Humans have bred canines to come in every size, shape, color, and temperament imaginable. For those of us who lead an active or outdoorsy lifestyle, finding a dog suited to those activities is a must.

Here is an infographic of how we decided the best dog breeds for the outdoors:

Infographic showing the traits of dogs suited for the outdoors and the top 10 breeds

Traits suitable for the outdoors

When you’re looking for the perfect outdoor companion, there are many characteristics to consider. The ideal hunting dog may have traits that make it a poor choice for a fishing companion. For the purposes of this study, we’ve evaluated dog breeds on characteristics and abilities specific to several common outdoor activities, including hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping. Traits are rated on a scale from one to five stars, with five stars being the optimal rating.

Athleticism

When we considered a dog’s athleticism, we looked at its endurance, ability to carry loads, and its energy level.

Agility

Agility consists of surefootedness and the ability to surmount obstacles.

Obedience

Obedience can be challenging to quantify. For our purposes, we have considered a dog’s trainability, intelligence, and the potential for wanderlust to evaluate obedience level. Some of the traits that make a dog excellent at hunting, such as single-mindedness, can also be detrimental to the dog’s safety. Several of the breeds on this list are not suitable for novice handlers.

Swimming ability

While many dogs can swim, some are made to be in the water. The highest scores were assigned to breeds that have a known affinity for swimming.

Hunting ability

Some canines have an instinctive drive to hunt specific types of animals, or they have an inborn capacity to retrieve or point.

Hardiness

Some dogs do best at temperature extremes, while others have a general resistance to cold and ability to function in heat. The highest ratings will be for all-weather dogs. If a breed has special adaptations for an extreme, those will be noted.

The Top 10 Outdoor Dog Breeds

German Shorthaired Pointer

SamSam” by Harold Meerveld is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
AthleticismPaws Rating for Score 5.0AgilityPaws Rating for Score 5.0
ObediencePaws Rating for Score 4.0Swimming AbilityPaws Rating for Score 5.0
Hunting AbilityPaws Rating for Score 5.0HardinessPaws Rating for Score 3.0

This energetic medium to large-sized dog is a winner in the field and with families. They are friendly and intelligent people-pleasers who need space to burn their energy.

These dogs have versatile abilities as gun dogs, swimmers, pointers, and retrievers. Their short coats don’t pick up burrs from the underbrush, but they are susceptible to cold.

Best Suited For: Hunting, fishing, swimming and hiking

Golden Retriever

Picture of a Golden Retriever resting on grass

AthleticismPaws Rating for Score 5.0AgilityPaws Rating for Score 5.0
ObediencePaws Rating for Score 5.0Swimming AbilityPaws Rating for Score 5.0
Hunting AbilityPaws Rating for Score 5.0HardinessPaws Rating for Score 5.0

These canines are among the most versatile on our list. They are popular with families because of their friendly temperaments and trainability, but they are also driven hunters.

They have an outstanding sense of smell and are well-suited to flushing and retrieving upland game and waterfowl. They are powerful swimmers with water-repelling outer coats and thick undercoats.

Best Suited For: Hunting, fishing, camping and hiking

Labrador Retriever

Picture of a Labrador Retriever engrossed at something

AthleticismPaws Rating for Score 5.0AgilityPaws Rating for Score 5.0
ObediencePaws Rating for Score 5.0Swimming AbilityPaws Rating for Score 5.0
Hunting AbilityPaws Rating for Score 5.0HardinessPaws Rating for Score 5.0

This medium to large-sized dog is the most popular breed in the United States today according to the American Kennel Club. Not only are they instinctive hunters, but they are also highly trainable. Labrador Retrievers excel as gun dogs and companion animals.

As the name suggests, they are masterful retrievers, specializing in duck hunting and flushing other types of fowl. They can also trail other game such as deer and rabbits. Their coat is water repellant, and their webbed paws make them excellent swimmers.

Best Suited For: Hunting, fishing, camping, swimming and hiking

Jack Russell Terrier

Picture of Jack Russell Terrier on a grass patch

AthleticismPaws Rating for Score 5.0AgilityPaws Rating for Score 5.0
ObediencePaws Rating for Score 4.0Swimming AbilityPaws Rating for Score 3.0
Hunting AbilityPaws Rating for Score 5.0HardinessPaws Rating for Score 3.0

What the Jack Russell Terrier lacks in size, it makes up for in personality. They are energetic, intelligent, and relatively easy to train. Their high prey drive makes them an excellent choice for people interested in hunting small game including foxes, raccoons, and badgers.

