The Best Dog Breeds for Those Who Live in Wide, Open Spaces
Dependable and loving, all of these working breeds have earned their reputation as herders, drafters, and all-around pasture dogs.
For dogs, nothing is more freeing than having a huge backyard to run around in—and this is especially true for those that we would categorize as working dogs. "Working breeds make wonderful companions, and thrive with space to run and stretch out," says Gina DiNardo, executive secretary of the American Kennel Club.
If you have several acres or run a farm, then a working dog breed might make an ideal companion for you. Why? "They were bred to assist people with jobs such as guarding property, pulling sleds, and performing water rescues," explains DiNardo. "These dogs are large and naturally protective." Larger-size, energetic dogs such as the Mastiff, Newfoundland, Great Pyrenees, and the like are happiest when given a job to do. You will want to make sure to have a fence around your property as well—this will ensure that your exuberant dog stays within the confines of its home. "It is a beautiful thing to watch a strong, agile working dog gallop over a large open space," DiNardo says. "Large outdoor spaces allow large dogs ample room to run as fast as they can for as long as they want."
That's why a smaller space—a city apartment or a lack of yard space—would not do well for them and may even lead to destructive behaviors. As with all adoptions, it's best to match your dog to your lifestyle and vice-versa. "While working breeds make great companions for a variety of people, the AKC always encourages prospective dog owners to do their research to make sure they find the right breed for their lifestyle," advises DiNardo.
If you're looking to adopt a dog with a strong work ethic and a heart of gold, we suggest one of the following breeds or breed mixes.
The Newfoundland is a giant dog that can weigh up to 150 pounds (or 120 pounds as a female). But make no mistake, a sweet-tempered Newfie is a famously good companion. "Newfoundlands are large, powerful working dogs that are famously sweet and fond of children," says DiNardo, enough so that they are deemed "nanny" dogs. So, if you have children and a big space, this dog would feel right at home.
Truly giant, male Great Danes can reach 30 to 32 inches, while females can get as large as 28 to 30 inches. (For comparison, a 5-foot-tall person is 60 inches so a Great Dane is half as tall as the average person.) "The sheer size of a Great Dane makes this breed need more space in which to live," adds DiNardo. "They are known to be friendly and patient but are also alert home guardians."
The Leonberger is another gentle giant with a sweet disposition. Both the males and females can weigh as much as a mid-sized human (between 90 and 170 pounds) at adulthood. A Leo, as they're called, makes for a great watchdog and all-around worker—plus, they enjoy the companionship of the whole family.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a large, immensely strong worker that has earned its reputation as a hiker's best companion. Their coat in a striking tricolor—black, red, and white is one of their most striking features.
When you think of a big dog, the Mastiff comes to mind. The males can weigh as much as 230 pounds as adults, and the females can also weigh as much as 170 pounds. But these dogs are as courageous and good-natured as they are large: The Mastiff makes a devoted guardian of their families; that said, a natural wariness of strangers makes early training and socialization essential.
Rottweilers are robust dogs with an aloof demeanor to strangers, and this makes them world-class guardians. Train them early with proper socialization and they can harness their territorial instincts in a positive way. Nonetheless, a happily raised Rottie will make a playful companion to the family.
The Saint Bernard of Swiss Alps origins is known as a beautiful, loyal dog—thanks in part to having starred in family films like Beethoven and The Call of the Wild. They need moderate exercise—hiking or camping are both great activities—but they are most happiest when in the companionship of their family.
Larger than its Standard relative, the Giant Schnauzer is a dog that has an equally regal bearing and high intelligence. More up-tempo than most big breeds, the Giant needs lots of exercise: a long walk, a round of play with other dogs, or a game of fetch all do well.
The Doberman Pinscher is easily recognized with its pointed ears and black-and-rust markings. By appearance, they're sleek, muscular animals. Personality-wise, they're very intelligent, learn easily, and respond quickly to training—all makings of a great partner to your own exercise regimen. "Dobermanns are highly energetic and need lots of exercise," says DiNardo. "A large, fenced-in area for them to run in is important for their physical and mental health."
Adapted to pulling sleds in the cold tundras of Alaska and beyond, the Siberian Husky is fast and nimble-footed. As born pack dogs, Siberians enjoy family life and get on well with other dogs although, instinctively, they can't resist chasing smaller animals. Mushers still keep packs of them for sport; less adventurous owners will simply enjoy a Siberian's company as their sociable companion.
Known as the pride of New Hampshire, this rare breed, Chinook, owes its origin to Arthur Treadwell Walden who is credited with bringing sled dog sports to New England. Chinooks are said to have the power of freighting dogs and the speed of sled racers. They enjoy hiking, tracking, and sledding—but unlike most sledding breeds, they can be reliable off-leash.
The Great Pyrenees is of colossal size (measuring up to 30 inches from shoulder to shoulder, and weighing 100 pounds or more) but these majestic dogs are not boisterous—instead, they're famously calm and dignified. Once, these herder companions helped deter wolves and other predators. Today, Pyrs are mellow guardians of home and family.
The Samoyed—also known as Sammies—were built for hard work in the world's coldest locales. Their signature all-white coat is impervious to freezing temperatures; consequently, they shed quite a bit and even more so during shedding season, which occurs once or twice a year. These are smart, mischievous dogs who need diligent training.