2016 Fittest Dogs

By Gretchen Goswitz – March 1, 2016
photography by Brian Fitzsimmons


Siberian Husky

Beauty, brains and athleticism—it may not seem fair, but some dogs really do have it all. Kodiak the Siberian husky is a head-turner everywhere he goes, due to his piercing crystal blue eyes and snow white fur. Eight years ago, Chris Bishop was on a search for a husky that would be able to keep up with his active lifestyle (and look good doing it). When he checked out a litter of puppies, one in particular stood out to him. Out of six puppies in the litter, Kodiak was the only husky who was solid white and, although he awkwardly stumbled around at the time, curiously found his way to Bishop. The bond was undeniable and grew even stronger from that moment forward.

Kodiak recently visited the snowy mountains of New Mexico where he embarked on the adventure of his dreams. He was a natural in this environment, but full instincts kicked in when Bishop hooked him up to a sled. One command of “Mush!” and Kodiak was off at full speed. A few runs later and a 350-foot vertical climb up the surrounding mountains, he was in puppy utopia. For leisure, Kodiak competes in local races like the Doggie Du Dash, in which he took second place after completing a 400-meter swim and one-mile run. Like many hard-core athletes, he responds well to structure and discipline, but will occasionally let loose with Bishop by engaging in a howling duet of James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend.”

Powers: Master of escape. Everytime Bishop leaves town, Kodiak sets out to “rescue” him.  He has been known to open gates, chew through the weakest fence slat or wedge his entire body through a tiny hole.

Weaknesses: Cheese. He will completely crumble and lose all bearing for a piece of delicious cheese.

Arch Enemies: Sewer ditches, opossums, air conditioners.

Sidekicks: Kodiak has three sidekicks that make for an interesting alliance. Luci (short for Lucifer), a mini schnauzer that was adopted when she was a pup; she loves to be completely filthy and will rip your face off if you are walking down the street when she is on a leash. Bentley, a cockapoo, sings harmony and back-up vocals and is a master fetcher of the tennis ball. Bentley is the carefree one of the group. Give him his tennis ball and some good cuddle time and he is set. Last, but not least, Lola, is believed to be a long-legged Chihuahua, and the fastest scout ninja of the group. She was adopted from the streets and looks just like a meerkat. If you plan to give her a treat, expect to lose a finger or two.




During your first encounter with GOB, two things are instantly apparent. First, the GoPro strapped to his back suggests that he is always ready for adventure. Second, he is incredibly friendly. Even underneath his shaggy fur, you can tell he’s almost always smiling. His up-for-anything, positive attitude makes him approachable, and admirers can hardly resist petting him. Although he closely resembles the popular contemporary goldendoodle breed, GOB is a standard poodle. Jennifer and Dennis Cao loved dogs, but Jennifer was cursed with an extreme allergy, narrowing the couple’s search to exclusively hypoallergenic breeds . They met their match in Houston, where GOB and his brother Mikey (both named after the Bluth brothers from the television show Arrested Development) were sheltered with a local rescue group. Shortly after his adoption, GOB was introduced to another new love: a soccer ball. A tennis ball is a close second—sometimes even tied. The Caos are avid soccer and tennis players, and it wasn’t long before GOB caught on as well. In fact, he is such a sports fan that his head visibly moves back and forth while watching a match on TV with his owners. The mark of GOB’s fitness level is evident by his discipline, focus and competitive nature. If you ever find yourself attending a dog-friendly 5K, he’ll be the manic ball of fur sprinting nonstop to the finish line. There’s no way he’s letting anyone pass him, and he’ll make sure to bring a prize home at the end of the day!

Powers: Invisibility. That is, he is able to make everything and everyone else invisible to him when it’s time to play. GOB’s got no time for other dogs sniffing his butt, humans wanting to pet and take pictures of him, or even food to weigh him down when he’s on a mission. Nothing is more important than that ball or that race at that moment.

Weaknesses: Heat. Although he loves to play outdoors, his fur is susceptible to the brutal Texas heat. So much so that he has the keen skill to always find shade whenever possible. While other dogs love to sunbathe, GOB likes to keep his tan to a minimum.

Arch Enemies: Hair brush. He’s fought countless battles against Hair Brush with his tangled, golden hair.

Sidekicks: Ball. Whenever they’re together, there is nothing else in the world that can stop him!
Also, GoPro—it’s an extra set of eyes for GOB and documents his adventures out on the trails and parks in Austin!




