Athletic dog breeds make for the ultimate canine companions if your idea of a good time is undertaking active adventures in the great outdoors. Whether it’s biking those forest trails, pounding the pavement or swimming in the ocean, when fuelled with the best dog food, these pups have bucket loads of energy that make them the perfect workout buddies.
Some of the most obedient large dog breeds also happen to be amongst the most athletically inclined, with high levels of intelligence that make training them to stay beside you while you’re engaging in physical activity a piece of cake. Many of these huge hounds are also very energetic and will be more than happy to hike or run for hours at a time.
But don’t be too quick to discount small dog breeds. While you can get large dogs that are rather sloth-like, you can also get petite pups that will go all day - terrier breeds being one great example. If you’d prefer a more compact canine companion, rest assured there are plenty of pocket rockets out there who will be able to keep pace.
Alongside getting plenty of physical exercise, regular mental workouts are also vital for our furry friend’s health and wellbeing. With that in mind, make sure you also invest in several of the best dog toys to ensure both your pup’s brain and body is getting plenty of activity to stimulate and challenge them. Thinking of getting an athletic dog? I bonded with my dog through running - here’s how you can do the same.
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1. Australian Shepherd
Well known as the cowboys herding dog of choice, the Australian Shepherd manages to beautifully blend both style and substance, offering a dynamic and exuberant personality all packaged up in a stunning merle coat.
Rugged and agile, this is a dog that’s born to work and they love nothing more than being on the move all day. They’re very quick learners too and easy to train, so this, combined with their high energy levels make them a wonderful exercise companion.
Brainy, tireless, and happiest when they’re on the move, they adore all forms of movement but are particularly keen on running, hiking and other vigorous activities, like ball and frisbee games.
Because Australian Shepherds are so intelligent, they also thrive on brain games for dogs and activities that allow them to workout both their minds and bodies, such as agility courses or obedience training, will also go down a treat.
2. Border Collie
Muscular but nimble and able to do anything from agility to farm work, the Border Collie will love nothing more than a day spent by your side engaging in whatever high octane activity you can dream up.
An absolute dynamo of a dog, the Border Collie is the ultimate workaholic so they’re definitely not a pup for the faint of heart. Their high intelligence combined with their extreme levels of athleticism means they need to be kept busy throughout the day.
If you’re into endurance training, the Border Collie is a fantastic choice for a canine companion. They’ll keep pace with you every step of the way and will have plenty of fuel left in the tank long after you’ve tired.
Although they like to be on the go all day, one of the joys of owning a Border Collie is that when the work, exercise and play is all done and night begins to creep in, they’ll love nothing more than a good cuddle and a few quiet hours snuggled up beside you.
Germany’s fearless and friendly ‘Gray Ghost’ was given its nickname because of its ability to move so swiftly and sleekly that you can barely see it coming and going. With movements that have been described as furtive and similar to a cat, this pup is stealthy on every front.
An outstanding hunting breed, the Weimaraner loves two things - exercise and lots of quality time with their humans, so if you’re the outdoorsy type, you’ll find a best buddy for life in this breed. They do particularly well with endurance running, but will take enthusiastically to any activity.
Energetic yet graceful, this pup has a beautifully loving nature that makes them wonderful family dogs and they’re also very easy to train. You’ll require a strong commitment to keeping them mentally and physically engaged, however, as they require a lot of stimulation and enrichment to stay happy and healthy.
4. Siberian Husky
A beautiful sight to behold, the stunning Siberian Husky is like the marathon runner of the dog world, which is not surprising given they were the original breed used in the 408-mile long All-Alaskan Sweepstakes race.
If you’re looking for a dog that can run both fast and far, you’re not going to be able to beat the Siberian Husky. Their ability to keep up a quick pace over vast distances makes them the ultimate exercise companion.
Because of their sledding heritage, they have a resistance to cold climates which allows them to keep up their strength, stamina and endurance even in chilly weather. While they can live in warmer climates, their thick coats mean that extra care must be taken when exercising them to prevent overheating.
Being pack animals, they are very friendly by nature and enjoy mixing with all sorts of people. They love family life and tend to get on well with other dogs, but they do require an immense amount of physical and mental stimulation, so you’ll need to have a lot of time on your hands if you’re wanting to adopt a Sibe.
A red-coated Hungarian gundog, the Vizsla adores people, which makes them a wonderful hiking, biking or running companion for outdoorsy individuals and families. Versatile and built for long days in the field, they have great stamina and are rugged yet elegant athletes.
