascal that does best as the sole fur baby in their family. 

4. Bull Arab

Bull Arab

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The Bull Arab is one of the lesser known Australian dog breeds and was developed by crossing several large and strong breeds (most notably Bull Terriers, Mastiffs and Greyhounds) to create a muscular dog that could be used for feral pig hunting. Independent and energetic, they possess excellent hunting and scent-tracking abilities and make great guard dogs.

Calm in nature and highly intelligent, the Bull Arab is easy to train and is known for being incredibly loyal and loving to their humans. That being said, training and socialization from as early as eight weeks is absolutely essential as these pups are not particularly fond of strangers or other dogs (largely due to their high prey drive) and can become aggressive if not raised correctly. 

5. Koolie

Koolie dog

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Sweet natured and utterly devoted to their owners, the Koolie is known for its speed and stamina and is yet another working dog that is often used to herd sheep and drive cattle. Thought to be the result of crossbreeding various Collies, the Koolie is strong, agile and almost tireless and comes in a wide variety of coat colors.

Highly patient and dedicated, the Koolie is often reserved around those they don’t know and while not aggressive, their natural herding instincts can make them quite dominant around smaller pets and children. Because they have so much energy, they do best in active homes with plenty of physical and mental stimulation on offer to keep them happy. 

6. Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog

Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog

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Believed to be the oldest domesticated breed native to Australia, the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog is a descendent of wild dingoes and herding dogs and is a naturally bob-tailed breed that often goes by the nickname of ‘Stumpy’. Their coat tends to be blue, red and tan and they have a square build with relatively long legs when you consider that they only tend to reach around 20 inches in height.

Because they have bags of mental and physical stamina, the Stumpy requires a rigorous amount of activity each day to keep them occupied, happy and out of mischief. They are highly independent, so don’t expect many shows of lovey-dovey affection, but at the same time, they make wonderful companions and are particularly fond of older children and teens. 

While not overly affectionate, don’t mistake that for the Stumpy not feeling bonded to their humans. Rather than cuddles, this loyal breed tends to prefer to show their love by being protective of those who they care the most about. They aren’t prone to aggression, but at the same time, they won’t hesitate to jump in and defend you should the need arise. 

7. Tenterfield Terrier

Tenterfield Terrier

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Fearless, eager and bold, the friendly and active little Tenterfield Terrier has a balanced and square build with a short, smooth and fine coat that is predominantly white with black, liver or tan markings. Super bright and highly outgoing, this social pup has a curious nature and adapts well to all kinds of households, including those with children or seniors in need of a companion.

The Tenterfield Terrier loves to learn but their fearless and inquisitive natures can get them into trouble sometimes as they will think nothing of engaging with snakes and other poisonous creatures or ingesting toxic garden supplies, like snail bait, so this lively canine does require some supervision to make sure they stay safe. 

You’ll need some patience and persistence when it comes to training as with a dog this curious their attention span is rather short, so expect to hold their interest for around 10-minutes at a time before their mind starts to wander off elsewhere. Your patience, however, will be rewarded as the Tenterfield Terrier is very affectionate and will love cuddling up in your lap. 

8. Australian Cobberdog 

Australian Cobberdog

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In Australia, the word ‘cobber’ is used to refer to a friend and that’s exactly what the Cobberdog has been bred to be - performing therapy and assistance tasks for those who need it as well as being an all-round wonderful companion to children and adults alike. Coming in four different sizes, this purebred Labradoodle is hypoallergenic and has a beautiful temperament that oozes gentleness and sensitivity. 

Even-tempered, friendly, enthusiastic and empathetic, the Cobberdog loves to learn new tricks, is eager to please and great at following orders. Their respectful and unimposing nature means they’re brilliant when it comes to working alongside people who find social interaction difficult. 

They have bucket loads of curiosity and love being with their people and yet they’re also able to be left alone and will happily amuse themselves until their loved ones return. If you want a canine companion that will get along with every human and creature great or small, the Cobberdog is the pup for you. 

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has spent the past two years dividing her writing time between her two great loves - pets and health and wellness. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with one very mischievous Cocker Spaniel, drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and attempting to set numerous world records for the longest ever FaceTime calls with her family back home in NZ.