The World's 12 Fittest Dog Breeds

These fastest, strongest and most agile canines make awesome play partners

Did you know that owning a pet can reduce your risk for heart disease? At least that's what the American Heart Associaiton says. One study revealed that dog owners, in particular, are 54 percent more likely to reach the CDC's weekly recommended amounts of exercise and observational evidence has shown that people who own pets are, generally speaking, just happier human beings. So owning a dog might make you more inclined towards health and fitness, but what about man's best friend himself?[slideshow:779]

The fittest dogs in the world come in all shapes and sizes. Some are small and swift, while others are big and brawny. Human measures of fitness include athletic ability, strength, agility and endurance, and it's pretty much the same for dogs. But according to American Kennel Club 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," says Peterson. "So a fit Cavalier King Charles Spaniel would be different than a fit Elkhound, for example."

Click here for PHOTOS of the World's 12 Fittest Dog Breeds

But like the kid who crushed the mile run in middle-school gym class, some pooches are more apt towards athleticism. “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.

So, which canines were bred for speed, strength and stamina? We compared everything from running ability and endurance, to speed, strength and agility to bring you our list of the top 12 fittest dog breeds in the world