While we’re not trying to suggest that one dog breed is superior to another (that’s just asking for hatemail), the fact is that some mutts are genetically or anatomically predisposed to certain activities. You wouldn’t send in a Pomeranian to rescue stranded skiers, would you? Everybody knows that’s Bernese mountain dog territory. Here are a few choice breeds for some of the most popular summertime endeavors.
When it comes to naming the best dogs for camping, there are a lot of variables to consider. First, are they easily frightened? The forest is filled with loud sounds and strong smells, both natural and man-made — so if your pooch is hypersensitive, then backyard camping might be a better idea. Second, are they social? During peak season, campgrounds are filled with people, many of whom have also brought their dogs; if your dog leaves the campsite, how will it react to all these strangers? Lastly, it’s important to note that several classes of dogs — including scent hounds, retrievers, spaniels, and terriers — were originally bred to hunt and/or chase animals, so they may be hardwired to lose it when they see chipmunks, field mice, or any other critters that show up at your site.
The Final Verdict: In theory, an obedient dog of any breed would make a great camping companion, but your best bet is a breed that’s relaxed, sociable, and not inclined to pursue small animals. With this criteria in mind, the ideal camping breeds include bulldogs, mastiffs, and boxers.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a dog that won’t gleefully frolic in the water with you — but when it comes to natural swimming ability, some breeds fare better than others. According to Dr. Karen Becker of Healthy Pets, most dogs are, in fact, not cut out for swimming long distances; that ‘doggy paddle’ they employ is little more than a frantic survival technique designed to merely keep their heads above water until they reach dry land. “In my experience, dogs generally fall into one of three categories when it comes to swimming,” Dr. Becker says. “There are dogs that naturally take to the water, those who just aren’t built for the water and should stay safely ashore (unless in a hydrotherapy tank with a therapist hovering nearby), and dogs who can be taught to swim”.
The Final Verdict: According to Dr. Becker, dog breeds that tend to make the best swimmers include labs, golden retrievers, Chesapeake Bay retrievers, and Newfoundlands, not to mention the aptly named ‘water dogs’ and ‘water spaniels’.
What dog doesn’t like a good walk every now and then? Fair question, but there’s a subtle difference between a ‘good walk’ and a full-on hike. In addition to the considerable distance covered, other factors like terrain, grade, temperature shifts, and altitude come into play when one goes hiking. So, in other words, you’ll want a high-energy breed with a solid build and a fondness/high tolerance for steep, uneven trails. And if your dog doesn’t mind hauling some of the provisions, then all the better (but no points for whether or not it looks good with a bandanna tied around its neck; that’s a human garment, and it has no business being worn by an animal).
The Final Verdict: If the criteria seem vague for this one, it’s because a lot of dogs are great hiking companions. The long list includes shepherds (especially Australian), spaniels, labs, golden retrievers, collies, and hounds. It should come as no surprise that many of these breeds are also known for being stellar hunting companions.
As a general rule, dogs either love catching a Frisbee or are completely ambivalent about the weird flying plates that master keeps throwing at them. That being said, a lot of dogs must be taught to appreciate the Frisbee before they will develop an affinity for it; in other words, if a dog is never introduced to a Frisbee, does the dog still love it? There are, however, plenty of breeds that naturally go nuts for a little park-and-disc time. Now, whether or not they’re actually good at catching the damned thing will depend on how graceful the animal is, the sort of physical shape it’s in, and, perhaps most importantly, the owner’s ability to throw a catchable Frisbee.
The Final Verdict: Well, for starters, retrievers tend to excel at Frisbee-catching. So do shepherds, collies, and Weimaraners. Of course, you’ll most likely be at a park, so good behavior, social skills, and obedience are also crucial — but these qualities typically depend on the individual dog more so than its breed.
Chillin’ in the Hammock
One of the most integral part of any sane person’s summer is a little shade time in the old ropesack, and a few of us are lucky enough to own dogs that also appreciate the art of relaxation. Yippy, anxious dogs obviously won’t do, nor will abnormally large mutts for fear of bringing down the hammock (sorry Great Danes). And while we’re talking about cuddling with your dog, let’s rule out dogs that shed; no one likes waking up from their siesta with a mouth full of fur.
The Final Verdict: Building on the last point, there are a lot of dogs that don’t shed or shed very little; check out Dog Channel’s complete list. If we factor in the calm gene and compact size, we’re still left with a handful of options, including the Cairn terrier, Italian greyhound, and miniature poodle. If you’re hammock is sturdy enough, forget about the size and get a Saluki — trust us, they’re awesome. And if your biggest concern is peace and quiet, it’s important to note that most Shiba Inus don’t bark very often, if ever.