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10 top athletic dog breeds for canine sports

High-energy dogs often have excellent athletic potential
Michelle Buntin via Wikimedia Commons

Athletic dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and each breed or body type has its own specialties in the world of dog sports. It takes more than a lot of energy to make a top athletic dog breed. These dogs have energy, stamina, intelligence and trainability, as well as excellent health profiles and sound body types. In addition, dogs with a reputation for a strong sense of loyalty to their humans are more likely to make it through the rigorous training associated with dog sports.

Individuals from any breed may have athletic potential, but these ten breeds represent some of the most popular and most athletically gifted dogs in the world. Where multiple breeds from the same gene pool consistently produce top-notch athletes, the oldest recognized breed is listed here. Note that while these cover some of the most athletic breeds that are also among the most popular, there are dozens of promising breeds with aptitude in certain aspects of competitive athleticism.

Alaskan husky

Alaskan husky
Alaskan husky wheeldog via Wikimedia Commons

Considered the ultimate harness dog for distance and speed sports, the Alaskan husky is a contender in a wide range of sports. These dogs often find their way onto sled dog teams, skijoring and canicross. They're a little smaller than Siberian huskies, and more consistently bred for performance rather than looks.

Golden retriever

Golden retriever
Golden retriever Jerry Reynolds via Wikimedia Commons

Ultimately trainable and the quintessential family pet, the golden retriever is also a top athlete. These dogs tend to be driven and physically sound, with the stamina and a love for water that makes them great bird dogs, but also top water rescue dogs and dock jumpers.

Jack Russell

Jack Russell
Jack Russell Steve-65 via Wikimedia Commons

Jack Russell terriers are non-stop balls of energy. They want to run, jump, and experience new things every second of the day. While this might make them aggravating house pets, it also makes them prime candidates for dog sports. Jack Russells are often top contenders in agility, flyball and other sports that require speed and the ability to turn on a dime.

Australian cattle dog

Australian cattle dog
Australian cattle dog Eva holderegger walser via Wikimedia Commons

The Australian cattle dog, also called the blue heeler or red heeler, is one of the top all-around dogs for competitive sports. Bred for herding, Australian cattle dogs possess incredible intelligence and physical prowess. They're top competitors in sports ranging from agility to Schutzhund, and many others in-between.

Beauceron

Beauceron
Beauceron Pleple2000 via Wikimedia Commons

With intelligence, speed, stamina, agility and a deep sense of loyalty, the beauceron presents all that is desirable in an athletic dog. Notice any similarities between this dog, the German shepherd and a Doberman pinscher? Both of those breeds originated in the beauceron, and both are also top-notch athletes.

Brittany

Brittany
Brittany Ron Armstrong via Wikimedia Commons

Once classified as a spaniel, the Brittany has been developed as an all-around working dog. Its long legs and slender build offer it speed and agility in the field or in the competition ring. A bird dog, agility competitor and disc dog all rolled up in one, the Brittany is a prime addition to virtually any athletic home.

Catahoula leopard dog

Catahoula leopard dog
Catahoula leopard dog Phattums via Wikimedia Commons

Originally bred as a boar hunter, the Catahoula leopard dog (also known as a Catahoula cur) is now a multipurpose working dog that's slowly rising in the ranks in dog sports. Used for herding or hunting, the Catahoula dominates boar baying and nosework, as well as speed sports such as flyball.

Greyhound

Greyhound
Greyhound AngMoKio via Wikimedia Commons

Specially bred for their aerodynamic bodies, greyhounds excel at one thing -- running. These dogs can reach unbelievable speeds over short distances, and are famous for their racing ability. Off the track, they are top choices for coursing. Their smaller counterparts, the whippets, are also considered excellent athletes.

Border collie

Border collie
Border collie Martin Pettitt via Wikimedia Commons

Another top herding dog, the border collie possesses both the brain and body of an athlete. Border collies are predominant in sheepdog trials, but are also big competitors in agility, treibball, dock jumping and flyball.

Redbone coonhound

Redbone coonhound
Redbone coonhound Rcaa via Wikimedia Commons

Redbone coonhounds were originally developed in Brazil, and are used for hunting all over the continental United States. They have the speed, stamina and keen sense of smell to make great hunters, but also great dogs for harness, search and rescue and coursing.

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