Taking your four legged best friend on a hike can be a wonderful bonding experience.
Plus, it’s a fantastic way for you both to get some good exercise together.
But – not all dogs are created equal.
In this article, we’ll reveal which breeds make the best hiking dogs. We’ll also give you some info on characteristics to look out for in a hiking dog, and tips on what kind of gear you’ll need for trekking with your furry friend.
So, are you ready?
Here we go!
What Are The Characteristics Of A Great Hiking Dog?
There are certain characteristics that can give you a good idea of how well your canine companion can be expected to take to hiking.
- Energy and stamina
- Fur length
Let’s take it from the top.
Energy & Stamina
Dogs with high energy levels will obviously take to hiking a lot better than dogs that are less energetic.
For an energetic dog, any hike you take them on is going to be a walk in the park. Well, way better than a walk in the park, actually.
You also need to make sure your dog is up for a full day of action. If he or she is exhausted after an hour in the park, you can imagine what a full day of hiking is going to look like.
That said, if you’ve got your heart set on taking your pooch hiking, but you’re not sure if they’ll be able to handle the entire trail, all hope is not lost. Consider getting a dog carrier backpack, especially if you’ve got a smaller breed of dog that you can easily carry.
A dog’s demeanor is majorly important. If you’re out on the trail with a dog off the leash that doesn’t listen to a thing you say, you’re not going to have a very good time.
It’s incredibly important that your dog responds to your commands while you’re out hiking.
Certain breeds are easier to train than others. These breeds are those that are calm and confident in nature. Dogs with these traits are more likely to cooperate with you and accept your position as the leader of the pack.
This part is pretty self explanatory.
If your dog has long fur, they won’t be too happy hiking in scorching hot weather.
On the other hand, if your dog has short fur, they might not be able to stay warm enough on a long winter hike through the snow.
There are ways you can make it easier on your doggo, though.
For dogs with short fur, you can find winter jackets to dress them in that’ll keep them cozy and warm all day long, wherever you go.
My dog Bane has longer fur, and to top it off it’s black. This means that as much as he loves being outdoors, he overheats pretty quickly. When we go hiking in the summer, I make sure to wet his fur with water regularly, to help him stay cool. He isn’t a huge fan of this, because he doesn’t like water – but it’s for his own good.
If your fur baby is still a pup, you should be cautious about taking them on a long hike they might not be ready for.
How soon your pup will be ready to join you on the trail varies from breed to breed and dog to dog. Some dogs won’t be able to tackle a full day of hiking until they’re about a year old.
Bane was almost exactly 6 months old the first time I took him hiking, and for him it was perfect timing.
If you’re not sure, start with a short trail that doesn’t take long to complete, and see how you go.
On the flipside, if you’ve got an older doggo, you’ll also won’t be able to expect them to keep up like they did when they were younger.
Again, the timing varies. Smaller dogs tend to live longer than larger dogs, so it makes sense that larger dogs might slow down sooner. Still, you just never know – dogs can develop health issues in their old age that can affect their hiking ability, whether they’re big or small.
Top 20 Hiking Dog Breeds
Now, just to be clear – there are plenty of dogs that are great for hiking that didn’t make it onto this list.
So, if you have a particular dog breed in mind, don’t feel discouraged if you don’t see them here. Consider the characteristics we talked about above, and do some research on the breed to determine whether or not a dog will be suitable for hiking.
That said, if you don’t have a particular dog breed in mind, here are a whole bunch that have proven to be the best canine hiking companion man could ask for.
If you’re a fan of big dogs, you won’t have any trouble finding one to be your hiking buddy.
Lots of large dog breeds make excellent hiking companions.
Here are some breeds that take to the trail exceptionally well:
How beautiful are these dogs?
I’ve got one living 2 floors above me and he’s just the sweetest dog ever. He’s a 3 year old male named Bruno and he’s charmed his way into the hearts of everyone in the neighborhood – people and dogs alike.
These hunting dogs have got loads of energy and love to run around, which means they’ll adore being out on the trail with you. In fact, a healthy Weimaraner can accompany you on hikes that are up to 20 miles long with no trouble at all.
You’ll definitely get worn out quicker than your dog if you’ve got a Weimaraner.
Speaking of high energy hunting dogs – it doesn’t get much more energetic than the vizsla.
These dogs need to be outdoors as much as possible, running around and burning up their energy.
Did I mention they’ve got tons of it?
Just look at how much fun this adorable vizsla named Whiskey has spending time outdoors camping and hiking with her owners. I think that these images, along with the video above, are all the proof you need that these dogs are the perfect hiking partners.
The German Shorthaired Pointer
The GSP is another hunting dog with plenty of energy to burn.
They’re fairly easy to train, and they’ll be thankful for the exercise they’ll get when you take them hiking.
These dogs are fantastic around kids as well, so they make a great family dog.
