Every dog is different and has their character, but the breed they belong to can significantly affect their personality. Each dog breed has been developed to carry certain qualities.
For instance, many herding and working dog breeds tend to be quite active. These high-energy dogs need both mental and physical exercise to thrive. And if they don't have an outlet for their excessive energy, they might become destructive or develop other behavioral issues. Energy level aside, these breeds vary widely in size, appearance, and temperament. What unites them is they generally like being up and busy for most of the day, and they need an active person who can keep up with them.
Many breeds were bred to work and assist their human companions in laborious tasks. These breeds have infinite energy and an incredible bond with their owners. While they may not be used to herd cattle or protect property, these breeds make the perfect companions for active dog owners. While The AKC currently registers 200 dog breeds, we compiled a list of some of the healthiest dog breeds for active owners.
The Top 11 Active Dog Breeds
1. Border Collie
If you’ve ever seen a Border Collie, you know just how energetic and fidgety they can be! Dating back to the 1700s, the Border Collie originates from the bordering counties (hence the name) in England and Scotland. Originally bred to herd livestock, the Border Collie we know today has maintained these herding instincts and will even be found “herding” children.
Border Collies live to 12–15 years of age on average and typically weigh between 30 and 55 lbs. The Border Collie comes in one of two coat types: rough and smooth. Rough-coated Collies have long hair that is feathery in some areas. In contrast, smooth-coated Collies have short and coarse fur making them easier to maintain than rough-coated Collies. Dogs of both varieties are double-coated and come in a plethora of colors.
Border Collies are highly involved in various dog sports and activities due to their intelligence, agility, and high energy levels. Their natural athleticism, quick learning ability, and desire to work closely with their owners make them exceptionally well-suited for a wide range of canine sports and activities.
Border Collies are hardworking, friendly, outgoing, and extremely smart. Border Collie dogs hold various world records, including Chaser, who can identify over 1000 objects by name; Sweet Pea completing the fastest 100 meters while balancing a can on her head; and Striker opening a non-electric car window in just 11.34 seconds.
2. Doberman Pinscher
The Doberman Pinscher is a muscular, energetic dog that possesses both endurance and speed. The properly-bred and -trained Doberman is a friend and guardian, and their intelligence and ability to absorb and retain training have brought them into demand as police and war dogs. Energetic, obedient, and loyal, the Doberman enjoys exercising and spending time with their owner.
Dobermans have a natural instinct towards being active dogs and require regular exercise to stay physically and mentally healthy. They are definitely one of the more active dog breeds.
These energetic dogs tend to thrive on activity and mental stimulation, and they enjoy engaging in various exercises, including long walks, jogging, running, and interactive play sessions. Their high energy levels make them well-suited for active individuals or families who can provide them with the necessary exercise, training, and stimulation they need to thrive.
Proper exercise and activities not only keep them physically fit but also help in preventing behavioral issues that may arise due to boredom or lack of stimulation. Training, socialization, and providing outlets for their energy are essential for a Doberman's well-being and overall happiness.
3. Jack Russell Terrier
The small but mighty Jack Russell Terrier are known as one of the most energetic dog breeds who are also hunting dogs. Originating from England in the 19th century, Jack Russel Terriers were bred to assist their human companions in hunting above and underground foxes. The Jack Russel Terrier makes a terrific canine companion for active owners due to their happy and energetic personalities and a strong desire to work.
While they may be tiny, they have a long life expectancy living between 13 and 16 years. Though they were intended for such an active job, these tiny hunters weigh only around 13–17 lbs. The only downside to this breed is their intense love for digging. After all, they were meant to hunt underground.
4. Australian Cattle Dog
Another great high energy breed is the Australian Cattle dog. The Australian Cattle Dog originates from Australia (unlike the Australian Shepherd, who we will discuss next). The Australian Cattle Dog was developed by breeding Dingoes (Australian wild dogs) and collies. They were bred specifically to protect and herd cattle. Australian Cattle Dogs are double-coated and have short hair. These medium-sized dogs weigh in at around 35 lbs. They are alert, loyal, intelligent, and courageous.
As with most herding breeds, Australian Cattle Dogs crave their owner’s satisfaction and are excellent watchdogs due to their origins. Although their average life expectancy is 12–13 years, the Guinness World Record holder for the oldest dog (before 2023) was an Australian Cattle Dog named Bluey. After herding cattle for more than two-thirds of his life, Bluey passed away only a few months after his 29th birthday.
