Ya know how they say dogs often resemble their owners? That might be true, but the best dog breed for you isn’t so much about appearance. If you’re looking to add a dog to your family, and you tend to fill your free time with hiking, camping, and other active, outdoorsy adventures, some active dog breeds will be a better match than others.
Finding a dog that enjoys your lifestyle means it won’t have to stay home on the couch — bored, and looking for something to chew — while you spend your time elsewhere, wondering what kind of damage you’ll come home to.
We firmly believe that all dogs are good dogs. But certain dogs are built to be active and thrive in the great outdoors. A happy dog makes for a happy owner, and vice versa, so it’s really important to put some thought into this.
Active Dog Breeds for Hikers, Campers, and Outdoor Adventurers
These seven active dog breeds are some of the best breeds to complement your outdoor lifestyle — and make it even better.
Before we dive into the active dog breeds, however, we have a disclaimer: a MIX of breeds might be the best breed for you. We encourage our readers to consider the breeds we’ve listed here, but also to adopt, not shop. There are so many dogs out there who need a loving home. And with a little patience, you can find a mix of these active dog breeds, or similar active dogs, who will make the perfect adventure buddy.
1. Labrador Retrievers
You see lots of labradors at trails, campgrounds, and the dog park. According to the American Kennel Club, these canines are not only one of the most popular active dog breeds, but they have been the number one most popular breed in the U.S. for 26 years straight! The hearty pups are well-known for their hunting instincts and high energy. They’re smart, energetic, and great with kids. Labs love going for a good run or hike, and they do well on non-paved surfaces. They’re also very obedient, and can be trained to do well off-leash.
Labs have a tendency to become overweight if they don’t get enough exercise. Which should be great motivation to get both of your tails off the couch and enjoy the outdoors as much as possible!
2. Siberian Huskies
According to PBS, the Iditarod — the longest sled dog race in America — is said to have been inspired by a famous Siberian husky named Balto. This incredible lead dog and 20 other sled dog teams helped save kids in Alaska during a diphtheria outbreak in Nome in 1925, by running life-saving medication across the frozen state in the dead of winter.
If you’re prepared for a high-energy active dog who requires a lot of attention, you might be the perfect fit for a husky. These canines can become mischievous and vocal if their days aren’t filled with physically and mentally stimulating activities. They’ll love your busy weekends spent outdoors. Their thick coats were made for freezing climates. So if you live in a warmer place, you’ll want to stick to early morning or evening hikes, and pick trails and campgrounds near water where they can take a dip and cool off.
These silvery-grey dogs are excellent hunters and need plenty of mental stimulation. Running on trails is the perfect way to keep them happy.
The AKC calls them “eager to please,” so give them some obedience training and you may be able to let your grey ghost – as they’re affectionately called – run off-leash in areas where it’s allowed.
4. Border Collies
These smaller pups are speedy and love to run. They were bred for herding, and even if your collie has never met a sheep, you can see that innate skill on the trail where they’ll try to herd you and your group.
Animal Planet wrote that collies are one of the smartest active dog breeds, so with some dedication, they can learn to be very obedient on the trail. They’ll jump through hoops to make you happy!
Consider taking these good dogs on technical trails to exercise their hungry brains. They’ll jump over rocks, scale fallen logs, and weave between trees, and they might encourage you to do the same.
5. German Shorthaired Pointers
If you’d rather run than hike on the trail, the fit and fast German Shorthaired Pointer is a racing buddy that’s hard to beat. Their easy-to-maintain coat won’t collect too much mud, so you won’t have to worry about baths every time you go outside. They do need A LOT of exercise, and members of this active dog breed tend to struggle in the confines of an apartment. This dog is best for people who are very active and also ideally have a nice big yard.
6. Bernese Mountain Dogs
If you’re looking for a dog that loves to be outside, but doesn’t need a ton of exercise, this fluffy giant might be the perfect match. They’re bred for mountain living, so they can handle rocky terrain, and they’re very friendly, so you shouldn’t have problems with meeting lots of new people and new dogs at the campground.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, around 3.3 million dogs make their way into shelters each year. Many of them are mutts.
It’s important to note that just because a breed is known for certain characteristics, that doesn’t mean a pure-bred is best.
Modern dog breeding, which has only been around for about 200 years, has led to a perception of certain dogs as status symbols, valuing appearance over health. Breeding for “pure-breds,” has led to smaller and smaller genetic pools and inevitable inbreeding, which often causes health problems.
Mutts, on the other hand, have benefitted from a natural mixing of traits from parents who are less likely to be related.
Head to your local animal shelter and look for a mix of the dogs above, or the many other active dog breeds — or just look for the one that’s jumping up and down, desperate for your attention. They’re probably dying to get outside with you.
People who work in shelters can often give you a sense of a dog’s energy and temperament. They spend time with the dogs at the shelter, and usually have access to some history on their upbringing or how they got there. And you should spend time with them, too, before deciding to take one home.
The Dyrt’s office is home to four or five happy mutts at any given time. We can’t tell you all the active dog breeds (and some lazy ones too) that make them who they are, but we can tell you that they all have plenty of energy to join us for the many outdoor activities we love.