If you’re the type of person who loves to hike, swim, or engage in other fun outdoor activities, chances are, you want the kind of dog that will do all those things right along with you. Many breeds of dogs were designed especially for certain outdoorsy tasks, and if you’re looking for your perfect companion, it’s worth researching which breed is right for you. Let me introduce you to some of the best outdoor dog breeds.


Great For: All outdoor activities, especially hunting

Off-Leash Safe? No

This small hound offers the best of both worlds: boundless energy when outdoors, but loving and docile in the house. They were bred as hunters, and continue to be excellent at tracking prey. Any beagle will love running or walking the trails, and many of them enjoy swimming as well. Because they tend to follow their noses before all else, they shouldn’t be let off the leash in open areas.

Beagle owners who take their dogs outdoors often, particularly swimming, need to be aware that their floppy ears are great at harboring infections. Regular cleanings are important to keep them healthy.

German Shepherds

Great For: All outdoor activities

Off-Leash Safe? Probably not

Energetic and highly intelligent, this Shepherd loves to spend time outdoors. They are highly loyal and protective, with a strong prey instinct – unless they are very well-trained, they shouldn’t be left off-leash in areas where small animals might bolt. They need a lot of firm training and discipline to be content in life, but they will reward you with unconditional love.

Since GSDs are prone to hip dysplasia, keep an eye on their gait and seek a vet’s advice if you notice their rump dips down too far when they walk.

Irish Setters

Great For: All outdoor activities, particularly water-based

Off-Leash Safe? If trained

The gorgeous redheads of the dog world, Irish Setters love to frolic outdoors and in the water. They were originally bred to help with hunting water birds, as they’re particularly good at fetching and swimming. Toss a stick into a lake and watch them pursue it with gusto!

Irish Setters tend to be a bit sensitive and nervous, so they should be treated gently at all times.

Golden Retrievers

Great For: All outdoor activities, particularly water-based

Off-Leash Safe? Yes

As their name suggests, these loving dogs are great at fetching. Like Irish Setters, they were bred to hunt water birds, but unlike Setters, they are prized for their even temperament and unfailing obedience. Goldens have a sweet disposition that makes them utterly useless as guard dogs, but perfect for families with small children or those who don’t feel confident training a more difficult dog.


Great For: All outdoor activities

Off-Leash Safe? If trained

Boxers are highly loyal and energetic, and will happily follow you on any outdoor activity you wish to pursue. They are dogs that need a lot of exercise to stay happy, so they’re the perfect companion or someone who likes to run or hike. If well-trained, they can be trusted off leash.

Boxers can be prone to health problems later in life, like cancer and arthritis. The best way to keep them healthy is to get to know their behavior, so you can recognize right away when something is wrong and seek treatment immediately.


Great For: Winter activities

Off-Leash Safe? If trained

Huskies are highly intelligent, independent dogs who love to spend time outdoors, especially in the cold. While they don’t tend to be as clingy or affectionate as other dogs, they are loyal and take well to living in groups with other dogs.

Since Huskies come with a thick fur coat, they are even more prone to heat exhaustion than other dogs. Some owners who live in hotter climates elect to shave their Huskies in the summer, but that isn’t necessary if your dog has a cool place to retreat to during the hottest parts of the day.

Border Collies

Great For: All activities

Off-Leash Safe? Use caution

When it comes to hyperactive dogs, Border Collies wrote the book. They need to be fully exhausted at the end of each day in order to be calm and obedient, making them the perfect dogs for outdoorsy types. They’ll never run out of energy! Training them is difficult but rewarding, and necessary to keep their minds as active as their bodies.

Clumber Spaniels

Great For: Water activities

Off-Leash Safe: Yes

Yet another of the water-loving hunting dogs, Clumbers are a little more difficult to find than some of the more common breeds. However, they will reward their owners with endless affection and devotion. They have a very sweet disposition and are wonderful with children. Swimming and fetching come naturally to them, so they make great companions at the lake.

Clumber Spaniels have long coats that need regular grooming, especially if they spend a lot of time outdoors. Be prepared to invest a lot of time (or money) in carying for their fur.

Jack Russell Terriers

Great For: All activities

Off-Leash Safe: No

Remember Wishbone? He was a Jack Russell, if a particularly tall one. These tiny terriers are so intelligent that they are difficult to train, but to the devoted owners, they will be highly rewarding dogs. They can be trained to do complex tasks and understand commands that other dogs couldn’t grasp. The key to keeping them healthy and happy is regular, vigorous exercise. Take them with you on all your outdoor adventures – as long as you keep them contained. Since they are so headstrong and scent-driven, they’ve been known to run away.

Australian Shepherds

Great For: All activities

Off-Leash Safe: If trained

Australian Shepherds, like all herding dogs, love to be active in the outdoors. Especially when young, they tend to be hyperactive and clingy. Unlike many herding dogs, however, they come in different sizes: the tall type you’re used to, “miniature,” “toy,” and “teacup.” While their size won’t have any effect on their impressive energy level, smaller ones will have an easier time adapting to apartment or small house living.