Adopting a dog is one of the best decisions that a person can make. They will provide you with unbridled loyalty, love, and affection, all of which is unconditional. Dogs are excellent workers and companions. A canine would be a fantastic addition to your family, no matter what breed of dog you choose. If you plan to be outdoors a lot, or if you want your dog to be capable of helping you hunt or competing in shows, it might be in your best interest to research breeds that tend to do well off-leash. Some dogs simply will not listen when they aren’t on a leash, just as a general characteristic of their particular breed. The best dog breeds for being off-leash generally have a hunting, shepherding, or competitive background. You should do your research on your breed of choice – particularly if you want to train your dog to be leash-free – and see what kind of background it has. If you are strapped for time, you could save a few minutes and give this list a read. Without further delay, here are the Twenty Best “Off-the-Leash” Dog Breeds.
1. Irish Terrier
One of the oldest terrier breeds, this breed has been around for quite some time. It is likely that they have ancestry related to the British black and tan terriers, if they are not direct descendants. There is also a theory that suggests that the breed shares genetics with the Irish Wolfhound. Either way, Irish Terriers are fast, active, and weather-resistant dogs suitable for any kind of environment. Irish Terriers do pretty well off-leash due to their inherent need for strong leadership. They will naturally respect the human they see as their pack leader and will thus always come when called. If you are a true professional, you may even be able to train your Irish Terrier to compete in canine sports. Their natural agility and strength makes them quite viable in several kinds of trials.
2. Shetland Sheepdog
This breed is a miniature one, with a lot of similarities to Rough Collies and Icelandic Sheepdogs. They were originally bred on the Shetland Islands, and were descended from Rough Collies crossed with a few other dogs – possibly the King Charles Spaniel, Pomeranian, and Border Collie. They were never used as working dogs. Instead, they were designed for show and companionship. The Shetland Sheepdog is incredibly intelligent. They are rated the sixth-most-intelligent breed by Doctor Stanley Coren. They will learn a new command in five or less repetitions and will obey right away approximately 95% of the time. These traits lend themselves particularly well to allowing the Shetland Sheepdog to remain off-leash. They will come when they are called without protest.
3. Flat-Coated Retriever
The Flat-Coated Retriever originated in the United Kingdom, where it quickly became a popular dog among gamekeepers. Though their origins are not verified, they may have genes related to the St. John’s water dog (a breed that is now extinct). Later in the breed’s history, they began to be used quite frequently as gun dogs, and later were bred for showing and companionship. These dogs are loyal, intelligent, and active. However, they can be a bit stubborn and difficult to train, due to their self-determination and willingness to explore. On the other hand, when a behavior is ingrained into this breed, they will listen right away. This means that they will be good off-leash, as long as the owner puts in the time to make sure that they are trained properly.
This Hungarian breed has been known for hundreds of years. The earliest known depiction of the Vizsla is over a thousand years old – they were quite popular with the Magyar tribes of the 10th century. The first written reference was related to a dog owned by King Lajos the Great of the mid-14th century. They were used for their remarkable hunting ability but were soon repurposed for companionship and competitions. The Vizsla breed is well-known for their gentle, loyal, and affectionate demeanor. These dogs are one of the breeds known as “Velcro” dogs – that is, they will stay next to their owners whenever possible. This inherent trait will help the Viszla do great when they aren’t on a leash. Though they require a little bit of training, most of their desire to stay next to their owners arises when they form a strong emotional bond with a human.
5. Labrador Retriever
One of the most popular dog breeds in the world is the Labrador Retriever. They originated in Newfoundland and are direct descendants of the St. John’s water dog. The modern breed is directly associated with an 1830s set of progenitors brought from Newfoundland to Europe by the 10th Earl of Home. The descendants of these dogs were the first to be called Labrador Retrievers. This breed is famed for their even-temperedness and loyalty. They make excellent family dogs and are great with children. They also have an inherent desire for retrieval that comes from their hunting forebears. It is possible to keep a Labrador Retriever entertained for hours straight simply by throwing a ball. This strong attachment to their owners means that they can be trained to stay close, even when off-leash – and their temperament means you won’t have to worry about them clashing with strangers or other dogs.
6. Catahoula Cur
The Catahoula Cur is the state dog of Louisiana. Though the ancestry of this breed is not known, it is posited that they are the descendants of crossbred Native American dogs (that is, the native dog breed of the New World and Old World molossers and greyhounds). They were traditionally used for hunting boars, giving rise to the nickname “Catahoula Hog Dog”. The Catahoula Cur is very energetic and intelligent. They generally display a mild temperament. If given jobs, they will take it very seriously and put all of their available energy towards completing it. They are also very loyal, and don’t do well if left on their own. For this reason, they are excellent dogs to leave off-leash.