Fantastic all-rounders, the Vizsla can hold their own in almost any sport and is also outstanding at pointing and retrieving. Exceptionally trainable and forming strong bonds with their owners, they are one of the easiest dogs to exercise with as you can be guaranteed they’ll follow your commands.
Intense when out and about but sensitive and loving at home, the Vizsla hates to be left alone so you’ll need to be in a position to ensure you can take them with you wherever you go or that there’s someone around to watch over them while you’re away.
You’ll also want to ensure that you’re offering them a variety of activities that engage all parts of their brain, as when they’re not getting enough mental and physical stimulation they will often end up resorting to destructive behaviors in an attempt to alleviate boredom.
6. Rhodesian Ridgeback
The Rhodesian Ridgeback was bred to track lions in Africa and are fast and powerful athletes who are incredibly protective of their loved ones. Named for the distinctive ridge of hair that grows in the opposite direction down their back, this pup can have a threatening presence at times but they are very gentle at heart.
Highly intelligent and easy to train, they’re super agile and make great outdoor companions regardless of the activity. A popular choice amongst runners and hikers, the Rhodesian Ridgeback has a tendency to be strong-willed and independent, so they do require a firm but fair hand.
That being said, once they know that you’re the boss, this loving and affectionate dog will be the most faithful of friends, making wonderful playmates for children and one of the best exercise companions you could ask for.
7. Jack Russell Terrier
The spirited Jack Russell Terrier has always been a firm favorite amongst dog lovers and it’s not hard to see why. Lively, inquisitive and alert, these jaunty pups may be small but they come packed with a ton of energy and athletic prowess that will easily see them keeping pace with an active owner.
With an agile body built for speed and almost inexhaustible energy reserves, the Jack Russell Terrier has a real zest for life and that, coupled with their highly driven nature and fearless streak means you’ll want to get on top of the training early to make sure you remain in control.
Whether it’s running or cycling, the Jack Russell Terrier is more than up for the task and while they may be petite, don’t let that fool you - they have excellent endurance in spite of their short stature and will have no problem keeping up with you.
8. Labrador Retriever
The most popular dog breed in the world, the Labrador Retriever is a phenomenal all-rounder, being both sweet and gentle and active and outgoing. Highly trustworthy with a calm and friendly nature, they make wonderful family dogs and get along equally well with strangers - regardless of whether they’re of the human or fur variety.
But, don’t mistake their laidback and sociable natures for laziness, they may seem to plod along at times, but they can go like the clappers when the situation calls for it. Enthusiastic athletes, they excel at dog sports like tracking and obedience, and also adore the water, so if you’re a keen swimmer, the Lab will make for an excellent workout companion.
As long as they’re getting plenty of physical and mental stimulation though, this pup really isn’t fussy about what the activity is - brain games, the best puzzle toys, running a marathon alongside you - your Lab will be happy as long as they’re working up a brain or body sweat with their favorite human beside them.
It’s hard to think of this pup and not have the film 101 Dalmatians pop into your head, but rest assured, this canine companion is so much more than a carriage dog. Dignified, smart and with an eye-catching coat, the Dalmatian is muscular and built to go the distance, making them a fantastic exercise buddy.
Dals adore running and they possess incredible stamina, so they’ll have no trouble keeping up with you if you’re keen on endurance sports. With a smooth and effortless gait, the Dalmatian is graceful in motion and is a very bright, loyal and loving dog.
They make for very interactive family members and love to be wherever their people are, so if you have children and you tend to all be outdoorsy, the Dal will delight in joining you all on your running, hiking, swimming or cycling adventures.
10. German Shepherd
The German Shepherd is an obvious choice for active individuals looking for an agile and athletic pup to accompany them on their outdoor adventures. One of the finest all-purpose working dogs on the planet, the German Shepherd is versatile, adaptable and easy to train.
With a fantastic mix of intellect, strength and a desire to please, this breed has long been used on the frontlines as a search and rescue and police dog. Loyal, courageous and confident, they’re quick learners who have an outstanding ability to master a wide range of commands.
While they may appear at first glance to have a gait that favors an easy trot, don’t let that fool you - they can quickly ramp it up when the need arises and are able to reach impressive speeds.
The German Shepherd thrives on mental and physical challenges, so alongside keeping them busy with a physically demanding lifestyle, make sure you give their brains a good workout too as this will prevent them from engaging in destructive behaviors to get their needs met.
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Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.