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If you’re looking for a dog who will thrive living outdoors, you’ve come to the right place because today we’re going to talk about the best outdoor dog breeds.
Whether you want a dog who spends part of the day outside or who lives entirely in the great outdoors, there are many factors to consider when making your decision.
In this blog post, I’ll discuss what you need to consider when deciding on a dog who will live–at least part-time–outdoors. Then I’ll list some great dog breeds you can choose from.
Some breeds–especially working breeds–love to be outside.
And even if you don’t want your dog to live outside all the time, you may want to go on outdoor adventures like hiking, running, or hunting with your dog.
So you need a canine companion who thrives during such adventures.
Factors To Consider When Deciding on an Outdoor Dog Breed
Not all dogs will flourish living outdoors. In selecting your next canine companion who will live outside, consider the following factors.
Where Do You Live?
Of course, you need space for an outdoor dog to live.
Most are larger dogs who need room to romp around and exercise. So living in an apartment wouldn’t work.
But if you have property for the pup, creating an outdoor haven is possible. Many farm dogs in rural areas do well living outside.
What’s Your Climate?
Many dogs could be contenders if you live where it’s a moderate temperature year-round.
But if you reside where there are temperature extremes, make sure that your pup has access to appropriate shelter.
This may mean bringing him indoors when it’s too hot or cold to provide adequate refuge outside.
What’s the Breed’s Purpose?
Some working and herding dogs can be barkers.
So, if you don’t have many acres of land, those breeds wouldn’t be good outdoor dogs. Most neighbors don’t love a dog who constantly barks.
What’s the Dog’s Structure, Size, and Coat?
If you live in colder climes, a double-coated dog with longer hair is desirable. But if you live where it’s warmer, a shorter coat is generally preferable.
Of course, medium to large dogs are generally better as outdoor dogs.
Dogs with short muzzles, such as the brachycephalic breeds, aren’t suited for warmer temperatures. They may overheat and get heat exhaustion.
What’s the Dog’s Temperament?
Some breeds are more independent than others and are fine living outside.
However, others may develop separation anxiety and even harm themselves trying to reach you.
And even dogs that live outside need regular, daily attention from you.
What’s the Dog’s Age?
Adults do better living outside than puppies or seniors do. Puppies need ongoing socialization and training.
And seniors may be subject to many age-related issues such as arthritis, hearing or vision loss, or dementia.
Is the Dog Healthy?
In order to successfully live outdoors, a dog should be healthy.
A dog with maladies such as diabetes or seizures shouldn’t live outdoors. These medical conditions need ongoing monitoring and treatment.
Dogs with certain behavioral issues such as anxiety disorders or aggression also shouldn’t live outdoors.
Is the Dog Trained?
Safety Requirements for Outdoor Dogs
You love your canine best friend and want to make sure that he’s safe and secure when he’s outside. So take into consideration the following factors
- Identification. Your pup should have a well-fitted collar with ID as well as a microchip should he become lost. The collar shouldn’t be a type that can tighten and injure the pup such as choke chains, Martingale collars, and prong collars.
- Vaccines. Consult your vet regarding what vaccines he requires.
- Safe containment. This can be a secure fence or kennel run. The area should be large enough for the dog to have enough space to exercise. A crate isn’t sufficient. Be sure that the dog cannot dig under or escape over the fencing. Dogs with high prey drive are especially likely to be canine Houdinis. They need an area that’s also secured against potential dangers, including wildlife, such as coyotes, bears, stray dogs and cats, opossums, skunks, foxes, and hawks. The area also should be secured against human intruders.
- Shelter. Dogs need protection from the elements. Depending on your climate and weather, this can be a dog house, kennel run where part is enclosed, or even a dog door that allows your pup to go inside your house if need be.
- Routine cleaning of the dog’s area. Of course any feces should be picked up and properly disposed of. If the area isn’t sanitary, flies and other bugs can be attracted to the poop and spread disease. Also, some dogs develop the habit of eating their own feces.
- Proper training and working equipment. This includes a visible hunting vest, sturdy dog leash, longline, and swimmimg vest, depending on the activity. Some dogs are natural swimmers. Others must be taught how to swim because it’s great exercise if a dog is capable. All dogs should have six-foot leash and be trained to use a longline for distance work.
- Parasite control. Check with your vet regarding the appropriate medicines to prevent heartworm disease and infection from other parasites such as ticks and mosquitos.
- Supervision. All dogs should be supervised and regularly checked on for their safety.