You’d think the name “Monkey” was a reference to the dog’s curled tail, but it’s much more sentimental than that. “Monkey” was a family nickname that Sabrina Must’s late grandfather passed to his daughter (her mother). Must’s late sister also used to call herself “Monkey.” So, as a tribute to her grandpa and sister, and after meeting Monkey and seeing her jump on everyone and everything, the name just made sense. The characteristic snorting of the Pug breed has yet to be a hindrance for Monkey. She is a little bit smaller than the average Pug and has a lean, athletic stature. This is likely the result of her time spent running alongside Must’s bike for miles around town. Monkey also fetches, swims and runs around Zilker Park like a total maniac. She will sit and pout until Must takes her for a run, and then an hour after returning from hours out and about, she’s raring to go again. With an owner who works as a personal trainer, Monkey recognized early on that it was crucial to keep up with a fitness-filled lifestyle. She hasn’t fallen behind once, proving that some Pugs can pack a punch.

Powers: Quickness. Mind control – she has the ability to persuade Must to take her everywhere with a bat of her eyes.

Weaknesses: Food, because it’s her biggest distraction.

Arch Enemies: Mean dogs

Sidekicks: Her brother, Koh, a cat.




​Let’s be real. There’s no such thing as an ugly husky. There’s a standard look set by the American Kennel Club, but no matter how far off the breed is from that ideal, one thing is for sure: The husky always has a “beauty pageant” element about him or her. Samantha Collingsworth wasn’t looking for a dog when she was finishing grad school. She actually didn’t even want a dog at the time. But one day, a painfully shy, skinny, overly cautious stray made his way into her yard. Huskies are notoriously curious, and this one was interested in a companionship with Collingsworth. Still, she took the dog to The Humane Society, which handed him off to the pound due to capacity issues. After a week’s time, if he was still not claimed or adopted he would have to be put down. Although there were several people interested in him right away due to his dashing looks, they eventually decided against adopting him because he was “too shy.” Collingsworth paid him a visit a few days after dropping him off, and upon entering his kennel, this previously timid dog gave a howl of joy, leapt up, and grabbed onto her with his front paws as if hugging for dear life. There was no way Collingsworth could let go, so she adopted him back. The name “Rufio” was inspired by the puckish leader of the Lost Boys in the movie Hook, which was an appropriate reference to this dog’s roots as a stray while also alluding to his mischievous  nature. Rufio has accompanied Collingsworth on trips through a number of redwood forests, a side-by-side horseback journey through Monument Valley (which lies within the range of the Navajo Nation Reservation), Death Valley, White Sands National Monument, the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park. The most notable, though, was their nine-mile trek to the Ice Lake summit in Silverton, Colorado.

Powers: His ability to produce and shed hair is the best in all the land. In addition, he can and does walk/run off leash as much as possible. He even knows to stop at intersections and use the sidewalks!

Weaknesses: Sharing food. He is not a voracious eater by any means; he is actually quite picky. However, when other dogs are present, Rufio has been known to grab a food bowl (even if it’s not his food bowl) and wander off with it, often leaving a small trail of kibbles.

Arch Enemies: Inanimate objects including but not limited to: the trash can, cardboard boxes, aluminum foil and paper bags. He has learned that plastic bags might be a receptacle for treats, so he has since made peace with them.

Sidekicks: In his eyes, when we’re out and about together, every human encountered is a potential sidekick. He’s learned that people give attention, which is a far cry from his early days.



German Shepherd

Ike the German shepherd is rugged. He’s intense. He’s a powerhouse. Watching Ike move ignites a contrasting sense of terror and security. This dichotomy makes sense though – many military-trained dogs present that kind of energy. Ike is trained in obedience and protection, but also competes in agility and endurance tests. His impressive repertoire of commands include tracking people and objects (up to one mile radius), leaping over 6-foot walls while holding a dumbbell in his mouth, leg weaving, knowing who and when to attack and when to be docile, and more. Did we also mention he’s bilingual in English and German? German shepherd dogs (GSD) are bred differently based on the purpose they are meant to serve. Although there are a wide variety of types, the two distinct camps are “show” and “working.” The show dogs typically have a lean, svelte build, while working dogs are bulkier and more robust. Barbie Piccinni owns five other German shepherds, but recalls Ike being a standout dog even when he was a puppy. He was always a crowd favorite at competitions, and she thought he would be a fun dog to own someday.

