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Top 12 Dog Breeds to Keep as Outdoor Dogs

In the last few years, the idea of leaving your dog outside, as opposed to having them live inside with you, has become rather a contentious issue.

To some people, the idea of leaving your dog outside all the time is paramount to animal cruelty. Yet others take the view that dogs have lived outdoors for centuries and as such, keeping your dog outside is perfectly acceptable. However, it is the case that many people, particularly those in rural areas or that have properties with a large yard, do choose to leave their dog outside for at least some of the time.

Regardless of your view on the issue, it is quite clear that there are some breeds of dogs that are more suitable to live an outdoor life than others. And the purpose of this article to identify those breeds that have both the physical attributes and temperament that make them the most suitable to be kept outdoors.

1. Siberian Husky

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siberian husky
Featured Image Credit: Utopialand, Wikimedia Commons

If ever there was a dog that built for living outdoors in cold climates, it is the Siberian Husky.

Originally bred as sled dogs by a tribe of nomads in Siberia, Huskies were first imported into Alaska in 1908 and to this day have been used as a method of commuting across the ice and snow during the long Alaskan winters. These dogs love the snow and are one of the most resilient breeds when it comes to living outdoors in cold weather.

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2. Alaskan Malamute

alaskan malamute
Featured Image Credit: ertuzio, Pixabay

With a similar wolf-like appearance to their smaller Siberian Husky cousin, the Alaskan Malamute is another dog that can thrive outdoors in cooler weather. Originally bred as sled dogs, they have also been used as hunting dogs in the cold Arctic conditions of Alaska.

Unlike the Siberian Husky, who genuinely loves the company of other dogs, the Alaskan Malamute prefers to spend its downtime around people—making this big furry dog a much better family dog than the Husky.

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3. German Shepherd

german shepherd
Featured Image Credit: SaNtINa/kIKs, Wikimedia Commons

These tough, hardy, and brave dogs have been at the top of the list when it comes to breed choice for police and the military working dogs for decades. Often big softies at heart, they are ferociously protective, highly intelligent, and are well suited to life outside.

German Shepherds have a thick double coat that protects them from the weather, and their size and need for exercise virtually rule them out as dogs that can spend all their time inside. While they love being invited in to curl up inside on a warm mat on a cold night, they won’t be happy unless they have a good size yard to run around in during the day.

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4. Bernese Mountain Dogs

Bernese Mountain Dogs
Featured Image Credit: Pxfuel

Often referred to as a ‘gentle giant’, the Bernese Mountain Dog has been bred to survive and work in the extreme cold and windy conditions of the Swiss Mountains.

Intelligent and loyal, these impressive dogs were originally used as herding dogs and as such, are well suited to spending their days outside. By nature, they are very protective of their families, and also make fantastic guard dogs.

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5. Irish Wolfhound

Irish Wolfhound
Featured Image Credit: Airwolfhound, Flickr

The Irish Wolfhound is best known for its size – standing over three-feet high – one of the tallest dogs in the world. Originally bred for hunting, these impressive dogs have a thick, coarse coat, and are well accustomed to spending hours and even days out in the wilderness hunting with their owners.

Due mainly to their size, Irish Wolfhounds are not suitable for an apartment or even a full-time life inside a house. They may enjoy coming in to spend time with their families in the evening, but this is one breed that is best kept outside.

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6. Norwegian Elkhound

norwegian elkhound
Featured Image Credit: Pxhere

The Norwegian Elkhound is a Spitz-type dog with the typical Spitz curled up tail. As their name suggests, they originate in Norway, where they are the country’s national dog.

Norwegian Elkhounds are working dogs at heart and originally bred to hunt, guard, and defend. So, in addition to being great family pets, they are excellent guard dogs. They’re known to be excellent trackers and having been used to defend stock against wolves and bears. They can be brave and ferocious when needed.

As you might expect from a dog that originated in Norway, they have a thick winter coat that is capable of keeping them warm and dry in all but the most horrendous of cold weather. Much like the Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute, the Norwegian Elkhound is not the best dog for tropical or hot environments.

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7. Australian Cattle Dog

Australian Cattle Dog
Featured Image Credit: Pxhere

Known also as the Blue Heeler and Red Heeler, the Australian Cattle Dog is the working dog that you’ll find on most cattle stations in the Australian outback.

Originally bred to drive cattle over long distances in rough and rugged terrain, the Australian Cattle Dog is an intelligent, tough, and extremely loyal dog that can have a bit of an independent streak. These dogs are accustomed to spending their days outdoors and provided they have a warm and dry place to curl up, they’re more than happy to live out under the stars.

