There are so many reasons to love dogs: their unyielding loyalty, their sloppy smiles, their caring companionship, their unbridled excitement to see us when we walk through the door.
Oh yeah, and then there’s also the fact that they may help keep us healthy. According to the American Heart Association, dog owners are 54 percent more likely to reach the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly recommended amount of exercise.
So, Fido’s innate need for activity may just play a role in helping you fend off heart disease and other ailments associated with an overly sedentary lifestyle, but which types of pups are most athletic by nature?
Well, that’s not exactly an easy question to answer.
Athletic dogs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are small and swift, while others are big and brawny. Think about it, human athleticism is measured in many different qualities: speed, strength, agility, endurance. The greatest athletes demonstrate all of these characteristics, but some stand out for one or two in particular.
Essentially, the same concept applies to dogs. However, according to American Kennel Club (AKC) spokesperson Lisa Peterson, comparing one breed to another is akin to comparing apples to oranges.
“Each of the 180 AKC-recognized breeds has a standard developed by the Parent Club (National Breed Club), which details the individual requirements to determine athleticism and fitness by breed," Peterson said. "So a fit Cavalier King Charles Spaniel would be different than a fit Elkhound, for example."
That said, there are in fact some breeds that are naturally more apt towards athleticism than others.
“Certain breeds just have a more natural athletic ability because of what they were originally bred to do,” says Victoria Swanson, a professional dog trainer from Grand Rapids, Michigan. For example, working breeds like the Siberian Husky love to exercise and perform for their owners.
Oh yeah, and while your furry friend can certainly help you stay fit, Sherry Woodard, resident animal behavior consultant at Best Friends Animal Society, noted that good, regular medical care, a nutritious diet and consistent exercise are essential for keeping your dog healthy and strong.
“I love working with dogs on their mental health as well,” she said. “Mental exercise also keeps them fit. Offering dogs puzzles — treat-dispensing toys, hiding things around the house and the yard so they use their senses to find them — builds amazing skills. Mental exercise also does tire the dogs out.”
In 2013 Swanson helped us narrow down a list of 12 of the “fittest” (or most athletic) dog breeds. This year, in our quest to expand those results (after all, there are many, many types of truly athletic dogs), we recruited the help of Woodard as well.
She said the breeds she chose landed a spot on her list because they’re energetic and they love to interact with people and stay fit.
So, which canines demonstrate athletic qualities more than any others? According to our own research and input from our trusted experts, the following dogs are considered some of the most athletic in the world.
The AKC touts the German Shepherd for its energetic, fun-loving personality. The second most popular breed of all that are recognized by the AKC, this peppy pooch is known for its keen mind and a brave and confident demeanor. With its strong, muscular body, the German Shepherd is comfortable performing vigorous exercise and does not tire easily.
Australian Cattle Dog
According to the AKC, the Australian Cattle Dog is a “very active, high-energy” breed, so it’s not surprising that this type of pooch landed at the top of Woodard’s list. Known for being alert, curious and pleasant this working dog will determinedly complete any task it’s given, no matter how laborious.