Love To Be Active? These 15 Dog Breeds Are Just Right for You

Story at-a-glance -

  • Some dogs take activity to a whole new level, including standard breeds like border collies and Labradors, but also lesser-known varieties such as German shorthaired pointers and Weimaraners
  • Whether they were originally bred to be hunting dogs, working dogs or companions, there are a wide array of dog breeds who love getting out there and being active, doing what you do
  • Dogs have a number of traits that make them ideal as companions on the trail, camping and catching flying discs in the park, but extra perks some dogs bring with them include a protective nature or an unstoppable drive

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Active people often enjoy having a canine companion to share life with. Whether your lifestyle includes kayaking on weekends, bike trails after work or morning runs along the beach, having a buddy with you to inspire you to do your best — and sometimes catch flying disks — just makes it more fun.

While some people may appreciate dogs with a laid-back persona and enough skill to hand them the remote, you might be seeking a pooch that can match your own level of motivation.

There are a number of dogs that fall into the "energetic" category, but you don't want your pup to be all over the map. Whether it's sports-related or more of a high metabolism that drives your social life, a few clinical studies might help inspire you to find just the right dog breed for your brand of busy.

First, a study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology1 reports that even dogs can get what's called the "runner's high," which people with a penchant to run either moderate or long distances would no doubt find doubly exhilarating. And from the Journal of Physical Activity and Health comes a study2 that found when people include their dogs in their routine exercise schedules, they're 2.5 times more likely to reach their fitness goals. The authors wrote:

"The size, age, health status, and breed of the dog may influence the amount of time spent dog walking. [We] found that the households with medium or large dogs had significantly more minutes of recreational walking per week than those with small dogs or no dogs."

To help you in your quest for a dog who's all over living life on the run — with you — here's a list of 15 dog breeds (in no particular order) that promise to be your on-the-go companion, no matter what you tackle, or where.3

1. Labradors — Just Living the Life

Named the most popular dog breed in the U.S., labs are so versatile and fit in so well with their adoptive families' lifestyles that they're ideal for nearly everyone, but with the understanding that the word "enthusiastic" is part of the equation. Labrador retrievers of all colors, whether black, brown or yellow, live up to their name in one important respect: Retrieving is their most inherited trait.

Labs do well with children, other dogs and even strangers, and they're also highly adaptable to different situations. They're eager to accompany you on walks and anything else you do outdoors, plus they get an "A" in both intelligence and trainability. They also score high marks in playfulness, so because they're interactive animals and need to exercise often, this breed will definitely fit the bill.

The most common health issues with Labs are hip and elbow dysplasia, after which eye diseases, like progressive retinal atrophy and cataracts, are most prevalent. In addition, exercise-induced collapse can affect their muscles, evidenced by sapped strength and stamina.

Vetstreet notes: "Other health problems that may affect the breed include heart disease, an orthopedic problem called osteochondrosis, panosteitis (growing pains), epilepsy and allergic skin disease."4

2. Rhodesian Ridgeback — Rarely Get Tired

If these dogs were originally bred to hunt lions, it's no surprise that they're fearless and powerful, but active individuals may find them great companions on the trail or on a run. Svelte and well-muscled canines, many have a ridge of stiff hair running down their backs, but almost all have a penchant for rambunctiousness, especially when they're young, which can be trained toward friendliness toward children and even cats.

While they don't crave exercise like some dogs, any unattractive personality traits, such as aggression, can be dealt with at an early age via training to focus on letting out their energy outside by running and enjoying games with you.

Health issues may include hypothyroidism, bloat or gastric torsion, and different types of cancer, especially mast cell tumors, and, Vetstreet notes, "Dermoid sinus, a tunnel-like opening between the skin and spinal column. This congenital defect causes neurologic signs, which can occur at any age."5

3. Bernese Mountain Dogs — Big on Adventure

The first mention of this "pup" is usually that they're not a shrinking violet and they're not delicate little lap dogs. Bustle calls them "workhorses," not just because of their imposing size, but due to their impressive bulk.6 In fact, they're more than up to the task of lugging your gear for you should you take them on a long hike.

These dogs are noted for being great watchdogs, as they're also very territorial, so early training is essential. Along that same line, these guys tuck into work like other dogs do nap time. They were actually bred to have strong "get after it" tendencies toward hauling, cart pulling and other farm duties.

Today, in lieu of such activities, they have the same enthusiasm for long hikes, do very well off leash, and according to Dog Breeds List, learn easily and are very responsive to their trainer's voice.7 Hip and elbow dysplasia, eye diseases such as cataracts, entropia and ectropian, and retinal atrophy are all tendencies to watch for in this breed, as is von Willebrand disease and a fatal type of cancer called malignant histiocytosis, Vetstreet8 notes.

