10 muscular dog breeds

10 Muscular Dog Breeds

Muscular dogs have always been historically important in the work context. These days, we’re less reliant on dogs as workers and more as our companions in leisure activities. Nevertheless, the muscular dog breeds remain popular with families as a deterrent measure – discouraging trespassers and burglars, for instance.

Also, increasingly, competitive owners like to add stimulation to their own and their dogs’ lives by taking part in competitions, like canine body building and canine strength. Weight pull competitions for example, test a dog’s strength and stamina by his ability to pull increasingly heavy weights over distances. That may sound out of the ordinary, but some of the dogs on our list have a long history of doing just that – they were purposely bred to help their human owners by dragging prey, sleds and carts over distances.

Other dogs on our list used their muscles to catch prey or carry weights for their masters. But whatever their original role, the absolute critical factor when you own one of these muscular breeds is good training. If untamed, there’s a danger those muscles could get your dog into trouble. So it’s your responsibility to ensure people around you are kept safe, and that your dog is too. Firm good training and responsible ownership will protect him from scenarios where the authorities might intervene and decide his fate.

American Staffordshire Terrier

american staffordshire terrier muscular breed

The American Staffordshire Terrier was the USA’s 83rd most popular dog in 2017, according to the American Kennel Club’s list, but they’re definitely in the top ten when it comes to muscle. Also known as the AmStaff, this is a medium energy dog with an imposing appearance, which makes them a highly effective guard dog. Their ancestors, though, were originally bred for hunting, baiting and dog fighting.

You may think that makes them unsuitable as a family pet, but given the right training, they’ll show adoration to the humans around them and are generally good with kids. They’re perfectly happy without other animals in the household, but will mix if socialized from an early age. The AKC describes this breed as one that thrives when it feels like it’s part of a family, and also when it’s given a job to do, so you’ll find the AmStaff is pretty responsive to training. It needs plenty of daily exercise, but think carefully before letting this breed off the leash in public places. They can show aggression to strange dogs, especially if they think they pose a threat.


  • Dog Breed Group: Terrier
  • Height: 17”-19”
  • Weight: 40-60lbs
  • Average Lifespan: 10-15 years


boxer muscular breed

Another medium-sized dog, the Boxer was originally cross-bred from the Old English Bulldog and the Bullenbeisser, a now-extinct breed. With solid muscles and a love of active exercise, this working breed is also high in intelligence, making it a good candidate for training. The USA’s 11th most popular dog in 2017, the Boxer is friendly, instinctively protective of people it’s bonded with and shows patience towards other smaller dogs and puppies. Larger canines, especially of the same sex, can be a target for aggression, though.

Trained correctly, the Boxer makes a great family dog as it loves companionship, human or otherwise. Make sure a young dog isn’t over-exerted in terms of exercise, as this could damage its developing bones. But once fully grown, the Boxer loves nothing more than to get out, run and play, making them good companions for runners and joggers. Like many of the brachycephalic breeds, this dog won’t like high heat or humidity, though.

Their musculature has been an advantage for a range of roles in past, like service dogs in the military, therapy dogs and so on. They’re also often strong competitors in dog obedience or agility trials and flyball events.


  • Dog Breed Group: Working
  • Height: 21”-25”
  • Weight: 55-71lbs
  • Average Lifespan: 9 – 15 years

Related Post: Best Dog Food for Boxers

Doberman Pinscher

doberman pinscher muscular breed

The Doberman is classified as a medium to large breed and is high up there in terms of popularity in the USA, reaching 16th position on the 2017 list. Originally bred to be guard dogs and loyal companions, the Doberman has been classified as one of the most intelligent dog breeds by scientists for tasks such as learning, solving problems and communication. Given the right training, it will therefore respond extremely well in obedience and other trials.

The typical impression people have of the Doberman is that it’s a vicious and aggressive breed and sure, its heritage as a guard dog means it has in the past possessed these traits. But breeding over the years has moderated this tendency and the typical Doberman is now much more even-tempered. This is a dog that shows high loyalty to its owners and is very good with children. You may find it’s less tolerant of other dogs and strange humans, but as with many breeds, it’s all down to the training. Your Doberman will need at least two hours’ exercise daily, though, so having those strong muscles to guard you and your family does come at a price!

