TYPE: Cattle dog
PERSONALITY: Exuberant, bold, brave
PROS: Aussies are independent thinkers with no real chase instinct (they work herds by staring them down, not nipping). That makes them good companions for dynamic, fast-paced activities.
CONS: High-energy; heavy shedders; thick coats prone to burs and matted fur (but also resistant to brush, thorns, and water)
BEST SUITED TO: Hiking, running, skiing, kayaking, and especially mountain biking
SIMILAR DOGS: Border collie, blue heeler
BRITISH LABRADOR RETRIEVER
TYPE: Sporting dog
PERSONALITY: Friendly, loyal, affectionate
PROS: America’s most popular dog is trainable, loving, and social. British labs are generally smaller and leaner than their American cousins and are thus better adapted to endurance sports.
CONS: Can put on weight if they don’t get enough exercise; not the fastest dogs around, but will run until they drop; hip dysplasia
BEST SUITED TO: Most sports, particularly boating: they’re excellent swimmers
SIMILAR DOGS: Chesapeake Bay retriever, golden retriever
TYPE: Sled dog
PERSONALITY: Smart, stubborn, occasionally aloof
PROS: Strong, tough, and durable, Huskies are bred to pull sleds over long distances. Given the right conditions, they’ll work forever. You’ll have a hard time finding a better dog in the snow.
CONS: Prey driven—will chase virtually any animal that crosses their path; can be destructive if left alone; prefer cooler weather; tend to bark a lot
BEST SUITED TO: Skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, hiking, and mountaineering
SIMILAR DOGS: Alaskan malamute, Samoyed, chow chow
TYPE: Hunting dog
PERSONALITY: Affectionate, happy, almost goofy
PROS: Athletic and motivated, with a deeply ingrained hunting instinct, setters are gentle and tolerant—and they’re great with kids.
CONS: Birding instinct is so hard-wired that it can be difficult to work around when training; affectionate nature can make them sensitive; fairly heavy droolers
BEST SUITED TO: Running, hiking, boating, and hunting
SIMILAR DOGS: Irish setter, springer spaniel, German shorthaired pointer
TYPE: Water dog
PERSONALITY: Friendly, playful, obstinate at times
PROS: Extremely smart, poodles are also solid swimmers, are comfortable around guns, shed minimally, and are hypoallergenic. The largest size—standard—is the best bet for rugged outdoor pursuits.
CONS: Energetic and prone to boredom if you don’t keep them entertained; can be mischievous
BEST SUITED TO: Hunting, fishing, and boating
SIMILAR DOGS: Portuguese water dog, Irish water spaniel
*Mutts are also a good option. Breed characteristics will still be apparent, however. Choose a mix that fits your lifestyle.