- Water and food. Your dog should have access to fresh, cool water at all times. You need to be sure that the water is changed regularly every day. Standing water can be a breeding ground for various diseases. And you want to make certain that the water isn’t too hot or frozen. They even make heated water bowls so that the water doesn’t freeze. I don’t recommend leaving food out because it can attract flies and other bugs as well as other animals. The food can also spoil. Instead, provide regular feedings that the dog eats.
- No access to toxic substances. Make sure that the dog has no access to any poisonous plants, living creatures such as snakes, or deadly chemicals such as rat poisons, fertilizer, and cocoa mulch.
Many large and giant breeds are prone to hip dysplasia, cancer, and bloat.
So make sure that you get your dog from a reputable breeder or rescue group. Dogs from puppy mills and backyard breeders are prone to have behavioral and health problems.
Don’t Forget to Train, Exercise, and Socialize Your Dog
Even if your dog is living outside most of the time, you still need to give him attention and training.
Dogs are social creatures and can develop behavior issues if their needs aren’t met. So you still need to socialize your dog.
He needs to get accustomed to the sights, sounds, and smells of everyday life so that doesn’t become startled by or reactive to them. And he needs to be trained not to bark at everything around him.
And he needs to learn regular behavior cues such as look, come, sit, down, stay, leave it, and how to walk on a loose lead.
After all, most of the best outdoor breeds are large dogs who could easily knock someone over. They need to be taught not to jump on people.
Impulse control exercises like leave it and stay help the dog to not be out of control.
An outdoor dog should respond to verbal cues and hand signals, because you may be at a distance when you need him to respond.
The dog should also have a sufficient amount of physical and mental exercise. Walks, running, and play as well as enrichment activities are crucial to his well-being.
Just because they’re outside doesn’t necessarily mean that the dog will run around and play. To the contrary, many will just lie around if they’re bored.
Others may be destructive and chew or dig because they’re bored and to let off some steam.
And they still need attention from you to bond with them. Ideally, most should be taken indoors at least part of the time.
Working with the dog both indoors and outdoors will teach him manners in those locations. And he may at times need refuge from weather and other outdoor conditions.
Now let’s discuss some of the best outdoor dog breeds.
When choosing, remember that each was bred for a specific purpose such as hunting, herding, pulling sleds, and carting.
11 of the Best Outdoor Dog Breeds
The following recommended canines are in no particular order.
1. Alaskan Malamutes
Let’s start with the Alaskan Malamute (aka “Mal”) breed, a Nordic breed that thrives outdoors in cold climes. They don’t do well in warm weather.
Large dogs with a bulky appearance, they can weigh up to 85 pounds and stand up to 25” at the shoulder.
Their thick, double coat should be brushed daily.
Mals are independent dogs with a stubborn streak and are not for first-time owners.
Friendly to people but not necessarily to other dogs, they have a high prey drive towards small animals such as squirrels, rabbits, and cats.
They should be socialized to people and friendly dogs (and cats if they will live with them) from puppyhood on.
So take your Mal to puppy kindergarten and continue his training and socialization throughout his life.
Bred to pull sleds with heavy loads over short distances, they require mental and physical exercise such as a four-mile daily hike.
If just left alone all the time outside without exercise, they’ll become bored and destructive. Mals are pack animals and need to spend time every day with their people.
It’s an independent breed that needs you to be their leader. Of course, train all basic commands.
Mals who aren’t trained to do a solid recall are likely to try to wander off. And they need to learn the “leave it” cue because of their prey drive to small animals. They also need to learn to walk on a loose lead because of their natural tendency to pull–or someone may be injured walking them.
If you love the great outdoors, take your Mal on a hike. Have him carry a backpack made for dogs to help exercise him. He would also enjoy running with you.
If you love winter sports (which I’m assuming you do if you get a Mal), your dog can be taught recreational or competitive sledding–or even skijoring, where your Mal learns to pull you while you’re on skis.
Mals are strong dogs who can be taught to compete in weight-pulling competitions, agility, or obedience.
They also are dedicated diggers and need fencing that’s placed deep in the ground. And they can jump a six-foot fence. Coyote poles that roll placed at the top of a fence help prevent this Houdini dog from escaping.
They don’t bark, but they do emit a loud “WOO-WOO” sound. So Mals aren’t a good choice if you have close neighbors.
2. Australian Cattle Dog
A herding dog with boundless energy, Australian Cattle Dogs (ACDs) are hardy canine athletes. A medium sized dog, they weigh up to 50 pounds and stand up to 20” at the shoulder.
Originally bred in Australia to herd cattle over vast distances in harsh terrains, the dog herds by biting cattle. An ACD may try to herd people if not trained otherwise.