Related Post: Best Dog Food for Dobermans


  • Dog Breed Group: Working
  • Height: 63” – 72”
  • Weight: 77 – 99lbs
  • Average Lifespan: 9 – 12 years


kangal musuclar breed

The Kangal is one of the rarer breeds on our list, so much so that it doesn’t appear anywhere in the AKC’s most popular dogs among USA owners. But if you can find one, they’re a gem. Highly independent and with a very strong protective instinct, the Kangal originated in the Central Anatolian region of Turkey. It was bred as a livestock dog, and those muscles were built for playing a guardian role, protecting its charges against attacks from wolves, jackals and bears.

The Kangal falls into the Mastiff breed category, but tends to be lighter in build and has great agility and speed, capable of running up to 30mph (50km). The dog’s large frame and tough coat in a past life protected its skin from wolf bites.

But despite its powerful appearance, the Kangal is calm in nature, highly intelligent and capable of extreme acts of courage. It will show the right owner enormous loyalty and it known to be great with children too. Just watch that fiercely independent nature – you’ll need a strong will to train it!


  • Dog Breed Group: Working
  • Height: 30” – 34”
  • Weight: 110lbs – 185lbs
  • Average Lifespan: 13-15 years


rottweiler muscular breed

The Rottweiler is a medium-to-large or large breed. Its original purposes were to pull carts to market and to herd livestock. In the past, they’ve been used to move even the most stubborn of cattle and other large animals, the dog using its body as a tool to essentially drive the animals physically to where he wants them to be. Today, this breed is the popular choice for search and rescue dogs, police dogs and guard dogs.

As the 8th most popular dog on the AKC’s list in 2017, you’d expect the Rottweiler to have some fine qualities to go alongside its muscles, and indeed it does. Among their many attributes are their obedience and eagerness to work. They’re also fearless, persistent, strong, and brimming with natural self-confidence. But they need a firm owner, one who can demonstrate that he or she is leader of the pack.

Averagely aggressive towards owners and other dogs, they’re less tolerant of strangers, perhaps because of their innate guarding instincts. Firm training and proper introductions to new people can temper this tendency.

Related Post: Best Dog Food for Rottweilers


  • Dog Breed Group: Working
  • Height: 22” – 27”
  • Weight: 77lbs – 132lbs
  • Average Lifespan: 8 – 10 years

Australian Cattle Dog

australian cattle dog mucular breed

The Australian Cattle Dog is a medium-sized breed and is the 56th most popular dog in the USA on the AKC’s 2017 list. As the name suggests, it originates from Australia where it was bred as a herding dog to drove cattle over long distances and rough terrain. Choose this breed and as you’d expect, you’ll find it hugely energetic and needing plenty of outdoor exercise. The recommended minimum is two 45-minute walks a day, so this is one dog that would suit an avid jogger or runner! Used to handling responsibility in its working life, the Australian Cattle Dog is also highly intelligent and shows a strong independent character. If you’re looking for a breed that will happily participate in dog sports and competitions, this is definitely one to consider.

A word of warning for would-be owners: in its cattle herding days, this breed encouraged its charges to move in the right direction by nipping the animals with its teeth. So it has been known to bite small children moving fast…but this is an instinct that the right training should put paid to.


  • Dog Breed Group: Herding
  • Height: 17” – 20”
  • Weight: 33lbs – 49lbs
  • Average Lifespan: 13 – 15 years

St Bernard

st bernard muscular breed

The gorgeous St Bernard is the largest dog on our list – in fact, it’s classed as a ‘giant’ breed.  Not everyone will have room for one of these beasts, so that’s probably why it’s as low as 48th on the AKC most popular dog list. Their name comes from the purpose they were originally bred for: search and rescue at the Great and Little St Bernard Passes on the Italian-French border. These muscles have been used in the past to trek through treacherous weather conditions; to find and dig out humans trapped beneath avalanches or heavy snowfall; and to lie on top of the injured to prevent hypothermia until help arrived.

