Grab your boots and your thermal mug – we’re going for a trip into the country! With all that space (plus a bit of isolation), the best dogs for country living are fun, energetic, and quite protective. Ready to find a canine companion who will fit in with your wild and weathered country style? We’ll search out the best breeds.
What makes a good country dog?
Same as a good country human! Country dogs have loads of space to roam and play. They might be needed to help round up animals, assist on a bird shoot, or just accompany their owner. Some country-dwellers like keeping a guard dog, especially if they live in a remote part of the country or have very few neighbors. In compiling our Top 10 country breeds, we’ve looked for these criteria:
- Skilled or trainable
Training your country dog
Living in the country brings unique challenges – and a well-trained dog will be a real asset to the household. If you want your dog to help with specific tasks on the grounds, choose a Working Dog breed such as Spaniel or Border Collie. Guard-dog work is more instinctive. We’ve included some protective heroes in our list – those will be first to hear danger and alert you. Ready to make your shortlist?
Our Top 10 breeds for country living
The Labrador is America’s favorite dog – do you know why? This brave, loyal, affectionate breed has lots of personality and an ever-wagging tail.
Labradors were bred for retrieving in the water. Their ‘webbed’ paws and oar-shaped tails make them very strong swimmers – and most will splash straight into any lake or river! So if you live in the country with some water nearby, you can give a very happy home to a Lab.
Just make sure you can provide enough exercise. Although they’re known for chewing through furniture and shoes (especially pups), you can defuse that energy by exercising or walking them – a tired Lab is a totally chilled Lab!
Labradors are eminently trainable, which means you can ask them to fetch, search, protect and console. Their clever brains and eagerness to please means they are often put to service in bomb and drug detection or rescue operations.
The Golden Retriever
If you’re not already swayed by the charms of the Golden Retriever, are you even human? This dog is famously good with children and families, bouncy, loyal, and lots of fun. Golden Retrievers have inhabited the White House, and probably the house of someone you know, too.
Golden Retrievers are placid, but they’re bright and they respond to training – so they’re perfect for first-timers. They will love a country home with plenty of space to sleep, snore, or follow you around. Golden Retrievers need about an hour’s walk each day and have the stamina for longer walks, too.
Bred as gun dogs, Golden Retrievers love to run and fetch, and most of them will head straight for the water, too (we know one who loved collecting rocks from the river bed). So they’ll be perfectly happy in rural surroundings, and they’ll protect their families with all their might.
The Newfoundland is already a legend. You might have heard about the Newfoundland who saved his owners from a house fire... or the one who rescued 9 people from drowning. Some were kept as staff at a lifeboat station in England, since they could easily swim out and retrieve people from the water. These bright and watchful dogs will protect their humans from danger, so they’re perfect for big country houses.
Yes, we said big... because the Newfoundland grows up to around 28” tall. If you have space for them, these dogs make wonderful family pets: trustworthy and affectionate, they are supremely loyal. And they are so darn fluffy.
Of course, that fluff won’t groom itself – you’ll have to brush your Newfoundland a lot, so it’s a good idea to start when they’re young. Newfoundlands like outdoor space and they adore the water. So if you live near a safe river or lake, your dog will be in their element.
The Welsh Corgi
Beloved by the Queen of England, the squat Welsh Corgi is surprisingly active and hard-working. Queen Elizabeth, who is very fond of country pursuits, has spent years walking her Welsh Corgis every day – she is even said to fill Christmas stockings for her dogs every year.
The Welsh Corgi (Cardigan or Pembroke) has a long history as a working dog in the farms of Wales. In recent years, this breed has triumphed in agility too! The Welsh Corgi has plenty of energy and will enjoy any outdoor activity, as long as it’s with you.
At home, you’ll find these dogs are very affectionate and – when they’re not enjoying a round of zoomies – they’re very loyal and attached to their loving owners. No wonder the Queen gives them run of the palace.
The Border Collie
If you want a dog who could outsmart you, choose the Border Collie – one of the most intelligent working dogs in the world.
There’s a lot of variety in the breed, which can display colours from black and white to brown and mink. Ears can be upright or tend to fall downwards and even their fur can feel very different. But the Border Collie – which hails from the UK – has a long history as a country dog, and responds exceptionally well to training.
Their brilliant minds and accurate sense of smell makes them great at search and rescue, and they’re also fantastic guard dogs. They’re affectionate and keen to please. We can’t think of a drawback, although the Border Collie is very bright and requires plenty of exercise and stimulation. They have been known to nip children and strangers – because that’s the way they handle sheep!
You might want to do some agility training with your Border Collie, to see just what they can achieve.
With plenty of energy and a boisterous size, the Dalmatian is perfectly at home in the country. Sensitive and loyal, this is a good family dog with intelligence that can be well-directed.
The Dalmatian was once known as the Carriage Dog because, in 19th century England, it was trained to run alongside carriages and protect horses and passengers from threats. In the US, Dalmatians have been known to accompany firefighters’ horses – and they’re still the unofficial mascot of the fire service!
That protective tendency makes the Dalmatian a great watch-dog; they’re said to remember mistreatment, so you can trust their judgement. Dalmatians thrive on affection, and will benefit from having owners who are at home or out with the dogs. If you go to pick out a Dalmatian puppy, you won’t see their characteristic spots – those grow as your dog ages!
The German Shepherd (Alsatian)
Do you want a dog who will respond to commands and follow at your heel every day? This German working dog has exceptional potential for training. They are brave and clever – and they’re seen at the side of some of the world’s most distinguished dog-trainers.
German Shepherds are used in service and rescue, and even worked alongside soldiers during World War II. If you want a dog who can protect you or assist you, while being a loving companion at home, this is the one.
Known to be good with families and young children, the German Shepherd is discriminate in its affections and will be wary of strangers – and that’s a positive attribute when you live in a secluded country location.
The Cocker Spaniel
The Spaniel family is exuberant and loving: the ideal combination for country homes. Adopted by the new generation of English royalty, charming Cocker Spaniels are the second-smallest breed on our list.
The Cocker Spaniel was bred as a gun-dog and has lots to offer a family, in the country or anywhere else. They’re gentle and cuddly, enjoying attention (and grooming – which they’ll need frequently).
Although they’re petite and pretty, Cocker Spaniels need to run and will need at least 1 hour’s walk every day; if you’re the outdoors type, your dog will adapt to (and love) longer hikes too.
The Springer Spaniel
The Springer Spaniel was born to live in the country. Smart, alert and energetic, they will become a loyal companion for all your outdoor pursuits.
On a walk, the Springer Spaniel uses its incredible sense of smell to track all the other humans and dogs who have passed by. Originally, the Springer was bred as a gun dog and retains a very keen retrieval instinct! You can put this to good use. Many spaniels will get miles of extra running if you take a ball and thrower out with you. Alternatively, take them to a lake, river or ocean and let them take their swimming-legs out for a spin.
Springers are exceptionally bright dogs who are ready for training. They can be trained for agility and will enjoy being challenged. They’re also naturally protective and will step between their owners and any perceived danger.
The Border Terrier
Last but assuredly not least, the Border Terrier is often seen nosing beneath the Aga in English country homes. This feisty pup packs a lot into a small package.
Famous for their ratting skills, the Border Terrier is a small dog but not a toy dog – with a hunting instinct which should be put to use. The Border Terrier will run alongside a horse on a hunt or hack and will be equally happy travelling with their owner or bouncing around at home.
Border Terriers are trainable, but their strong protective instinct is unstoppable when they encounter someone (or somehound) that they don’t like. Full of energy, they’ll need active lives and owners, and proper care will allow their ‘half human’ personalities to shine.