Although Ike’s size makes him intimidating, at his core, he’s a sweetheart. He is friendly with other dogs and people when they approach him, but shows little interest in anything that isn’t a ball. Ike resides on Piccinni’s horse farm, where he lives in a dog’s paradise of open fields and enjoys a high-quality diet consisting of pressure-cooked turkey. He is unwaveringly loyal, carries a clear zest for life and puts every ounce of effort into everything he does.

Powers: Invulnerability, agility, reflexes, and radar vision for tracking.

Weaknesses: Little dogs, especially corgis.

Arch Enemies: Vinny (the Alpha male GSD he lives with).

Sidekicks: Ike stands alone!




Ruby was taken in by local rescue group, Don’t Bully Me Rescue, in their belief that she could not only be saved, but adopted into a forever home where she would be loved. She was taken to Cedar Park where she was kept at a local boarding facility waiting for her chance. In April 2015 a man who had recently moved to the area started coming by and volunteering to walk the DBMR dogs, and that experience changed both of their lives. Each day after work, the man came by and took Ruby outside for a walk, and even quickly figured out that she was tennis ball crazy. It only took three weeks from that first day for Ruby to get through the adoption process and begin a new life and love with that man, Kevin Given.

Given is member of Team Red White Blue (TRWB) and Ruby happily joined them on evening runs. Through this group, Ruby came into contact with veterans who have post traumatic stress disorder and they seemed to bond with Ruby, and she with them. This dog, who had once been fearful and weary of strangers grew to be comfortable in the presence of veterans.

As a Boxer and Pit Bull mix, she’s a breed that’s ready for action.  She has learned how to calmly sit on the back of a kayak and ride along looking at the scenery and wildlife, but her daily walk is where she has really come alive. Ruby and Given average 30 miles a week, mostly walking, but some running. Ruby is well-rounded in her time spent being active, as well as her time spent supporting others to be active. You can spot her out at various sporting events, volunteering on the sidelines with Given, and exchanging smiles with runners as they pass by her.

Powers: Laser-like focus on her tennis ball. Ability to make others smile while she smiles at them during her walks.

Weaknesses: Her blanket. Once tucked in she is super comfortable, and nothing short of a walk or her tennis ball is going to make her want to come out from underneath.

Arch Enemies: People on skateboards.

Sidekicks: She and Kevin Given are a solid duo, but she is screening additional candidates.




When Allegra Kaough was studying to become a dog trainer, she didn’t have a dog of her own. She knew she wanted an active breed, but didn’t think a Dachshund would fit the bill. Her mentor at the time owned six dogs, three of which were Dachshunds. After taking one of the Dachshunds on a particularly long walk one day and seeing how well he kept up, she decided to follow her heart and get one after all. It wasn’t that this dog was exceptionally fit, she just noticed that he was all heart and kept up through sheer determination – which was more than enough for Kaough.

That’s when the real search began. Kaough applied to adopt more than 20 different Dachshunds from all over the country, but was turned down for one reason or another every time. Finally, Craigslist pulled through, and Kaough and Harley began their life together.

When Kaough moved to Austin, she started a business called The Naked Dog, in which she takes dogs on off-leash hikes. The Naked Dog is thriving and Harley has been along for the ride since the beginning. Harley spends 90 minutes a day, five days a week hiking alongside anywhere up to 12 other dogs, some who are up to 10 times her size. After the hike, Harley and Kaough head to the barn where she runs around with her canine, equine and human friends and follows behind Kaough on horseback for another few hours. Even after an 8 hour day outside, Harley is able to muster the energy to head out again.

Powers: Invulnerability. Complete ignorance of her own size. She never lets her short legs hold her back.

Weaknesses: Resistant to water.

Arch Enemies: On occasion, she’ll bark at German Shepherds with slopey hips.

Sidekicks: Láska, the horse, of course.




In case you aren’t familiar with the biblical story of Job (and this Weimeraner’s namesake), here’s a refresher. Job was a righteous man whom God favored. God was so sure of Job’s strong faith that He tested him by sending numerous challenges into his life. Even after losing everything, Job remained patient and continued to loved God unconditionally, and for that reason, all of his joys were restored.

When Alexis Hail noticed a Craigslist post selling a Weimaraner for only $100, her interested was piqued. Within the post, she read a note written by the breeder that said, “Come get this stupid dog for $100.” Although he was a purebred and came from an award-winning line, when the breeder discovered he couldn’t be used as a sire, she wanted to dump him. Hail realized if she didn’t get him, someone more terrible than his current owner might. She drove to the Texas/Oklahoma border to meet the woman, withdrew the money from the ATM at the gas station they met at, and the rest was history. Although Hail had no idea how to care for a dog, she was absolutely sure that she could give this dog a happy life full of redemption.