7. Belgian Shepherd
This breed originated in Belgium. They have been used for many years to guard flocks of sheep, and as general-purpose farm dogs. The Belgian Shepherd was first declared a distinct breed by the Club du Chien de Berger Belge of Brussels. The breed was officially recognized in 1901 at the Royal Saint-Hubert Society Stud Book. These dogs are intelligent and observant. They also have a high energy level due to their heritage, and thus need regular exercise. It is important to note that they form incredibly strong bonds to their owners – thus doing quite well in obedience training. This means that they can be kept off-leash, as long as you put the time in to train them properly.
The Keeshond is a member of the Spitz breed. They have a very interesting origin story – a tale of war and rebellion. They served as the symbol of an 18th-century rebellion against the House of Orange in the Netherlands. It was led by Cornelis Kees de Gyselaer, who lent his name to this breed (‘Kees’ ‘hond’). This is also the source of a common nickname for the breed, “The Smiling Dutchman”. Keeshonds have incredible reflexes, are fast learners, and strive to please their owners. They are also very loyal to their families, and great with kids and other animals. They can be used as emotional support animals due to their naturally-friendly demeanor. They are perfect for obedience training and have even been used as guide dogs. Their easy-to-train, intelligent behavior also means they are great off-leash and will come when called.
9. Brittany Spaniel
The Brittany Spaniel is named after the area it originated in in France. They have been depicted in images as early as the 17th-century, but the most verifiable proof of their existence here comes from a description written by a Reverend Davies. He described “small bobtailed dogs” who “pointed and were excellent retrievers”. The modern dog is likely a descendant of these dogs and the English Setter. This breed is notable for being sweet-natured, and incredibly easy to train. Though they can become shy, they are generally quite friendly if well-socialized at a young age. This breed exhibits a strong attachment to their owner and are very obedient due to their hunting background. Thus, they can be left off-leash even in large outdoor areas.
10. German Shepherd
The first German Shepherds can be traced back to a single set of dogs. Max von Stephanitz (a student of veterinary medicine and ex-military man) ended up purchasing a beautiful dog from a show called Hektor Linkrshein. He ended up going through a few generations of dogs, and finally perfected the modern German Shepherd. This breed is determined, curious, intelligent, protective, and obedient. When trained properly, they can be among the quickest breeds to obey. Thus, they are quite often used as police dogs. For the same reasons, a well-trained German Shepherd can be left off-leash – but be sure that you have broken them of any inherent aggressive or territorial traits.
This breed was developed in the late 19th century. A descendant of the Bullenbeiser mixed with English Bulldogs, the Boxer was first declared its own separate breed in 1904. In later history, they were used during World War One and World War Two as military dogs. Soldiers ended up taking them home, and the breed grew in popularity from there. Today, they are used as companion animals, guard dogs, and even show dogs. The Boxer is a patient breed that is great with kids. They are quite active and must get exercise. Otherwise, it is possible that undesirable behaviors could emerge. They are also incredibly intelligent, marked as the 48th most intelligent breed in Stanley Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs. Despite this, they can be a little stubborn – but respond well to positive reinforcement techniques. Therefore, a properly trained Boxer is perfectly fine to leave unleashed outside.
The history of the Poodle is not quite clear. It may have originated in Germany where it was known as a pudelhund. On the other hand, it might also be a descendent of a French Barbet and the Hungarian Water Dog. Either way, the earliest depictions of modern Poodles are from the 15th and 16th centuries, in artwork created by Albrecht Durer. Poodles are sociable, intelligent, and very instinctive. Despite this, they are good with children if properly trained. They dislike being alone and can even get destructive if left by themselves for long periods of time. On the other hand, this desire to be near humans translates well to off-leash behavior – including while swimming or on hiking trips.
13. Puli (Dog to the right, Larger dog is a Komondor)
This interesting-looking breed originated in Hungary and are descended from ancient herding and livestock-guarding dogs used by the Magyar people. The breed was often used in conjunction with the larger Komondor. The Pulis would alert the Komondors if they saw any threats, and then retreat – allowing the bigger dog to take care of the danger. They are notable for their corded fur, which almost looks like dreadlocks. These dogs are very intelligent but must be trained at a very young age. They don’t like being coped up in a smaller space. Instead, they prefer large spaces outdoors due to their pastoral heritage. However, their ancestry also gives them a strong desire to stay near their owners at all times. Thus, they are perfectly capable of walking, running, or jogging alongside you without a leash.
