15 Best Outdoor Dog Breeds That Can Live Outside

20 September 2021

Are you thinking about getting a dog that would stay outdoors much of the time? Get all the facts on the best outdoor dogs right here, plus learn how to keep your new furry friend safe, healthy, and happy.

two husky dogs outside in winter snowy backgound

The great outdoors is the perfect place for your dog to experience a stimulating environment and exciting adventures with you, their human. Certain dog breeds are well-suited for spending extended periods of time outside. Let’s take a look at the best outdoor dog breeds that can live outside and discover how to keep them happy and healthy. And while you’re here – learn how to keep outdoor cats safe and sound!

What makes a good outdoor dog? 

Every dog needs to spend a few minutes outside daily to take care of business. Some dogs dash back indoors as soon as they can, while others enjoy hours and hours of outdoor play. What are the characteristics to look for in an outdoor dog?

Make sure the dog’s coat is right for your climate

Imagine if you had to survive a winter night outdoors in a t-shirt or spend a hot summer day wearing a parka. Not recommended, right? The same is true for your dog. Choose an outdoor dog breed whose coat is compatible with the weather where you live. Dogs with thick fur can remain toasty warm in wintry weather, but they won’t do well outdoors in very hot climates. Dogs with short hair cannot tolerate cold weather for extended periods, but they may be less likely to overheat in warm climates. 

Choose a dog that thrives outdoors

An outdoor dog is typically bred to work and has lots of energy. These adventure dogs enjoy running, playing, and interacting with their humans. Its best to provide these dogs with large amounts of space to run and burn off their boundless energy. 

Outdoor-loving dogs flourish with lots of human interaction 

Outdoor dogs are not loners. They are domestic animals bred to be part of a human pack, and you are the leader of that pack! Plan to interact with your outdoor dog multiple times per day by inviting them to work alongside you or join you on a playful adventure, hike, or camping trip. 

dog wearing gps tracker and young woman kneeling down in a grassy meadow or field

The best reasons to get an outdoor dog

If you decide to get an outdoor dog, plan to spend as much time as you can time outside running, working, or playing with your dog! 

You plan to train your dog

Outdoor dogs need to be trained, just like indoor dogs. If you want your dog to accompany you on adventures on or off your property, dog training will make your life easier. With proper dog training, your pup will always know what you want them to do.

You live an active lifestyle

If you run, camp, fish, hike, or hunt frequently, an outdoor dog can be your best buddy. Taking your dog on an outdoor adventure can be a wonderful bonding opportunity for you and your furry friend. For your dog, the best part of this experience is being right by your side! 

You live on a working ranch or farm

Working dogs are bred to do specific jobs, and they are happiest when they are busy doing that job right alongside you. Shepherds, for example, will stay busy minding your animals. Retrievers will accompany you on hunting excursions. Riding in a vehicle around your property might make your dog the happiest pooch on the planet.

You have a large yard or access to places where your dog can run

A rural area with large fields or forests where your adventure dog can safely run is an ideal setting for an outdoor-loving dog. In the suburbs, adventure dogs benefit from daily walks, runs, trips to the dog park, or vigorous play sessions.

black dog wearing gps tracker running outside

Keeping tabs on your dog with a Bluetooth or GPS tracker makes sense in outdoor settings. With the Tractive GPS Dog Tracker for example, you can set up a Virtual Fence, get notified if your dog leaves the safe area, and then follow your dog’s live location in the app.

Get Tractive GPS

You have shelters where your dog can get out of the weather

Dogs are domestic animals, not wild animals, so no dog should spend 24 hours a day completely outdoors. Always place a shelter in your backyard, and bring your pooch indoors when temperatures get extreme.  Even working dogs sleep in barns when it’s cold or rainy and get invited into the house during bad weather. No dog owner wants their best buddy to suffer needlessly when there’s an easy way to keep them comfortable by allowing them inside.

