For thousands of years of human history, people have bred dogs to meet specific human needs and fill specific roles. As a result, some dogs have substantially higher energy than others and need a “job.” Most household dogs are unlikely to herd sheep or hunt for bulls and therefore need another outlet, such as frequent walks, lots of training or many games of fetch. Dogs vary in temperament depending on environment, training and many other factors, but genetics strongly affect a dog’s energy level.
Labradors, golden retrievers and Chesapeake Bay retrievers are among the highest energy dogs. These dogs tend to chase anything that is thrown and, left without adequate exercise, will quickly result to dysfunctional behaviors such as destroying furniture. If you have a retrieving dog, take advantage of her innate desire to chase things and teach her to play fetch, flyball or Frisbee.
For thousands of years, people have used dogs to herd and protect sheep. This work is exhausting and grueling and requires substantial energy reserve. While most herding dogs have high energy levels, border collies, Australian shepherds and German shepherds are by far the most energetic. Border collies in particular are widely regarded as the most energetic dog breed, and many breeders also believe them to be the most intelligent. These dogs must be given frequent walks and ample opportunities to chase things such as balls and Frisbees. Border collies and Australian shepherds may become manic without adequate exercise, while German shepherds are more likely to behave aggressively or develop stereotypies — repetitive, dysfunctional behaviors such as chewing and scratching.
Terriers were bred to control pests such as rats, and as a result have an intense drive to chase things. Some larger terriers were bred to participate in bull and lion chasing and hunting. All terriers are highly energetic, but the large American Staffordshire terrier and American pit bull terrier are especially energetic because of their incredible endurance. These dogs have developed a reputation for being aggressive, but many animal behaviorists theorize that a combination of poor socialization and insufficient exercise results in aggression for these dogs. Provide large terriers with daily walks and runs to prevent aggression and other destructive behaviors.
Hunting dogs have short bursts of energy that can be truly astounding. These dogs thrive in an environment in which they get frequent runs and lots of mental stimulation. The two highest energy hunting dogs are the Basenji and whippet, both of which may chase objects and children if not sufficiently exercised.