Their fearless nature and acute sense of smell enable them to trail larger animals such as elk and lions. Since they are so energetic, their owners should be prepared to give them plenty of opportunities to run. While Jack Russell Terriers are capable swimmers, they are not built for the water in the way that retrievers are.

Best Suited For: Hunting and camping

Vizsla

Picture of Vizsla on a snow patch

AthleticismPaws Rating for Score 5.0AgilityPaws Rating for Score 5.0
ObediencePaws Rating for Score 5.0Swimming AbilityPaws Rating for Score 5.0
Hunting AbilityPaws Rating for Score 5.0HardinessPaws Rating for Score 3.0

Vizslas are excellent hunters and retrievers. Their energetic nature means that they need plenty of opportunities to exercise. In spite of their tenacity, Vizslas are also incredibly sensitive companions. Their short coats enable them to withstand heat extremes, but they are susceptible to cold.

Best Suited For: Fishing, hunting, hiking and camping

Bernese Mountain Dog

Picture of Bernese Mountain Dog relaxing on concrete pavement

AthleticismPaws Rating for Score 4.5AgilityPaws Rating for Score 4.0
ObediencePaws Rating for Score 4.5Swimming AbilityPaws Rating for Score 4.0
Hunting AbilityPaws Rating for Score 4.0HardinessPaws Rating for Score 4.0

Bernese Mountain Dogs are strong and capable companions. These gentle giants are well-suited to the outdoors, but they also enjoy spending time with the family indoors.

The Bernese Mountain Dog does best on short hikes, and since they were originally used as draft animals, they are happy to carry small loads. Their thick coats make them especially adept at handling cold temperatures, but they may find hot temperatures uncomfortable.

Best Suited For: Hiking, camping, hunting and fishing

Portuguese Water Dog

Picture of Portuguese Water Dog giving puppy eyes

AthleticismPaws Rating for Score 5.0AgilityPaws Rating for Score 5.0
ObediencePaws Rating for Score 4.5Swimming AbilityPaws Rating for Score 5.0
Hunting AbilityPaws Rating for Score 4.0HardinessPaws Rating for Score 5.0

As their name suggests, these canines thrive in the water. They make excellent family pets, but they also like to have a job to do. These dogs are intelligent and easy to train.

They are excellent retrievers, but they were originally used to herd fish into nets and retrieve lost tackle. They are equally tolerant of hot and cold environments.

Best Suited For: Fishing, swimming, hiking and camping

Border Collie

Border Collie resting on grass patch

AthleticismPaws Rating for Score 5.0AgilityPaws Rating for Score 5.0
ObediencePaws Rating for Score 4.0Swimming AbilityPaws Rating for Score 5.0
Hunting AbilityPaws Rating for Score 3.0HardinessPaws Rating for Score 4.0

Border Collies are recognized as the most intelligent dog breed. These pooches are friendly, and they have boundless energy. This dog was originally bred to herd livestock, and while it is possible to train them to hunt, they have a relatively low prey drive.

Best Suited For: Hiking, camping and swimming

Siberian Husky

Siberian Huskies playing around in the snow

AthleticismPaws Rating for Score 5.0AgilityPaws Rating for Score 5.0
ObediencePaws Rating for Score 2.0Swimming AbilityPaws Rating for Score 3.0
Hunting AbilityPaws Rating for Score 2.0HardinessPaws Rating for Score 3.0

The Siberian Husky’s amazing endurance enables it to compete in multi-day sled races. These intelligent dogs are not only physically strong, but they have been known to be headstrong. They can be tough for novice owners to train, and they are prone to wanderlust.

Huskies are known to be athletic and playful. This breed thrives in cold weather, but on account of its thick fur, it does not do well in the heat.

Best Suited For: Camping, hiking (cool weather) and long trail runs

Cocker Spaniel

Cocker Spaniel at a beach

AthleticismPaws Rating for Score 3.0AgilityPaws Rating for Score 5.0
ObediencePaws Rating for Score 4.0Swimming AbilityPaws Rating for Score 5.0
Hunting AbilityPaws Rating for Score 4.0HardinessPaws Rating for Score 3.0

Cocker Spaniels are medium-sized sporting dogs with a medium energy level. These sensitive pups have a strong prey drive and an eagerness to please. They are readily trainable and great for the novice dog owner, although they do have the potential to wander.

Cocker Spaniels are often used as bird dogs. Their thick coats make them tolerant of cold weather, but they are intolerant of heat.

Best Suited For: Hiking, swimming, hunting and fishing