Look to these non-stop canine companions for workout motivation and, of course, a little bit of love.
April 09, 2015
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Man's best friend makes a loving and loyal pet—and an awesome fitness partner. With all the walking, chasing, and playing you do together, keeping up with your dog can be an exercise in and of itself. Case in point: dog owners walk more than those without a pooch, averaging four walks a week for 160 minutes of physical activity, according to a study published in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health. You'll boost your fitness by owning any dog, but breeds with extra stamina and agility will really keep you moving. Whether you like to run, swim, hike, or play games in your yard, these ultra-active breeds will help you stay in shape.
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Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Best for: walks, light jogging, playing chase
Corgis may be short, but they're not lacking in muscle. A set of strong thighs gives this dog a lot of power for moving fast, which may explain why the breed was so popular in Medieval times for herding cattle and sheep. "These great little dogs have an uncanny desire to work," says Jeff Werber, a licensed veterinarian and founder of Century Veterinary Group in Los Angeles, Calif. "But once they get into herding mode, they're obsessed." That means you need to find ways to occupy this dog's time, or he may just start nipping at your heels. Though stout legs make it hard to run long distances with the Corgi, he's still perfect for short or long walks and even some light jogging.
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Jack Russell Terrier
Best for: Playing chase, light running, learning tricks
If you want a dog that's truly tireless, consider a Jack Russell. The breed may be small, but what they lack in size they make up for in boundless energy. "They are always on. They never turn off," Dr. Werber says. "They'll outrun you and keep you going." But be warned: Jack Russells require lots of interaction, or else they'll find their own ways to have fun, like eating your furniture. Though they may not be ideal for intense runs, you will get a workout together by playing chase and simply trying to keep up with him. Because of the breed's strong hunting instincts, they will go off sprinting at the sight of small animals like squirrels and mice, so you may want to keep yours secured on a leash when outside the yard.
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Best for: Frisbee, swimming, hunting, fishing, hiking
Whether they're playing Frisbee at the park or getting wet in the water, Labs are constantly bursting with enthusiasm for any activity they do. They'd make the perfect partners for hunting, fishing, or hiking. "Their energy comes from a desire to do what they love and you love," Dr. Werber says. "They want so badly to just hang with you." Labs, like all retrievers, were bred to catch game for hunters, so they have an innate ability to please and take well to training. No wonder the Lab has reigned as the most popular dog breed in the U.S. for the past 23 years, according to the American Kennel Club.
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Best for: Frisbee, playing catch, learning tricks
Another herding dog with some real brainpower: the Australian Shepherd, or Aussie for short. The breed traces back to a line of Europe's finest herders, one reason you'll find them among today's modern cowboys on working ranches. "Their ability to adapt to unfamiliar situations and use information they've already learned is remarkable," Dr. Werber says. "Give them an obstacle course, and they'll probably outperform anyone." They have heavier bodies, so Aussies are not ideal companions for long-distance runs, but their brains, agility, and quick reactions make them perfect for a game of Frisbee or catch. Like the Border Collie, Aussies can get a little shy around strangers, but they love being a part of family life.
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Best for: Long-distance running, hunting
"This Hungarian hunting dog is super active," Dr. Werber says. "They love to get out and will definitely keep you running." Originating from an Asian tribe of hunters called the Magyars about 1,500 years ago, these copper-hued beauties are tough and up for any exercise you give them, but they especially love sprinting. They were bred to spend long days in the field, so count on these dogs to make excellent running companions, whether going fast or long and steady. Even better, the breed's retrieving characteristics come with a can-do attitude that helps Vizslas excel at training and have good relationships with their owners. In other words, they're affectionate and smart. Just keep in mind that you have to be a real fitness buff to care for this breed as Vizslas require daily exercise.
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Best for: Winter sports, sledding, cold weather running
These dogs are serious athletesthey were bred to pull sleds and can run more than 400 miles in Alaskan dog sled races. Growing up to 60 pounds, the Siberian Husky has incredible endurance to keep going through harsh conditions. Still, the breed's training and thick double-coat make the dogs better suited to accompany you when you do cold-weather sports, like cross country skiing or snowshoeing. Huskies are independent by nature, so you have to keep in mind they can be a bit stubborn when it comes to commands. "This is the kind of dog where you may have to be more repetitive with training," says Gina DiNardo, vice president of the American Kennel Club. "You'll have to figure out ways to hold his attention." So while you can run together long distances in certain weather, might be best to keep this free spirit on a leash.
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Best for: Frisbee, hiking, swimming, moderate jogging
Like Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers are eager to please and have the energy to perform a variety of outdoor activities. Hiking, swimming, or moderate jogging are all great for this pup. Plus, you won't have trouble getting a Golden to listen to you. "This dog is so intelligent it lends well to first time dog owners who don't have much experience with training," DiNardo says. The breed does have a double coat, so you'll need to watch out for shedding and make sure your dog doesn't get overheated in the summer. But if you're looking for the kind of dog that will get your brain and body moving every day, then this one is a no-brainer.
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English Springer Spaniel
Best for: Frisbee, long walks, playing fetch, hunting, swimming
English Springer Spaniels were originally bred in the 1600s to detect, flush, point, and retrieve birds in all kinds of weather conditions, and today, hunters still love them. The breed's boundless energy also makes these furry friends excellent for long walks, games of chase or fetch, and even swimming. "The breed can be very high-strung," DiNardo says. "To keep them happy, you'll need to put in a daily commitment of walking and exercising." Despite being a poised hunter, this spaniel still loves a good cuddle and is always up for spending time with family.