4. Dalmatians — Running Is in Their Blood

The energy you may have noticed if you watched the animated classic "101 Dalmatians" wasn't exaggerated. These pups really do enjoy running, in or out of the house, if you let them. Outside Online says they were "hired" by firefighters at one time to run ahead of and clear the path for firefighter carriages; today, they're happy to run anywhere, like the park or along beaches, especially alongside their favorite humans.

Dalmatians are good guard dogs, too. In fact, they're one of the best breeds for runners to take along with them for long-distance treks, although one expert recommends staying on soft tracks like trails rather than heading out on asphalt or concrete, as they "kind of pound the pavement due to their size."9

Dalmatian health issues include congenital deafness (although training is definitely still possible), and look for an enlarged heart, which veterinarians call ventricular enlargement. Bronzed fur signals an imbalance in their uric acid, and bladder stones (urate uroliths) are somewhat common. Klein-Waardenburg Syndrome can affect their eye color and they also have a tendency toward sunburn and subsequent squamous cell carcinomas.

5. Weimaraners — Sleek and on the Go

Intelligent and intense looking, these high-energy pups with glossy, silvery coats are also social gadabouts with many pluses on the scale that identify them as adaptable, playful, trainable and interactive. All of those fit well into whatever active lifestyle that gets you out there. These dogs are also friendly with other dogs, cats, kids and strangers.

While you might not have to worry about them getting along well with others, you'll also find this dog breed to be uncommonly healthy. A small number may develop inherited problems caused by high levels of uric acid, known as hyperuricosuria, which may indicate later predisposition for bladder and kidney stones.

As is true with many dogs, these may develop hip or elbow dysplasia, a congenital heart disease called tricuspid dysplasia, and such eye problems as corneal dystrophy and entropion, or inverted eyelids.

6. Border Collies — Boundless Energy

Many people identify the ultimate outdoor dog as one who is athletic, hardworking, playful and has lots of energy. These pups are all the above. Bred to guard and herd, that tendency is one of the reasons why they're so great as outdoor companions, taking to a camping trip and overland treks much more than more indoor pursuits.

Affectionate and territorial are two characteristics that show how intelligent they are, and intelligence is a trait that comes in handy for tracking and agility games, as well as for watchdog capabilities, which is useful on lonesome trails. Hip dysplasia is one problem that may affect their health, as are collie eye anomalies, which are a group of eye disorders. As Vetstreet notes, "Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis and trapped neutrophil syndrome are two fatal genetic disorders of the Border Collie."10

7. American Staffordshire Terriers — Treadmills and Trails

Smart, active and somewhat like the decathlons of the dog world, this breed excels in several sporting activities, so whatever your activity, you'll be able to take them along to enjoy it with them. A cross between bulldogs and terriers, the American Kennel Club (AKC)11 notes them to be equally adept at tracking, conformation, obedience and agility, for instance, making them ideal workout partners.

Some of the physical problems this breed may develop may be genetic, and they include hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, allergies, demodectic mange, a sensory dysfunction that causes lack of limb and head coordination called cerebellar ataxia, and heart disease.

8. German Shorthaired Pointers — 'Give Me the Great Outdoors'

If you like spending time outdoors, breathing fresh air and taking in whatever the day has to offer, this breed will second that motion. Having cut their teeth on hunting, whether it was for rabbits, birds or training deer, these guys are highly athletic and loaded with so much stamina, you may have trouble keeping up! Vetstreet asserts:

"If you're the kind of person who's always in the outdoors and wants your dog with you, there are few better companions for the longest hike or run you can dream up. Their size and natural protectiveness will help keep you safe on a dawn training run."12

Although this dog enjoys uncommonly good health with few diseases, there have been instances they've exhibited hip dysplasia, comparable to arthritis, later in their lives. In addition, besides cancer, an eye problem known as cone degeneration is most prevalent. Entropian has also been detected.

9. Terriers — Small but Spunky

Not all active dogs have to be large. You can take these pups out on the trail with you and you may be amazed at how well they keep up. In fact, the more activity your terrier has, the less apt he'll be to get into mischief — like chewing up your running shoes.

Dogster13 lists terriers as one breed that needs good amounts of physical and mental stimulation as opposed to sitting around the house all day. Many were bred to hunt rats, rabbits and fox, but being both fearless and tenacious, they keep going. It's also important to note that regular activity is important, not running 10 miles once a week, or dabbling in backyard activities once or twice a month. Consistency is best.

As a group, the terrier breed is quite extensive. There's Yorkshire, West Highland, Jack Russell, Boston (a small variety), border and bull terriers (which are larger), and several more. Low to average-risk health problems may affect border, Australian, miniature bull, and Jack Russell breeds, according to Bow Wow Meow Pet Insurance.14

Bull terriers, for instance, are prone to patella luxation or dislocated kneecap, as well as heart defects, polycystic kidney disease (usually inherited) and deafness. Airedales may develop hyperadrenocorticism, affecting their adrenal glands, and pannus or abnormal growth of tissue over the cornea.