5. Australian Shepherd
As mentioned above, contrary to their name, the Australian Shepherd we know today was developed in the western United States by breeding different herding breeds. The early ancestors of this breed were originally from the Basque Region in Spain, where they were later imported to Australia before reaching the United States.
Australian Shepherds are highly intelligent and easy to train. Their easygoing attitudes and a strong desire to please make them great family dogs. However, they can become protective of their human companions. The Australian Shepherd is a medium to large-sized dog weighing anywhere from 35 to 70 lbs. They have an average lifespan of 12-13 years.
Australian Shepherds are double-coated, meaning they have two layers of fur: an undercoat and a top coat. The undercoat helps maintain their temperature, keeping them warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The top coat is a weather-resistant layer protecting them from wind and water. Due to their double coat and long hair, the Australian Shepherd requires regular grooming to remove debris and prevent matting.
The Vizsla thrives as part of an active family that provides daily exercise. They are happy and affectionate with their owners and very trainable in the house, but also able to go all day while out hunting.
Vizslas are high energy dogs that love to use their brains, learn new things, and are extremely versatile in work they can do. The key is WORK. They love having a job, pleasing their humans, and doing well at their jobs. They require more exercise for their higher energy levels and overall health.
7. German Shorthaired Pointer
The German Shorthaired Pointer is the top choice for many outdoor enthusiasts looking for high energy breeds, making them a great companion for hiking and exploring. German Shorthaired Pointers date back to 17th century Germany where they were developed from the German Bird Dog. They were bred primarily for hunting and are known for their iconic pointing stance.
The German Shorthaired Pointer is a medium to large breed weighing between 45 and 70 lbs. They have an average lifespan of about 12–14 years. German Shorthaired Pointers are intelligent, playful, friendly, and willful, making them perfect family dogs. However, due to their hunting origins, they have a very strong prey drive giving them the urge to chase after and “hunt” small animals, including small pets like cats or rabbits. Meaning they might not do so well at the dog park with smaller breeds.
This iconic breed is popular among entertainment but is less commonly known as pets. The Dalmatian is a historic breed probably dating back to 2000 B.C. when drawings of spotted dogs were found on Greek tablets. Other early records of the breed were found in Dalmatia, Yugoslavia (modern-day Croatia), where they were bred specifically for hunting and guarding. Later, when the primary mode of transportation was carriages, Dalmatians earned the title of “coach dogs” as they were a top choice for protecting coaches and their passengers.
The Dalmatian typically lives to be 10–13 years old and weighs anywhere between 45 and 70 lbs. Dalmatians are known to be playful and loving. However, they tend to be aloof and wary of new things. They also have excellent guarding instincts due to their origins and history. The Dalmatian has short hair and only has black or brown spots on a white base.
The association between Dalmatians and firehouses dates back several centuries. Dalmatians became closely linked with fire brigades and firehouses during the days of horse-drawn fire carriages in the 18th and 19th centuries.
One practical reason for this association was the natural affinity between Dalmatians and horses. Dalmatians were known for their compatibility with horses and were used as carriage dogs. As one of the more active breeds, they ran alongside the horse-drawn fire engines, helping to guide and calm the horses, which were often frightened by the commotion and noise of firefighting.
Additionally, Dalmatians were valued for their guarding instincts, agility, and stamina. Firehouses often kept them as mascots or pets because they could alert firefighters to the presence of strangers or help guard the firehouse and equipment. That's one smart pup!
9. Belgian Shepherds
Our list of high energy breeds wouldn’t be complete without the Belgian Shepherd. Known as one of the most active dog breeds in the world, these dogs would run in circles all day just to preserve their sanity. They have tremendous amounts of energy. Originating from Belgium in the 1880s, the Belgian Shepherd was bred primarily for herding. They made their military debut in World War 2 and have since been bred for various jobs.
The Belgian Shepherd has one of the most extended life spans compared to the other breeds on this list and lives to be around 14–16 years old. They are medium to large-sized dogs weighing anywhere between 40 and 80 lbs. Belgian Shepherds are highly intelligent and extremely hardworkingb. They thrive when provided with loving companionship and strive to please their owners. Due to their working genetics, Belgian Shepherds tend to be alert and protective. And despite their rugged looks and military background, Belgian Shepherds are big goofballs and love to play with their families.