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Best for: Long-distance running, hunting, swimming, playing catch
Known for their long legs and sleek grey coats, Weimaraners aren't just gorgeous. They're also fearless hunters and competitive in dog sports, especially agility. "Weimaraners were bred to retrieve large and small game like wolves, deer, and birds, so they have all kinds of energy to work outside all day," DiNardo says. With the ability to reach great speeds and a short coat to boot, Weimaraners are also ideal for long-distance runners looking for a four-legged pal that can match their pace. But keep in mind this dog is not for the average owner. These pups need to be physically and mentally active every single day, or else they may make a mess of your house.
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Best for: Long walks, light jogging, hunting
"Now here's a nice energetic smaller breed for long walks or light jogging," DiNardo says. This hound dog is a sturdy hunter. In the 1500s, Englishmen had packs of them to chase after rabbits (and they are still used for hunting). Though they may not fare well on long runs, the breed is so lively they'll need a good amount of exercise to burn off steam. Just like Snoopy, Beagles are a curious and mischievous bunch. They're constantly following their nose, DiNardo says. That's why you should keep yours on a leash when venturing in unchartered territoryotherwise, your pup will run off to track a new scent. At the end of the day, though, Beagles are great around kids and families because their pack mentality makes them suited to hang with anybody.
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Best for: Long-distance running, hiking
These spotted beauties were once the premier dogs trained to protect horses as they pulled stagecoaches. "They were bred to go 20 miles at a time while trotting," says Caroline Coile, PhD, best-selling author of Barron's Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. Having a lean and muscular physique complements their active lifestyle. "The straighter and more angled a dog's body is, the stronger and faster they are going to be," Coile says. Dals are the perfect mix of the two; the breed has powerful hind legs for long-distance running and hiking. Yet, they're still a fun-loving bunch and super social, so you can be sure Dalmatians will get along well with anybody.
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Best for: Frisbee, learning tricks, playing catch, trails
Don't be worried if you get a weird look from this dog. That's just the Border Collie's intense "herding eye," used to stalk cattle. You could say the Collie is a bit of a workaholic. Collies have a drive to work endlessly until the job is done. And it doesn't hurt they've got some brains to go with that brawn. "It's uncanny how smart and responsive Border Collies can be. They are like the Einsteins of the dog world," Coile says. Even though their build may not work for long-distance running, these dogs are so full of energy, you'll never be bored. Collies need to get moving every single day. They love obstacle courses, so set up your own in your backyard for a great way to get both of you burning calories.
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Best for: Walks, swimming, light running, learning tricks
When it comes to poodles, looks can be really deceiving. "Everyone thinks they're sissy dogs, but they really love to do it all," Coile says. "Jump, swim, run, retrieve, you name it." They actually started out as duck hunters in Germany, so poodles aren't afraid to get dirty. In fact, poodle in German means "to splash." Because they have retrieving instincts, they're also keen listeners and eager to master any training. Though poodles need to be groomed every six weeks, the trade-off is you're getting a dog that doesn't shed as oftenpoodles have a single coat of curly hair instead of a thick double-coat. But if you're up for it, poodles can prove to be quite interactive companions. Bonus: "Since they come in standard, miniature, and toy sizes, you really can't go wrong," Dr. Coile says.
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German Short Hair Pointer
Best for: Hunting, light running, swimming, trails
This speckled brown pup is a versatile hunter. The Pointer can retrieve anything from quail to waterfowl, even deer. Like English Springer Spaniels, they can also withstand long days working outside. "If you take him into the field, he's going to make big arches around you," Dr. Coile says. Because this breed thrives on activity, they need an outlet to let out all that energy, whether you run, swim, or get involved in doggie sports, like tracking or obedience. With a nice, even temper, the Pointer makes the perfect friend to hang out with when you're not getting a workout together. Just keep in mind you may want to keep him on a leash, as this breed won't hesitate to beat you to the finish line.
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Best for: Learning tricks, sprinting, playing outdoors
Don't judge a dog by his size. The Papillon stands about 8 to 11 inches, but still proves to be a serious contender in some of the most competitive dog sports, including agility. "The Papillon is perfect for someone who wants a small dog that can do everything a big dog can do," Dr. Coile says. Even though they're part of the toy group, Papillons have sporting in their blood. While they may not be able to run long miles, they'll certainly keep you moving on a walk or sprint around the yard. Alert and playful, Papillons love to get outdoors when they can and show off their smarts, so be ready to teach this cutie some new tricks.
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Purebreds aren't the only dogs that know a thing or two about being active. It's also possible to find a furry fitness partner just waiting for a home at your local shelter. While a dog mixed from active breeds like a Labradoodle might prove to be a champ, sometimes that's not the best way to tell if a dog will be super active. "You can't predict which traits from the parents will be dominant in the puppy," DiNardo says. Even physical characteristics like strong legs could fool you. "A Mastiff-type dog in a shelter may appear physically strong, but the breeds that make up the dog are not very active and require light to moderate exercise," DiNardo says. The best way to tell if a mixed breed will keep you moving: energy level. At the shelter, ask about the dog's exercise habits or find out what kind of action he saw at his previous home. A mini playtime session at the shelter couldn't hurt either to see if the pup will help you break a sweat.