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8. Mastiff

Featured Image Credit: Claudio Gennari, Flickr

With a breed history that reaches back some 5,000 years, the Mastiff is a large and extremely strong breed that was originally used as a war dog.

They love spending time inside with their families, but outside in the elements is where the Mastiff is most at home. As puppies, they can be a bit wild and boisterous, and this can be problematic if you keep them inside for too long.

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9. Tibetan Mastiff

Tibetan Mastiff
Credit: Tatyana Kuznetsova, Shutterstock

As you might expect from a dog that originates in the Himalayan Mountains, Tibetan Mastiffs have thick double coats that keep them warm and dry in the harshest of weather. However, in summer, their dense undercoat thins out considerably, making them also suitable for life in areas that are substantially warmer than you’ll find on the wintery peaks of the Himalayan Mountains.

Unless money is of no concern when choosing a dog, you may want to consider another breed as Tibetan Mastiff is the world’s most expensive dog, with one puppy having sold for the record price of $1.5 million.

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10. Tibetan Terrier

tibetian terrier
Featured Image Credit: Antranias, Pixabay

Another dog that originated in the snow-covered Himalayan Mountains is the Tibetan Terrier.  Resembling a large Old English Sheep Dog with long flowing hair, these dogs are perfect for life in the snow. Over the centuries, the Tibetan Terrier has developed large flat feet that work like snowshoes to help them stay agile and mobile in even the deepest snow.

Much like some of the other breeds in this list, the Tibetan Terrier is a great dog to keep outside if you live in a cool environment but is not suited at all to life in the tropics.

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11. Samoyed

Featured Image Credit: Jimmy Baikovicius, Wikimedia Commons

The Samoyed is a large herding dog from the Spitz family of dogs. They have thick, white, double coats that can keep them warm in almost any weather condition and they love the outdoors.

Originally bred in Siberia, these dogs have been used to herd reindeer, as pack dogs, and as trackers and were also known to keep their owners warm at night by sleeping on top of them.

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12. Shiba Inu

shiba inu
Featured Image Credit: Taro the Shiba Inu, Flickr

The Shiba Inu is a small to medium-sized Japanese hunting dog bred to flush out birds and small game.

With their Spitz-like curled up tail and red coat, they are an extremely handsome dog that is known to have a bold and fiery personality. They are intelligent but freethinking dogs that are always alert and nimble on their feet.

Although they’re not the biggest of dogs, the Shiba Inu doesn’t make the best indoor dog and are well suited to an adventurous outdoor life.   Divider 7

Things you need to know about keeping your dog outside

There are many legitimate reasons why you may want to keep your dog outside. But you should always remember that whether your dog lives inside or out, you still have the responsibility for ensuring their health and wellbeing.

Dogs that live outside, or even those that spend part of the day outdoors, need several basic things. These include:


Protection from the rain, wind, snow, or extreme heat is one of the most important things that you need to consider before putting your dog outside.

Even a dog that is only outside by themselves for a couple of hours needs to have a place they can go to stay out of the weather. This may be a kennel placed under the shade of a tree, an outdoor deck area, or even an open outbuilding with a bed in the back corner.

Fresh drinking water

Water is a basic requirement, and it should go without saying that your pet needs ready access to fresh drinking water. This is particularly true during the hot summer months when you’ll find your dog drinks a lot more water than they would if they were in a temperature-controlled indoor environment.

In colder weather, too, it is important to check your dog’s water frequently, as any water left out in the cold could freeze over.

Ideally, you should check that your dog has enough cool and clean water at least twice a day. And,  if you are not going to be home to keep an eye them, it’s a good idea to give them two bowls of water, placed in different areas of the yard, in case they deliberately or accidentally tip one over.


Just because your dog lives outside, it doesn’t mean they like being alone. You should always remember that dogs are pack animals, they want to be part of a family, and they need your love and attention.

Divider 5A word on tethering

Dogs should never be tethered or chained, except for short periods. Tethering a dog and leaving them for extended periods is cruel and can easily result in injury and restrict your dog’s normal behavior.

In 2016, the US Department of Agriculture released the following statement on the tethering of dogs.

“Our experience in enforcing the Animal Welfare Act has led us to conclude that continuous confinement of dogs by a tether is inhumane. A tether significantly restricts a dog’s movement. A tether can also become tangled around or hooked on the dog’s shelter structure or other objects, further restricting the dog’s movement and potentially causing injury.”

So please, if you need to restrict your dog’s movement in your yard, don’t tether your dog. Instead, consider building a large fenced in dog run, in which your pet has a warm and dry kennel and plenty of room to play.  And if you don’t have the time to let them out to exercise and socialize daily, consider getting a different pet, as owning a dog isn’t for you.

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Featured Image Credit: NadineDoerle, Pixabay