Reasons not to get an outdoor dog

If you are looking for an outdoor dog because you don’t want to invest too much time or energy in the dog, you may want to reexamine the type of dog that’s best for you.

You want a low-maintenance dog that can live mostly alone outdoors

Outdoor dogs require just as much work as indoor dogs. As domestic animals bred to be part of a human pack, all dogs need human interaction every day, multiple times per day. Leaving your dog alone in the yard is not good for your dog, for you, or for your neighbors! Lonely dogs get into trouble, including escaping, digging, scratching your door, and barking. 

You don’t have much outdoor space

Dogs that are well-suited to the outdoors are usually larger and have lots of energy, so apartment living may not be right for them. If your small yard isn’t large enough for your dog to engage in active play, plan to take them on long walks, runs, or to the dog park every day. If you don’t keep your adventure dog busy, your pup will apply its energy to some other forbidden task, like digging or escaping. 

Your dog is not well-behaved

Banishing your adventure dog to the outdoors is not a solution to bad behaviors observed inside the home. Invest in proper dog training so you and your dog will overcome the frustrating issues that led to their eviction to the backyard. A well-trained dog is a happy dog!

Keeping your dog safe while outdoors

Life outdoors can be enriching and exciting, but it’s also filled with potential hazards for your adventure dog. Be a responsible pet owner and take the appropriate steps to keep your dog safe and healthy outdoors. 

Supervision

Make sure to supervise your dog when they spend time outdoors. Leaving a dog alone outdoors can lead to escapes, unwanted encounters with wildlife, or other dangers. Engage in active play, start a game of fetch, or allow your pup to follow you around as you garden or do yard work. Being with you is your dog’s favorite thing – after all, you are the leader of the pack in your dog’s eyes! 

Parasites

Dogs can get heartworms if they are bitten by an infected mosquito. Heartworms are dangerous parasites that can grow to a foot long, live within your dog’s heart and lungs for years, and cause death. If you have an outdoor dog, it will be likely exposed to mosquitos. That’s why heartworm preventatives are so important for your outdoor dog. Talk to your veterinarian about heartworms to get more information. 

Fleas and ticks

Any adventure dog that spends time outside is going to encounter fleas and ticks. Fleas can be spread by other animals, including stray dogs, raccoons, and opossums. Ticks are found in tall grass and attach themselves to your dog. Both fleas and ticks can transmit disease, so talk to your veterinarian about flea and tick medication to keep these pests from pestering your outdoor dog. Get more tips for preventing and dealing with ticks on dogs.

Vaccinations

Be certain to stay up to date on your outdoor dog’s rabies vaccine and any other vaccinations recommended by your veterinarian. 

Weather

If your dog spends most of the day outdoors, keep an eye on the weather. Be sure your dog has a shelter and access to shade and water. If a thunderstorm rolls in and your dog is alone in the yard, they may become afraid. Such fear in dogs could create a negative association with being outdoors. Always protect your dog from extreme weather by bringing them inside

Escapes

black and white outdoor dog running away through a field of grass

An unattended outdoor dog that gets bored or lonely is a prime candidate for escape. Make sure your fences, gates, and locks are secure before allowing your dog outdoors. Give your dog toys to keep them busy, or best of all, spend time with your dog outdoors rather than leaving them alone. If your dog does escape, make sure they are wearing a GPS dog tracker so you can track and find them immediately.

Poisons

If you have your property treated with fertilizers or pesticides, keep your dog out of that area for a few days after application. Be aware of any poisonous snakes, toads, or spiders that your dog could encounter while outdoors. Stagnant pools of water can contain parasites that your dog could ingest, so remove those from areas that your dog might visit. Be aware of these common dog poisons.