Also known as blue or red heelers, they need a job.
Although they can live outdoors, they still need structured exercise. And this means more than a walk around the block, which would just be a warm-up for this tireless worker.
Athletic, muscular dogs, they are great running and hiking partners. And they excel at canine activities such as agility, herding (of course), obedience, flyball, and rally.
A bored, under-exercised ACD will develop behavior problems and be destructive.
Extremely intelligent and independent, you need to show you are the leader through training.
They need to learn all basic commands. “Leave it” is also essential so that they learn to not chase small prey and not herd people.
Train complicated tricks. They love to learn.
And provide other enrichment activities such as puzzle toys to expel energy and prevent boredom.
Socialization from puppyhood is essential as they tend to be protective and wary of strangers.
Their double coat requires weekly brushing to remove excess hair as they are big shedders.
ACDs are loyal to their people and need to spend time with them to be happy and remain friendly.
3. Great Pyrenees
Originally bred in France to guard livestock from wolves, coyotes, black bears, and other predators, Great Pyrenees dogs (aka Pyrs) are powerful working dogs who can weigh over 100 pounds and stand up to 32” at the shoulder.
Their formidable size is often enough to protect a pet parent’s home too. And although they are docile with family members he knows, fearless Pyrs will spring into action if challenged.
Their thick double coat is tangle and dirt resistant. Pyrs are shedders–especially in the spring– and require weekly brushing. Of course they thrive in cold climates.
Although not the most active breed, they do require regular exercise. So make time for a few long daily walks of 45 minutes to keep them in tip-top shape.
Participation in carting and herding activities can also help dispel excess energy.
Pyrs also need mental stimulation. So give them sturdy puzzle toys for enrichment.
They’re intelligent dogs but are independent thinkers who may respond slowly–if at all–to obedience cues. So early training from puppy kindergarten throughout a Pyr’s life is essential.
The dog needs to know through consistent training that he must obey. Because of his imposing size, teaching him to walk on a loose leash or to heel is crucial so you don’t get pulled down. A Pyr must also be trained not to jump on people for the same reason.
Training him to come to come reliably is essential. And teach him a “leave it” cue so that he will leave animals and people when told to,
Although a Pyr is extremely loyal to his family, he is suspicious of strangers. So socialization should also begin in puppyhood and continue throughout his life because he can become over protective of his territory and pet parents if not trained to accept strangers.
When choosing the best outdoor breed for your family, keep in mind that Pyrs are barkers.
4. Irish Wolfhound
These gentle giants are too friendly to people to be good guard dogs. But their intimidating size alone can deter intruders. After all, a male may weigh up to 180 pounds and stand almost three feet tall at the shoulder.
So a stranger who trespasses will probably think twice before venturing any further.
Even though they aren’t great guard dogs, they can detect friend from foe and will protect their families.
An ancient breed, they are sight hounds capable of killing prey, including wolves.
Weekly brushing of their harsh, wiry double coat is all that’s required. They love being outdoors and can thrive in cool or warm weather that’s not extreme.
As natural hunting dogs, they excel spending time outdoors with their family participating in activities including hunting.
To remain physically and mentally healthy, they need regular exercise, which can include long walks and play sessions. They can also excel at tracking, agility, and lure coursing.
Irish wolfhounds were bred to work independently and are intelligent and sensitive dogs.
Training should be consistent and use positive reinforcement. If training is harsh or overbearing, the dog may shut down and not trust or bond with you.
Because of their immense size, they need to be taught not to jump on people and to walk on a loose lead so that no one is pulled down and injured.
A reliable recall is a necessity, as sighthounds can naturally be lured by distant prey. They also must learn the “leave it” cue for the same reason.
And don’t forget to socialize the dog from puppyhood on so that he reaches his potential as a friendly family member.
The Vizsla is a gundog dog that originated in Hungary. They can do well in warm climates.
Medium-sized dogs, they weigh up to 60 pounds and stand up to 26” at the shoulder.
Although they can do well living outdoors part of the day, they should spend a lot of time with their pet parents.
Vizlas bond greatly with their owners and love to work closely with them in activities such as hunting, jogging, running, biking, or hiking.
They are highly energetic dogs who need regular exercise a few times a day. This means a few 30-minute minimum brisk walks or jogs per session or they will become destructive.
Free running in a fenced area and fetching will also help dispel energy.
It’s a versatile breed that’s up for participating in any activity, including obedience, trick training, rally, field trials, hunting tests, conformation, agility, dock diving, barn hunts, lure coursing, scent work, and tracking.
And don’t forget to add enrichment activities such as puzzle toys for this inquisitive breed.