Today, those dogs’ ancestors keep their skills keen and their muscles well-developed by taking part in dog sports like weight pulling. If you want one as a pet, be prepared to offer him plenty of companionship – they can become depressed or destructive if left alone for long periods. They’ll also need plenty of outdoor space and regular exercise to keep those muscles in good condition. As you’d expect from a dog with such a past, they’re calm, unruffled and relaxed with people and other animals alike, so long as they’re socialized from an early age.


  • Dog Breed Group: Working
  • Height: 26” – 30”
  • Weight: 120lbs – 180lbs
  • Average Lifespan: 8 – 10 years


greyhound muscular breed

The sleek greyhound may not look like the most muscled of dogs, but that reputation for strength and being the fastest breed is certainly built on something. It’s the combination of those powerful muscles, its flexible spine and long legs, its light bones and huge heart in proportion to the rest of its body that make it a lean racing machine. In fact, it has reached recorded speeds of up to 40mph (64 km/h).

The 156th most popular dog in the USA in 2017 according to the AKC, the Greyhound is increasingly sought after as a family pet. Provided he has the opportunity to really stretch his legs a few times a week, this is one breed that’s happy to stay indoors and chill with you on the couch. They’re sensitive to loud noises and stressful atmospheres, though, so will probably prefer a calm environment or a family with older children. Although not at all aggressive, that instinct to chase will kick in if small animals are around, unless well trained to tolerate their presence.

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  • Dog Breed Group: Sighthound
  • Height: 27”–30”
  • Weight: 60-70lbs
  • Average Lifespan: 10-13 years

Alaskan Malamute

alaskan malamute muscular breed

A large breed, it’s no surprise this dog has plenty of muscle, as the original purpose behind the breed was to hunt with the Mahlemut tribe in Alaska and then drag heavy game back to their villages. In later years, they were a popular dog for hauling sleds. As life was hard and food scarce in the tough Alaskan conditions, man and owner formed a close bond, and today’s Malamute retains this instinct, fitting well into to the family unit. As with all dogs, though, care is needed round smaller animals and with very young children. Overall, it was ranked as 59th in the AKC’s most popular dog list in 2017.

As a large, working breed, and built for stamina rather than speed, the Malamute needs plenty of outdoor exercise. Coming from an environment with poor weather and snow, this is a dog that won’t appreciate high or humid temperatures. But give him plenty of mental stimulation and space to exercise and he’ll make an ideal household pet during his downtime. Despite the Malamute’s size, they’re remarkably agile at negotiating furniture without crashing into things all the time!


  • Dog Breed Group: Working
  • Height: 23” – 26”
  • Weight: 75lbs – 100lbs
  • Average Lifespan: 12 to 15 years

Rat Terrier

rat terrier muscular breed

The Rat Terrier was bred for speed as a hunting companion and working farm dog. The breed is fairly rare these days, so unsurprisingly, it’s no higher up on the most popular dogs list in the USA in 2017 than 97th position. However, they can make great family pets, as well as still being active in the pest control arena! Hugely active and energetic, these small dogs have very muscular shoulders and legs, along with deep chests to support the sturdy lungs that keep them going when running.

Fiercely intelligent, the Rat Terrier is easy to train, provided it’s been fully socialized at a young age. Would-be owners should note that these dogs need a ton of exercise and plenty of mental stimulation. But they offer plenty of reward for all that effort. With people, they’re affectionate and steady in temperament. They also tend to do well in agility, obedience and rally events and competitions. With other dogs, they’re friendly and open, or at least curious. And one more positive: they’re very hardy in health terms and tend to live a long time.


  • Dog Breed Group: Terrier
  • Height: 10” – 18”
  • Weight: 10lbs – 25lbs
  • Average Lifespan: 12 – 18 years


  1. The 15 Largest Dog Breeds: More Dog To Love, The American Kennel Club

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