Identifying the most athletic dogs depends not only on which definition you use, but also on what category. A dog that is the top athlete worldwide in hurdle jumping is not going to be the same breed as the number-one dock dog. Dogs and their handlers have a vast array of events in which to showcase athleticism.
Dock Diving and Flying Disk
Dock diving and flying disk are sports that both require a dog with the physical and mental aptitude for jumping distances. Dock diving events measure athleticism by the distance your dog can jump horizontally and vertically and how fast he can retrieve an object in water. According to DockDogs, hosts of a yearly aquatics event, the top breeds for 2012 are Belgian Malinois, Labrador retrievers, Dutch shepherds, Chesapeake Bay retrievers and German shorthaired pointers. Flying disk events blend athleticism and precision with choreography, tricks and timed events. The top performers in flying disk events include herding dogs like border collies, Australian shepherds and German shepherds, American pit bull terriers and Belgian Malinois.
A dog agility course is filled with obstacles that you coach your dog through as fast as you can. It takes a dog skilled in quick turns to weave through poles, dash across A-frames and seesaws, zoom over hurdles and plow through tunnels. According to the United States Dog Agility Association, border collies have claimed many championships over the years. Jack Russell terriers, Pembroke Welsh corgis, rat terriers, Shetland sheepdogs, Australian shepherds, German shepherds, papillons and Pomeranians have also claimed top honors.
Canine weight pulling competitions measure your dog's athletic ability by the amount of weight he can pull over a short distance in comparison to his size. The 2012 International Weight Pull Association champions included American pit bull terriers, American bulldogs, Swiss mountain dogs, Alaskan malamutes, Siberian huskies, Old English bulldogs, Samoyeds and Norwegian elkhounds. Draft dogs, also known as working dogs, were bred to work with humans, pulling a cart like horses. Draft breeds whose athleticism comes naturally because of their build are Great Pyrenees dogs, Swiss mountain dogs, Bernese mountain dogs and Newfoundlands.
Best Overall Athletes
Dogs demonstrate their athletic abilities in many competitions that showcase what they were bred for. Some breeds were bred for versatility and excel in more than one category. The top 10 most athletic dogs based on frequency of winning diverse titles are border collies, Belgian Malinois, Australian shepherds, Labrador retrievers, Chesapeake Bay retrievers, American pit bull terriers, Jack Russell terriers, German shepherds, Swiss mountain dogs and Shetland sheepdogs.
By Sandy Vigil
DockDogs: 2012 Year to Date Worldwide Rankings
Vetstreet: Breeds That Do Best at the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge
US Disc Dog Nationals: 2012 USDDN Disc Dog World Finals
United States Dog Agility Association: Grand Prix of Dog Agility World Championships
About the Author
Based in Las Vegas, Sandy Vigil has been a writer and educator since 1980. She taught high school and middle school English and drama for 11 years. Vigil holds a Master of Science in teaching from Nova Southeastern University and a Bachelor of Arts in secondary English education from the University of Central Oklahoma.