14. Doberman Pinscher
The Doberman Pinscher can be traced back to the late 19th century to a German town called Apolda. They were first created by Friedrich Louis Dobermann, who decided to create the breed for the purpose of personal protection. They are strong, fast, intelligent, and loyal. This breed is considered the 5th most intelligent in the world. Thus, they can be trained to do many things quite easily and tend to pick up on things fast. While European Doberman Pinschers can be a little more aggressive, their North American counterparts are okay to leave off-leash if they are very well trained. Their guard dog breeding will lead them to stick close to your side.
15. Golden Retriever
The very first Golden Retrievers were bred in Scotland. A single estate bred the very first examples of this type of dog – that of Dudley Marjoribanks, a Scottish Baron. Their original purpose was to retrieve waterfowl, and thus were bred to display a “soft-mouthed” trait. This simply means that they can carry prey without puncturing the skin. Golden Retrievers are best known for their personalities. They are incredibly kind towards everyone – but thus make poor guard dogs. However, they are quite intelligent – ranking 4th in Stanley Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs. Their great disposition and trainability means that they are perfect off-leash companions.
16. Australian Shepherd
The Australian Shepherd probably has ancestral roots in – contrary to the name – the Basque area of Spain. The name probably came from a trade route through Australia. They were known, after emigrating to America, as enduring herders in the Rocky Mountains. The Australian Shepherd seems to be more-or-less oblivious to altitude and is one of the best herding dogs that can be obtained in the United States. These dogs never stop working, if given the chance. They are avid learners and are also quite intelligent. A great owner will ensure that their Australian Shepherd always is exercising their mind, as this is very important to proper development of the breed. They also form deep, devoted attachments to their owners and are very obedient to those they love. This makes them a prime candidate for a canine that is going to be left off of a leash.
The Dalmatian originated in Croatia, and the earliest depictions in Croatian art date back to the first year of the 17th Century. The first writing about this breed that is verifiable and accurate comes from the Archdiocese of Dakovo’s personal archives. There were mentions of the breed as early as 1719. As the Dalmatian became more widespread, it was even picked up by many of royal descent – drastically improving the breed’s popularity. Dalmatians are friendly and loyal but can be a bit aloof to strangers. They have a strong hunting instinct, but any risk of them taking off after some sort of prey can be mitigated with proper training. Thus, they have made excellent firehouse dogs in the past, clearing a path to the fire and guiding the firemen and horses. This loyalty means they can be left off-leash with proper training.
This breed dates back quite far and has ancestry that could even be descended from Roman drover dogs. These dogs were used to protect the herds of cattle that Roman legions brought with them during their conquest of Europe. The breed gets its name from a certain town that sprung up around a popular trade route – Rottweil. The descendants of the Roman drovers remained in this area and were pretty much the same as they are today. Rottweilers are good-natured and calm. They show a marked devotion to the people they love that manifests in loyalty and obedience. Though they are the victim of several harmful rumors, they do not show any more tendency to be aggressive than any other breed. Therefore, if you need a dog that you can leave off-leash, just form a strong bond with a Rottweiler.
The proposed histories of the Harrier are often in conflict with one another. One story states that the first examples of these dogs were the result of crosses between Bloodhounds, Basset Hounds, and Talbot Hounds. Another, conflicting tale states that it is a cross between the English Foxhound, the Greyhound, and the Fox Terrier. Whichever it is, they are an excellent hunting breed and the most commonly-used by hunters. In fact, there are over 160 packs of Harriers used in modern-day Ireland.
Harriers are sweet, tolerant, and cheerful family dogs. They are great with other dogs – but only if they consider them part of their pack. This means that if you have another canine, it would be wise to raise your Harrier puppy alongside them for their entire life. They are smart and like to explore. However, they are also quite loving and devoted to their masters. This means that you can safely leave them off-leash – but only if you have trained them thoroughly, as they have a strong hunting instinct and might follow a scent trail.
20. Border Collie
This type of dog is found all over the British Isles and is descended from a landrace variety of collie. The very first mentions of this type were made during the end of the 19th century, but the breed had been known by the Scots for centuries. They first got their name from James Reid – the Secretary of the International Sheep Dog Society – to distinguish them from other Collies recognized by the society. Border Collies are considered the most intelligent breed in the entire world. They are excellent at learning new tricks and will be obedient to an owner that takes proper care of them. This means regular exercise and plenty of affection. After they bond to a particular person, they will be incredibly obedient and will always come when called. This means that they are one of the very best breeds to leave off of a leash in outdoor areas.
If you are deciding on a new breed, especially if you are a hiker, swimmer, camper, jogger, or other person who would desire a leash-free dog, you may want to consider choosing one of the breeds we have listed above. Though each dog will have a distinct personality – not to mention the importance of training – you are far more likely to get a good dog to leave unleashed if you look for a tendency to have that trait.