Their short, sleek coat with no undercoat requires occasional care with a rubber grooming brush. But you might want to groom at least weekly when they’re in the house as they are shedders.
6. Anatolian Shepherd
A large, imposing working dog originally from Turkey, the Anatolian shepherd was bred to guard his flock.
Muscular, nimble dogs, they are fiercely protective of their flock, livestock, and their people and other family pets.
Just the sight of this dog that can weigh up to 150 pounds and stand up to 29” at the shoulder is often enough to deter burglars, thieves, or other strangers. After all, who would want to confront such a formidable canine? But be aware: these are not dogs for novice owners.
They are barkers to alert you of any strangers.
Because of their natural tendency to be a watchdog and extremely protective, it’s essential that an Anatolian shepherd be socialized from puppyhood on to new people and situations he will encounter. Otherwise, he may become aggressive to all strangers and in everyday situations.
He has a thick undercoat with a long overcoat that protects him from the elements. A weekly brushing suffices except during his bi-yearly shedding, when brushing every few days will help eliminate loose hairs.
Because Anatolian shepherds were bred to work independently, training can be a challenge. So be sure to train from puppyhood on. He must understand that you are the leader and obey cues.
An Anatolian shepherd should be trained to perform all basic obedience cues. If he isn’t taught not to pull on a leash and not to jump, he can be a loaded cannon as bounds away from or towards you. Teaching him a reliable recall will be difficult but is essential.
Despite his imposing size, he doesn’t require a lot of exercise. A romp in a secure yard and a walk on leash should suffice.
7. Bernese Mountain Dog
Originating in Switzerland, Bernese Mountain Dogs (aka Berner) are working dogs who have been used as all-around farm dogs, including pulling heavy carts, droving cattle, and protecting farms from predators.
Muscular with an imposing stature, Berners weigh up to 115 pounds and stand up to 27.5” at the shoulder.
These true gentle giants are friendly with family and strangers alike. They love children and are fine with friendly dogs.
Berners have a double coat with a longer outer coat and a wooly undercoat. They shed year-round requiring only weekly brushing. But during fall and spring shedding seasons, it’s best to brush them more frequently.
They love being outdoors in cool weather but also need to be with their family a majority of the time. If left alone too often, they can develop some behavior problems such as separation anxiety and be destructive.
So while they can live outside part-time, they should also be with their pet parents indoors too.
And if you love outdoor activities such as hiking or taking long walks, your Berner will thrive if he’s included.
They require at least a half-hour of daily exercise to be happy and fit.
Because of their massive size, early and ongoing training is essential. Berners are intelligent, willing learners so they should easily be taught basic behaviors.
It’s crucial that they learn not to pull on a leash or jump on people to avoid injuries.
Because of their innate friendliness, they need to learn that they have to sit when someone approaches. Impulse control exercises such as sit/stay and down/stay will help.
And a Berner should be socialized to new people, friendly dogs, and situations that he will face, so that he develops into the confident, friendly dog he should be.
8. Rhodesian Ridgeback
Originally from South Africa, the Rhodesian ridgeback is a courageous dog with a distinctive line of backward-growing hair along his spine.
As powerful and fearless working dogs, they are hunters, protectors, and have been used to track and keep his quarry at bay.
A large hound, they weigh up to 80 pounds and stand up to 27” at the shoulder.
Rhodesians are fiercely loyal to and protective of their families but aloof with strangers.
These hunting dogs have a high prey drive so teaching a “leave it” cue and a reliable recall are essential. Early and ongoing training from puppyhood for life are required.
Without proper training and socialization, a Ridgeback’s natural aloofness with strangers can become aggression.
They can be stubborn, hard-headed, and independent, so they need a strong leader. Rhodesian ridgebacks are not for first-time owners.
Determined hunters, they require a sturdy enclosure that’s at least six-feet high.
Rhodesians can adapt to warm temperatures more than some other outdoor dog breeds can.
Very athletic, they require long walks and play sessions. They excel at canine sports such as agility and tracking, which works their body and mind.
And don’t forget mental stimulation. This includes training and enrichment activities such as puzzle toys.
A weekly brushing will remove shedding hair and keep their glossy coat in top condition.
Originally bred in the harsh outdoor conditions of northern Japan as powerful dogs who hunted deer, wild boar, and bears, Akitas are a muscular spitz-type dog.
They are also companions who are dedicated to their families and wary of strangers.
Akitas are formidable protectors of their people. Because of their natural guarding instinct, it’s essential that they be trained and socialized starting in puppyhood and continued throughout their lives.