But Job’s life still faced challenges. One weekend, while Hail was out of town, he escaped late at night and was hit by a car. The X-rays showed fractures in his face and a few broken teeth, but no damage anywhere else. Yet, for some unknown reason, Job was unable to use his back legs to walk. Months passed, and despite Hail’s patience in helping him get around, eat soft food, and carrying him outside to use the bathroom, she worried he would always be in pain. But miracles happen for Job. He stood up on his own, gradually relearned how to walk, and has since made a full recovery.

Job is active and enjoys hiking the greenbelt, playing at Zilker Park, and running the trail around Lady Bird Lake. However, he stays healthy and fit by eating a paleo diet, including red peppers, zucchini, scrambled eggs and fish.

Powers: Clairvoyance – He knows when people are coming over to visit.  He can also turn into a statue. If you put something on his head to pose for a photo he will sit very still until told otherwise. Sometimes he can fly but that rarity only happens in the presence of other dogs who chase him.

Weaknesses: Lights of all kinds. Laser lights, sunlight reflections off an iPhone screen, shadows, flashlights, the light that is on the tool that the vet uses to look in his ear, and more.

Arch Enemies: Rectal thermometers (he loves the vet, hates their tools), helium balloons, and the water sprayer on the kitchen sink.

Sidekicks: Brees, the yorkie next door and Job’s doggie crush.





American Pit Bull Terriers have been cursed with a bad reputation that’s been tough to shake. Lars Remsen was aware of this but held a strong belief that dog temperament relied on a proper upbringing. By setting clear boundaries and offering lots of love, Remsen proved his point with Max.

When Remsen went looking for the perfect Red Nose American Pit Bull, he found Max in the first litter he encountered. Max was the only green-eyed puppy, and the owner had already grown attached to him. With extra convincing, Remsen left with a new best friend.

It was expected he’d grow up to be a strong, driven companion, so he needed a perfect name to match. The name Maximus came from the movie Gladiator, because even at a young age, he was fearlessly loyal and exceptionally athletic.

Even at 14 years old, Maximus has the energy of a puppy. His favorite hobbies include parkour (bouncing off the walls in his house), swimming, and hanging out at the crag while Remsen is rock climbing. Maximus would serve as Remsen’s belayer, if only he had thumbs.

He has also always been adaptable to any situation: relaxed when it’s time to rest, or ready to romp at a moment’s notice. Age ain’t nothing but a number to this gladiator.

Powers: Extreme agility and jumping.

Weaknesses: Anything soft on the floor, is a bed. Even a washcloth is worth laying on.

Arch Enemies: Feral cats that pass through the yard and mark his territory!

Sidekicks: He made an unlikely companion, when he and Remsen’s former next door neighbor’s Chihuahua dug under the fence, and secretly hung out on a daily basis.



Boston Terrier

The Boston terrier breed is considered small but mighty, and Buster is no exception. However, due to the characteristic short face of these dogs, snorting and grunting can make high-intensity activities challenging. That’s where Buster is the exception.

Buster is Les Reaves’ third Boston terrier, so he’s very familiar with the breed. Reaves was drawn to Buster because he was bred smaller than usual, but still maintained the standard appearance. Additionally, Buster has unbounding energy, which actually teeters between a blessing and a curse. He can play fetch from sun-up to sun-down or run over 30 miles in a day, and does so with such ease that any onlooker would believe he has no limits. When he takes the time to slow down, his personality charms everyone. Buster is attentive, polite and intelligent – until a tennis ball catches his eye and he’s off again, sprinting at full speed. Buster emits so much energy to fully extend his body in each stride that he effortlessly creates the illusion that he’s flying (faster than a speeding bullet, at that).

At only 2 years old, Buster’s achievements already include hiking multiple 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado, canyoneering in Utah, and most recently, logging long-distance mileage by accompanying Reaves through marathon training.

Powers: Finding balls inside or outside, in snow, under furniture, or at the bottom of a backpack. Wherever the ball is, he can find it.

Weaknesses: He doesn’t cry or whimper when he’s hurt or in trouble.

Arch Enemies: Neighbor’s dog, an Aussie named Oso.

Sidekicks: His stepsister Stella is his main sidekick, but he’s also very close to his biological twin sister Murphy, who resides in Austin.

Special Thanks toThe Dogs Who Entered This Year’s Contest!



Related Articles

June 1, 2024
June 1, 2024