Wildlife

Whether you live in a rural area or the suburbs, your outdoor dog is likely to meet local critters up close and personal. Raccoons, opossums, coyotes, stray dogs, and cats may wander onto your property, especially at night. These creatures can spread fleas, get into physical alterations with your dog, or frighten your pet. Again, the best way to avoid these encounters is to check your fences and gates, construct a large kennel with a roof, or bring your dog indoors at night

Grass awns

Last but not least, grass awns can pose a threat to your outdoor dog, so be aware of their presence in your yard or dog’s territory. Grass awns might seem harmless at first, but their tiny, barbed, and needle-like structure can cause them to get stuck under your dog’s skin, causing injury and infection. Remove grass awns from your dog’s coat as soon as you find them.

brown and white dog standing in field of grass awns

What are the best dog breeds that can live outside?

The 15 popular dog breeds listed here are the experts’ top choices for dogs that can spend extended periods outdoors due to their high energy and working-dog pedigrees. Conduct your own research and decide which breed is right for your lifestyle, members of your household, and your outdoor space. 

If you’re looking for low-maintenance outdoor dog breeds, remember that all dogs, whether they spend their lives indoors or out, thrive with basic dog obedience training and lots of attention from you. That investment of training and attention will build a lifelong bond between you and your pup.

1. Alaskan Malamute

Weighing 75-85 pounds as adults, Alaskan Malamutes were bred to carry large loads by sled over snowy terrain. These tough, loyal dogs have thick fur, which keeps them warm in cold weather. Malamutes can be strong-willed, yet they are intelligent and hard-working.

2. American Foxhound

Ideal for rural areas with plenty of room for running, American Foxhounds were bred for speed. These extremely energetic dogs make great jogging companions due to their high stamina. Adults weigh 40-65 pounds. Experienced pet owners recommend training your American Foxhound while young for the best results.

3. Australian Cattle Dog

A classic working dog, Australian Cattle Dogs are popular outdoor breeds. Their medium size – about 35-45 pounds – loyalty, and intelligence make them good choices for families. As long as you are able to establish yourself as the pack leader and keep your pup busy outdoors, you and your Australian Cattle Dog will thrive together.

4. Australian Shepherd Dog

Known as the cowboy’s top choice for herding, Australian Shepherd Dogs were bred as livestock guardians. Known as “Aussies,” these dogs excel in agility competitions and make great hiking or running partners. These 35- to 70-pound dogs need plenty of exercise to keep them happy.

5. Bearded Collie

Intelligent and agile, Bearded Collies were originally bred as herding dogs for livestock. At 35 to 60 pounds, these shaggy dogs require frequent grooming due to their long coat. Bearded Collies can be playful companions for your family.

6. Belgian Sheepdog

Known as easy to train, Belgian Sheepdogs are agile and obedient. Their excellent tracking skills make them invaluable members of search and rescue teams. These same attributes give them a strong prey drive, which means they will chase nearly anything that moves. Belgian Sheepdogs are large, weighing 60-75 pounds, so they require a well-maintained fence for containment. Because they do well in warm and cold weather, Belgian Sheepdogs are regarded as one of the best outdoor dog breeds. 

7. Bernese Mountain Dog

Bred in Switzerland as watchdogs and herders, Bernese Mountain Dogs have a calmer temperament than many other herding dogs. Their large size of 70-115 pounds contrasts with their gentle personality, making them suitable for families with children. The thick coat protects these dogs in cold weather, but they shed all year long. 

8. German Shepherd Dog

Loyal, intelligent, and courageous, German Shepherds are a popular breed that is used worldwide as police, service, and guard dogs. German Shepherds enjoy a moderate amount of activity and are even-tempered, making them suitable for families. These dogs weigh 75-95 pounds and are strong and agile, so they require exercise every day. German Shepherds are all-weather dogs, but their thick coat can pose a risk in extreme heat. 

9. Great Pyrenees

A thick coat protects the Great Pyrenees against the cold. Weighing up to 130 pounds, these outdoor dogs are moderately active and although they are smart, Great Pyrenees may be uninterested in dog obedience training. Hardy mountain dogs, the Great Pyrenees was bred to guard and herd livestock in the Pyrenees Mountains of Europe. 

10. Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

Strong and powerful, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs were bred in the Swiss Alps to pull carts and act as livestock guardians. Weighing 85-140 pounds, Greater Swiss Mountain dogs are less energetic than other herding dogs, but they enjoy being included in household activities and getting daily exercise. Their short coat enables them to be outdoors in cool and warm weather. 

11. Irish Wolfhound

Weighing up to 120 pounds and standing nearly three feet tall, Irish Wolfhounds are one of the largest dog breeds. Due to their size, Irish Wolfhounds need large outdoor spaces to run and play. Their coarse fur keeps them comfortable in a range of climates. Despite their somewhat intimidating size, Irish Wolfhounds are not aggressive and are a great fit for an active family.  

12. Labrador Retriever

Faithful, playful, and energetic, Labrador Retrievers were originally bred to help hunters and fishermen.  These active adventure dogs need high amounts of mental and physical stimulation in the form of play, work, or human interaction. Adults weigh 55 – 80 pounds, and Labradors come in a variety of coat colors from yellow to chocolate.

13. Rottweiler

If your family goes outdoors often, a Rottweiler may be a good fit for your active lifestyle. These dogs weigh 85-130 pounds and can be both territorial guard dogs and silly playmates. With a short coat, Rottweilers can be outdoors in all but extreme heat or cold. 

14. Samoyed

A working dog bred in Siberia to pull sleds and guard reindeer, Samoyeds are gentle and devoted to their owners, making them a good match for families with children. Samoyeds have thick fur to protect them from subzero temperatures. They are known for their playfulness and friendly personality. 

15. Siberian Husky

husky dog jumping outside in snow

Friendly and affectionate, Siberian Huskies are good companions for families. Weighing 35-60 pounds, Siberian Huskies are outdoor dogs bred to pull sleds in cold climates.  They are energetic and active, and love to run – even out of the back yard if the opportunity arises. Keep your Siberian Husky well-exercised.

More best outdoor dogs

There are many other dog breeds that enjoy active outdoor adventures depending on your needs. Check out Akitas, Anatolian Shepherd Dogs, Keeshonds, Mastiffs, Vizslas, and Rhodesian Ridgebacks as other options.  

Are there small dog breeds that live outdoors in cold weather?

Most outdoor dogs are medium or large-sized breeds. That’s because larger dogs do better than small dogs outdoors in cold weather. Larger dogs have greater body mass to retain heat. Small dogs often don’t have enough body mass to comfortably spend many hours outdoors in the cold

dog wearing dog jacket walking outside in snow

Find out: How cold is too cold for dogs?

Experts suggest three small dog breeds which might be able to spend extended periods outdoors, depending on the weather. Norwegian Elkhounds, Tibetan Terriers, and Welsh Terriers may tolerate colder temperatures, but not extreme cold. Like all outdoor dog breeds, these smaller dogs will need access to the indoors to spend time with you and remain healthy.

Best outdoor dogs for hot weather

If you live in a region where extreme heat is the norm most of the year, consider getting short-haired outdoor dog breed. Dogs with long coats will not tolerate the high temperatures well, and so will not enjoy enough outdoor adventures with you to satisfy their high-energy lifestyle. Learn more about the danger of heat stroke in dogs or how to keep your dog cool in summer.

Enjoy an active lifestyle with your outdoor-loving adventure dog!

Time spent outdoors with your dog is not only fun, it’s good for you and your dog’s mental and physical health. Take advantage of outdoor activities in all types of weather, and bring your adventure dog along for the experience. You’ll create wonderful memories together!

woman running outdoors with dog

Once you’ve found the best outdoor dog for you, you can also try out these outdoor activity together:

For more insights on the best outdoor dog breeds, check out the video below:

Never lose my dog again

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