Dog Breeds With the Highest (and Lowest) Exercise Needs

Adequate exercise is essential to keep any dog healthy and happy. But certain dog breeds — or mixes who maintain some of their breed characteristics — tend to have high energy levels and intelligence, requiring ample physical and mental stimulation if you adopt one. Although this list is by no means exhaustive, here are 10 energetic dog breeds with high exercise needs, as well as some who tend to have lower activity levels.

Australian cattle dog standing outsideCredit: xtrekx/Getty Images

1. Australian cattle dog

The Australian cattle dog was created to work long days herding cattle in rough environments. And it still retains that strength and stamina, as well as high intelligence — meaning it needs sufficient physical and mental workouts to keep it happy. “Choose this breed only if you are a high-energy person yourself who enjoys long periods of active daily exercise such as running, bicycling and hiking,” according to VetStreet.

2. Australian shepherd

Australian shepherds actually developed in the western United States, descending from Australian herding dogs. And just like the cattle dog, they were bred not for their looks but for their physical abilities — making them extremely robust, active and intelligent animals. Channel their mental and physical energy into dog sports, such as agility or flying disc. And be prepared to give them long walks every day.

3. Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois running on a beachCredit: onetouchspark/Getty Images

The Belgian Malinois has been employed as a herding dog for centuries, but it’s also highly trainable and excels in police and rescue work. Just like other herding dogs, it seems to have boundless energy mixed with high intelligence that needs an outlet every day. “The Malinois is a great companion for a runner, jogger, or bicyclist,” VetStreet says. “You will probably run out of steam before he does.”

4. Border collie

Border collies are one of the smartest dog breeds, and their athleticism and desire to work is top-notch, too. “Expecting a Border Collie to spend his days in the backyard and his evenings keeping you company while you watch your favorite TV shows is a sure way to create a barking, bored, destructive dog,” VetStreet says. Border collies often are top contenders in dog sports, thanks to their intelligence and work ethic. But they definitely need something to challenge them mentally and exhaust them physically, or they might develop bad behaviors.

5. Dalmatian

Dalmatians were bred to run alongside and offer protection to carriages and horseback riders, and they still have that endurance today. “This is a highly energetic, athletic dog who can run for hours given the opportunity,” according to VetStreet. “A daily walk or run of a half-hour to an hour is a reasonable minimum to meet his exercise needs.” They also have a strong desire to please and love learning — and performing — new tricks, making obedience classes and other dog sports an excellent way to channel their energy.

6. German shorthaired pointer

German shorthaired pointer puppy runningCredit: BeeBuddy/Getty Images

Many hunting dogs come with ample strength and stamina, causing them to have more energy than some owners know what to do with. But if you’re the type of person who loves physical outdoor activities, such as running or hiking, the German shorthaired pointer might be the dog for you. “These dogs need daily sessions of heart-pumping exercise, the more the better,” VetStreet says. “They also need training to control that energy in the off-leash full-out runs they require.”

7. Jack Russell terrier

Many terriers are energetic, intelligent dogs who need to channel their exuberance into exercise and mind puzzles. Case in point: the Jack Russell terrier. “He’s super-active, super-smart and, in the wrong hands, super-destructive,” according to VetStreet. These dogs must be kept busy, or they might resort to unwanted behaviors, especially digging. But with consistent training, they excel in many dog sports and make for very playful, affectionate family members.

8. Papillon

Don’t let that pretty little facade fool you. The Papillon is a powerhouse athlete, who’s highly clever and trainable. They excel at agility, flyball, obedience and more — and they require an outlet like that to channel their smarts and energy. Expect to take this dog on long walks every day, and allow them time to run and play off-leash, as well.

9. Siberian husky

Siberian husky running on snowCredit: SVPhilon/Getty Images

Developed as working dogs to pull sleds, huskies still live to run. “For those looking for a calm dog to settle with on the couch in the evenings and maybe enjoy a short stroll around the block a few times a week, the Siberian Husky isn’t a match,” according to VetStreet. These dogs need vigorous exercise every day and would love to go on long walks, runs or hikes with you. Just be warned that huskies also are notorious escape artists and can run for miles before they’re found.

10. Weimaraner

“There are two things a prospective owner needs to know about the Weimaraner: He has no ‘off’ switch, and he’s not happy when left alone,” VetStreet says. Bred as hunting dogs with speed and stamina, Weimaraners would love to spend every day running, hiking, swimming, etc. — as long as you’re there, too. Without enough exercise, they tend to get a little stir crazy, and most require a home with a yard, so they can get out some energy.

Low-activity dog breeds

bulldog lying on groundCredit: Marcelo-Kaneshira/Getty Images

Although it’s critical that all dogs have physical activity in their lives, VetStreet rates the following dog breeds the lowest for their daily exercise needs, often due to size or health concerns.

  • Bulldog: Bulldogs tend to be easygoing companions who love spending time with people. They’re content with short daily walks — especially if it’s warm out, as their flat faces make it difficult to breathe and put them at risk of overheating.
  • Chihuahua: Chihuahuas have big personalities, but they only need a short walk (short to you at least) to tire out their little bodies. Still, these dogs are highly intelligent and often stubborn, requiring consistent training and activities to exercise their minds.
  • Havanese: The Havanese is a playful, friendly little dog who loves to be the center of attention. It doesn’t take much to exercise them, but they do prefer lots of interaction with their families.
  • Japanese Chin: The Japanese Chin originated as a companion dog, thus never having the desire to be out herding or hunting all day. They’re happy with daily walks and some play time to meet their exercise needs. But don’t underestimate their athleticism: These dogs are notorious acrobats and often are seen perched up high like cats.
  • Maltese: The sweet Maltese would be happy cuddling with their family all day. But resist the urge to carry them everywhere. These dogs excel in training and dog sports thanks to their intelligence and willingness to please, so use that as an outlet to keep them physically fit.
  • Pekingese: The bold Pekingese generally doesn’t need much physical activity to be happy as they rule their empire. Still, it’s important for them to exercise to maintain a healthy weight, though owners must be cautious about breathing difficulties due to their flat faces.
  • Pug: Fun-loving pugs prefer to be where the activity is. It’s just that they don’t want too much physical activity themselves. Keep a pug physically fit with walks and play, as some have a tendency to become obese (probably thanks to their endearing begging skills and love of cuddling). But be mindful that their flat faces can make breathing a struggle.

Discuss your dog’s activity needs with your vet, as well as the best types of exercise you can do. Just like with humans, jumping right into a strenuous workout routine isn’t always healthy for a dog. Still, exercise can benefit any dog by keeping their weight in check, strengthening their bodies, preventing boredom and allowing them to live longer, healthier lives.

Main image credit: happyborder/Getty Images


Chad Anderson
Chad A29 days ago


Paula A
Past Member 4 months ago

Thank you for sharing

Helen C
Helen C5 months ago

I love my Husky .... she is so funny & loving

Chad A
Chad A5 months ago

Thank you.

heather g
heather g5 months ago

I think Husky-type dogs are so expressive and funny - but I've always favoured Poodles.

Chrissie R
Chrissie R5 months ago

Thanks for posting.

Marija M
Marija M5 months ago


Leo C
Leo C5 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

Leo C
Leo C5 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

Barbara S
Barbara S5 months ago

thank you