The Belgian Shepherd has four variants: the Malinois (mal-un-wah), Tervuren, Groenendael, and Laekenois (layk-ehn-wah). Each variant shares the same personality traits but differs in colors and coat types. All variants, however, are double-coated.
10. Siberian Husky
Developed by the Chukchi in eastern Siberia, the Siberian Husky was bred to endure extreme conditions. The Chukchi relied so heavily on these dogs for survival as they endured temperatures of 100 degrees below zero and winds reaching more than 100 miles per hour. Due to their unbelievable ability to survive such extreme conditions, Siberian Huskies were brought to Alaska in 1908 and used primarily as sled dogs.
These medium-sized dogs typically weigh between 35 and 60 lbs. and live to be around 12–14 years old. They can survive in moderately warm weather despite their thick fur because they are double-coated. While Siberian Huskies typically look intimidating and scary, they are very friendly and love to play. Huskies love to work and have a particular love for running. Because of this, owners are advised to practice extreme caution when letting their Huskies off-leash in unfenced areas.
Siberian Huskies are also known to be escape artists and love to outsmart their owners. Due to their peculiar precision in escaping and deep love to jet wherever their feet will take them, Huskies can be difficult to care for and require a lot of extra supervision.
Owners of Siberian Huskies need to provide this energetic dog with ample exercise, mental stimulations, and socialization to prevent behavioral problems. While their high energy levels can be demanding, these dogs make affectionate, loyal companions when their needs for exercise and mental engagement are met by active families.
The Weimaraner is less popular than other breeds on this list but deserves a spot. Originating in the 1800s in the Weimar region in Germany, hunters bred the Weimaraner to assist in hunting boar and deer. Later in their development, these dogs were bred with Setters and Pointers enhancing their hunting and tracking abilities even more.
The Weimaraner is among one of the best high energy breeds (and family dogs) due to their loving, friendly, and fearless personality traits. They are also very loyal and alert and tend to learn quickly. They possess a good amount of energy and stamina, requiring regular physical and mental stimulation to keep them content and prevent behavioral issues stemming from boredom or excess energy.
Weimaraners are medium to large, weighing anywhere from 55 to 90 lbs, and typically live between 11-14 years of age. The Weimaraner is known for their sleek, silvery-gray coat; despite its short length, they tend to shed a lot. While Weimaraners do have high energy levels, they can adapt to different lifestyles if their exercise and mental needs are met. However, potential owners should consider their ability to provide the necessary physical and mental outlets for this breed before bringing one into their home.
Why Choose Energetic & Active Dog Breeds?
High-energy dog breeds can be a good match for certain individuals or households for several reasons:
1. Active Lifestyle
If you're an active person or enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, running, or playing fetch, a high-energy dog breed can be a great companion. They'll happily join you in these activities, keeping you motivated and active.
These dogs often crave attention and companionship. They enjoy being around people and participating in various activities, which can offer you constant companionship and a reason to engage in physical exercise regularly.
3. Motivation for Exercise
Owning a high-energy breed can motivate you to maintain a regular exercise routine. Their need for physical activity ensures that you get out for walks, runs, or play sessions, benefiting both your and the dog's health.
4. Training and Mental Stimulation
These breeds are typically intelligent and eager to learn. Training and teaching them new tricks, games, or tasks can provide mental stimulation, preventing boredom and promoting their overall well-being.
High-energy dogs often form strong bonds with their owners. Spending quality time together, whether through training, playing, or exercising, can strengthen the bond between you and your pet.
However, it's crucial to note that while high-energy breeds can be fantastic companions, they might not suit everyone's lifestyle. They require consistent exercise, mental stimulation, and attention. Sometimes even structured training. Without proper outlets for their energy, they might become destructive or develop behavioral issues due to boredom or frustration. Therefore, it's essential to consider your lifestyle, commitment, and ability to meet their needs before choosing a high-energy breed.
The high-energy dog breeds we explored make great companions for active owners and families. They love to push past their limits and strive to please their human companions. No matter which breed you choose, any of the active dogs we have shared in this complete guide would love to accompany you on your daily adventures.