10. Siberian Huskies — Energy Plus

All you have to know about this dog breed is that they thrive in sub-zero temperatures and that they're the first-draft choice of anyone needing an active dog. They can play well with others and pull large loads through deep snow in the process.

Classified as a working dog, those traits are ideal for the type of energy this dog breed exhibits when they're with you and you're on the go. Huskies, Vetstreet says, make the perfect partner if you like running in cold temperatures, and they have the thick double coat for it (although even this breed can suffer from frostbite and hypothermia, so it doesn't mean you can leave them outdoors).

Dogtime notes this dog as being very friendly and affectionate, with more than the average need for exercise, as well as a marked potential for wanderlust. Health notes to be aware of involve hip and elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism and von Willebrand's disease and thrombopathia, aka platelet dysfunction. Health clearances for cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy are helpful to ensure your dog's eyes are normal.15

11. Beagles — Walk, Don't Run

One reason beagles may be known for digging and baying is that they're looking for someone — anyone — to get them out of the house for a nice leisurely walk. While they may surprise you by how fast they can go when they have the motivation for it, these pups are generally on the slower side if there's nothing to smell or chase, so planned activity is crucial to maintain their ideal body mass.

Off leash is not usually recommended, because they do have strong hunting instincts. More often than not, however, they'll be too busy smelling the roses. They're also playful, highly social, get along with kids and other dogs, and they're affectionate, wanting nothing more than to hang with you, even if you just want to keep walking.

While beagles are generally healthy, problems that may arise include hip dysplasia, heart conditions, seizure disorders, hypothyroidism, diabetes, cataracts and allergies.

12. German Shepherds — 'Just Call me Shadow'

Like so many other dog breeds, these guys often adopt your active lifestyle as if they were born to it simply because they want to be where you are. The "shadow" aspect is especially true when they're young, when they're often game for joining you for a run or a brisk, uphill hike.

However, the hip dysplasia that so many dogs are prone to is one disorder that you'll note often in German shepherds. I Heart Dogs16 notes how great they are as companions for soldiers and weekend warriors alike, but genetic and breed issues that may arise are sometimes common. These include:

13. Standard Poodles — They Can Go the Distance

Many people think of poodles as eye candy without a lot of substance, but actually poodles are both smart and athletic. One thing you can count on is how they come alive when they encounter the outdoors. In nearly every category, poodles earn high marks for friendliness, but they're altogether serious when it comes to performing tricks and showing off their agility, energy and stamina.

Miniature and toy poodles require less space when it comes to giving them their exercise, which, in family situations, doesn't always have to involve strenuous fitness. Sometimes you'll find them happily accompanying toddlers between the beach and their sand castles.

Unfortunately, poodles have a lengthy list of health problems that might arise. Addison's disease, when their adrenal glands don't produce enough cortisol, and Cushing's syndrome, when there's too much, are among them. There's also hypothyroidism, cataracts, glaucoma and progressive retinal atrophy, gastric torsion, luxating patellas affecting their kneecaps, and Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease, causing degenerating thigh bones.

14. English Springer Spaniels — Spunkiness Personified

If you're one who has trouble curbing your enthusiasm, this is a breed that may perfectly complement your personality. If a dog can be cheerful, this one is, along with traits like lively and versatile, which is why they're usually trained either as show dogs or hunting dogs. They've been described as proficient in all kinds of activities that they're trained for, including a number of dog sports.

No doubt their winning personalities help them achieve in the arena, but when hanging out with you, you'll find an agreeable friend who's up for year-round training, and if not dedicated skills, they're just as happy to walk around the neighborhood on a leash or bound across a field on wilderness explorations.

The list of health disorders isn't very long, but what you should know is a few unique ones, namely phosphofructokinase (PFK), a genetic deficiency in which the PFK enzyme fails to convert glucose to energy. However, it only occurs when both parents have the disorder.

There's also a rare, singular type of aggression known as English Springer Rage Syndrome, which can occur without warning. Progressive retinal atrophy and hip dysplasia are two more issues to watch for.

15. Mixed Breeds — Best Buds Ever

Athletic, mixed-breed shelter dogs are far from "lesser than" when it comes to finding your perfect activity buddy to hang with, run with and generally take with you on all your solo or family excursions. Many mixed-breed dogs are blends of several highly athletic breeds who, like you, love to experience fresh air and plenty of good, healthy exercise, but there's always room for a little R & R, and room on your couch for a pooch to share it with.

As for health concerns for mixed-breed dogs, in case you have no idea what yours might be, a quick DNA test can help reveal the breeds most likely contained in your bundle of fuzzy love and these insights should help set you on the right track for helping to keep your favorite canine running alongside of you for many years to come by proactively addressing genetic predispositions before they become a problem.