They need to accept people when told to and not perceive them as a threat. And they must be socialized to other dogs from a young age too, as they tend to be dog aggressive.
If not properly socialized, they can become dangerously aggressive.
Akitas are independent dogs who are strong-willed.
Weighing up to 130 pounds and standing up to 28” at the shoulder, they need to be taught from puppyhood not to jump on people or pull on lead.
Not for first-time owners, Akitas need to learn through consistent training to perform all that is required. If left to their own devices, an Akita can take over a home.
So teach all basic commands. “Leave it” and a reliable recall are essential because of their high prey drive.
Despite their imposing size, they are only moderately active. A brisk walk and some play roaming around the fenced yard will suffice.
They have an opulent double coat, so they do well in cold climates but can easily overheat in warmer conditions.
Weekly brushing will keep their coat looking its best and, during twice yearly shedding, brush a few times a week.
Originally from Siberia, Samoyeds (aka Sammies) have been used as stock dogs, moving and protecting the herd as well. They are also capable of hauling loads of 1.5 times their weight.
Powerful for their medium size, they weigh up to 65 pounds and stand up to 23.5 inches at the shoulder.
Their lavish, dense, double coat will mat without at least a weekly brushing–and daily during shedding season.
Their profuse coat protects them in cold climates, But they can quickly overheat in warmer settings.
Sammies are social, naturally friendly with people and other dogs. To reach their full potential, they should be trained and socialized from puppyhood on.
Although they love being outside, they also need to spend a lot of time with their people. Otherwise, they will become depressed and destructive.
Sammies are smart, clever, sociable dogs who should be trained with a gentle hand. Of course they should learn all the basic commands.
Because of their propensity to run away, they should not be let off-lead in an unsecured area. So they need a reliable recall in case they get out.
Because of their friendly nature to greet everyone, teach them from puppyhood not to jump on people.
A brisk walk, play, and running in a safely enclosed area should meet their exercise needs.
They can excel at agility, herding, weight pulling, sledding, and pack hiking–all of which will exercise a Sammie’s body and mind.
11. Norwegian Elkhound
An ancient spitz-type breed originating in Norway, the modern-day Norwegian Elkhound trails and holds warm-bloodied quarry.
Courageous, they can track and hunt elk, bears, moose, and wolves. When they track and follow moose, they trot far ahead of the hunter.
Elkhounds have great endurance and can hunt for several days.
They weigh up to 55 pounds and stand a maximum of 20.5” inches at the shoulder, though they appear to be larger because of their profuse coat.
So Norwegian Elkhounds require at least an hour a day of exercise. And this is the bare minimum. Otherwise, they can become destructive and obese.
A few brisk walks or runs can satisfy their need to expend energy. They are also playful, so fetching or tugging can also help release pent-up energy. And Elkhounds enjoy swimming, agility, and herding.
Socialization and training from puppyhood will bring out the best in the dog. Although Norwegian Elkhounds are loyal and bonded to their families, they are also naturally friendly to those accepted by their people.
But they will be alert barkers to inform you of any stranger–or any possible threat.
As intelligent dogs who learn cues quickly, they don’t do well with repetitive drills. Because of their independent streak, an owner needs to be a firm but fair leader so that the dog doesn’t take over the household.
Brave and independent, these dogs love being outdoors in cool climates. And they can live outdoors assuming their other needs are met. They don’t do well in warm settings.
Their medium-length, double coat is weather resistant and sheds, requiring a few minutes of daily brushing. Elkhounds shed excessively during shedding season, when they require at least five minutes of daily grooming.
I want a friendly dog who loves winter activities. What breeds can you suggest?
A Bernese mountain dog, Irish Wolfhound, or Samoyed may fit the bill. All are friendly breeds who love cold weather and participating in family activities.
I saw a Rhodesian ridgeback at a dog show. Their unique appearance intrigues me. We have a lot of guests. Are they friendly dogs?
No. They are aloof with strangers and protective of their family. But they shouldn’t be aggressive and should discern friend from foe. And they are an independent, energetic dog who is not for first-time owners.
I’m looking for a good hunting dog who is friendly to others, doesn’t require a lot of coat care, and loves the outdoors. What can you suggest?
A vizsla would fit the bill. He’s a friendly, medium-sized dog with a short coat.
There are many breeds who thrive being outdoors some or most of the time. As working, herding, and hunting dogs, they require more exercise than many other breeds.
Without socialization and training from puppyhood on, many will become aggressive. But if you meet their needs, they can be great companions.
Do you have an outdoor breed or are you thinking of getting one?
Please tell us about it in the comments section below.
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