By: Orvis Staff
If you live in the country, chances are you enjoy exploring the fields, forests, and footpaths of your rustic stomping grounds. If you’re interested in getting a dog you can bring along on these excursions, choose with care. Some dog breeds would rather stick close to home than romp across rolling fields or venture out into the wilderness. Thankfully, however, many dog breeds are naturally adventurous and game for al fresco escapades. If you’re the outdoorsy type, you should be on the lookout for the latter.
You won’t need a large or especially rugged dog—many small dogs make good country dogs, too. What they’ll share is plenty of pluck, energy, stamina, and a coat that protects them from the elements. Here’s a rundown of some of the best country dog breeds, as well as qualities to look for in your country hound:
Best Country Dog Breeds
- Australian Shepherds – These high-energy dogs want nothing more than to journey outdoors with you for hours each day. Aussies thrive with a large back yard to explore and your constant companionship during outings near and far.
- Labrador Retrievers – The quintessential sporting breed, Labrador Retrievers are excellent sidekicks for hunting, hiking, and swimming. Their waterproof coats keep them dry and comfortable in the rain and snow, and keep them warm in cold weather. (But they should not live outdoors.)
- Fox Terriers (Wire and Smooth) – Both the Wire and Smooth types of Fox Terriers are plucky and energetic. They will hike with you for miles, and enjoy having a large back yard for playing fetch multiple times a day. (Toy Fox Terriers also enjoy the great outdoors, but their smaller size means they’ll want to return to the homestead sooner.)
- Beaucerons – With their bottomless reserves of energy, these herding dogs should be outside most of the day. Beaucarons are eager companions on long hikes through the countryside, and love dog sports. They excel at Treibball, a sport in which dogs ‘herd’ large balls across a field into an enclosure.
- Old English Sheepdogs – With their shaggy, water-resistant coat, and athletic build, the Old English Sheepdog is built to spend long days herding in any whether. This smart and lovable breed gets bored when asked to spend too much time indoors, and requires a minimum of one to two hours of exercise every day. They like having a job to do, even if it’s keeping a close watch over their family doing yard work.
- Bernese Mountain Dogs (cold climates) – Berners are excellent country dogs for people who live in colder climates. They will gladly join you for winter hikes and cross country skiing. This breed’s thick double coat puts them at risk of overheating in warm weather.
- Welsh Corgis (Pembroke and Cardigan) – Though also a great apartment dog for active city dwellers, both the Pembroke and Cardigan Welsh Corgi make excellent companions on the farm or in the country. Adventurous, bold, and curious, Corgis love to explore. Though they have high energy levels and benefit from a large back yard, they don’t require hours of daily outdoor activity.
- Coonhounds (Redbone, Bluetick, Black and Tan, and Treeing Walker) – These raccoon hunters have the energy for all-day excursions. They benefit from a large back yard and frequent long hikes—though they should always be securely enclosed or kept on leash because they will follow interesting scents right off your property.
Though these dogs are all built for the outdoors, individual dogs vary significantly in personality and interests. Here are other things to keep in mind when choosing a country dog:
Think Hunters and Herders
The above list includes mostly sporting and working breeds for a reason. Dogs in these groups are bred for the focus and energy needed to herd large flocks of sheep over miles of territory, or to hunt quarry from dawn until dusk. Their coats are generally water resistant, so they stay comfortable and warm during inclement weather. Their coats and skin are also usually thick enough to protect them from rocks, thorns, and fallen branches. Sporting and working dogs tend to have stamina. These aren’t breeds who are going to sit down on the trail and refuse to budge halfway through a hike—instead, they’ll be leading the way.
A ‘country’ dog is not requisite when you live in the country. If your activities are more low-key than upland hunting or challenging hikes, you don’t need a rugged, high-energy dog. You may prefer the company of a lap dog who can sit on your porch with you and enjoy the bucolic view from a distance. Or you may opt for a dog breed robust enough for the outdoors, but with a mellow temperament, such as the Basset Hound.
The alertness and stamina of sporting and herding breeds also make these dogs high-maintenance pets. Their energy doesn’t take weekends off—you’ll need to give them the exercise they require even when you need a break. They can be independent-minded, intent upon hunting or herding whatever draws their attention, turning walks into meandering journeys and often requiring supervision even in securely enclosed yards.
Finally, however rugged, athletic, or heavy-coated your dog, at the end of the day your best friend will want to relax indoors with you. Offer him a soft dog bed or a bit of couch after a long day at work or play, where he can enjoy the comforts of your country home.