The Labrador Retriever
Check out this Labrador retriever and German shorthaired pointer duo living their best lives out on a hike together.
You can clearly see that the GSP is more high energy than the Lab, which is generally the case.
But, that doesn’t mean that a Lab won’t be able to keep up. These dogs love hiking just as much as all the other breeds we’ve talked about, and can easily tackle the same distances if they’re in good shape.
Yes, you read that right.
It might surprise you to hear this, but poodles are excellent hiking dogs.
They’re athletic, they love the water, and they do well in all kinds of weather conditions.
The Alaskan Malamute
Alaskam Malamutes are another outstanding choice, due to their high energy levels, strength and endurance.
These dogs were bred to carry heavy loads, so putting a saddle bag on your Alaskan Malamute and letting them carry their own dog gear is a great idea – they’ll enjoy it thoroughly.
Do keep in mind that these dogs are used to colder climates. They do well in warm weather conditions, but be sure to provide your Malamute with plenty of water and rest in shady areas if you’re hiking in the heat.
The Australian Shepherd
Despite their name, these dogs aren’t actually from Australia. They’re actually from right here in the US.
In any case, the Australian shepherd is a very good looking dog. They’re active, intelligent and friendly, making them wonderful hiking dogs, as well as great family dogs in general.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback
The Rhodesian Ridgeback originates in Southern Africa. These dogs are strong and full of energy, making them ideal for hiking.
They have a very pronounced prey drive, though, so do be aware of that. If you plan on taking a Rhodesian Ridgeback off leash hiking, you’ll need to make sure to train and socialize them well from a young age.
Medium Sized Breeds
Medium sized dogs are great. I mean, they don’t call it a happy medium for nothing.
They’re not too big, not too small. You might even say – just right.
The Border Collie
These herding dogs can run around rounding up sheep all day long.
So, as you can imagine, they possess incredible endurance and agility. Which, coincidentally, are qualities that also make them a brilliant hiking companion.
The Portuguese Water Dog
I’m a sucker for fluffy dogs, and Portuguese water dogs are oh so fluffy and soft.
But that isn’t all they’ve got going for them. These dogs are incredibly active and intelligent. And of course, as their name suggests, they love the water.
They’re hypoallergenic, too, so if you’ve got allergies this is a good breed to consider.
Dalmatians are just too cool. Their trademark spots are unreal, and they’re super adorable.
These dogs are known for having unbelievable stamina, so they’re great for taking on a hike.
Plus, they have awesome personalities. Dalmatians are super friendly and energetic, making them perfect hiking buddies.
The Blue Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog)
Here’s another Australian herding dog, but this one is actually from the land down under. I’m talking about the blue heeler.
Also known as the Australian cattle dog, these canines were bred to herd cattle across vast distances. That means that hiking along rough terrain is second nature to them.
These dogs can have aggressive tendencies towards other dogs of the same sex, so make sure that they socialize as much as possible while they’re young.
The Australian Kelpie
It’s no surprise that dogs from Australia make great hiking dogs. Australia is basically one huge flat open space. Any animal that comes from there is bound to be able to cover some distance.
The kelpie is another Aussie sheep herding dog that’ll make a great partner for hiking.
Unlike the blue heeler, kelpies aren’t aggressive at all. In fact, they’re super friendly towards humans and other animals alike. These dogs are as loyal and loving as they come.
If you think small dogs aren’t up to the task of tackling a hike, think again!
There are plenty of small dogs that do just as well out on the trail as some of the larger breeds we’ve talked about.
The Jack Russell Terrier
My first dog, who I got when I was 10 years old, was a Jack Russell terrier. So, I can tell you from first hand experience, they’re the craziest, bounciest, quickest little balls of energy you’ve ever seen. And they’re smart, too.
It takes a lot to tire out a Jack Russelll, so don’t let their little legs fool you – they won’t have any trouble keeping up on a hike.
The Rat Terrier
Another adorable little terrier that loves spending time running around outdoors is the rat terrier.
In case you hadn’t guessed, they’re called rat terriers because they love to hunt rats. These dogs are capable of exterminating up to 2.5k rats in just 7 hours. So, that gives you a good idea of how much energy and endurance they’ve got.
The Tibetan Terrier
Good things come in threes – so here’s one more terrier to round things off.
But this terrier looks a little different. And, that’s because it’s not actually a terrier.
Unlike the last 2 short haired breeds we looked at, the Tibetan terrier has a very long coat. Despite this, they can still handle being in both hot and cold environments extremely well.
These gorgeous pooches originated in Tibet, so they’re adapted to living in the Himalayas. If they can hack the Himalayas, I’m pretty sure no hike you take them on is going to faze them.
Beagles are hunters by nature, so they love hiking long trails, following different scents along the way.
Keep in mind though, training a beagle can be a bit of a challenge. They’re intelligent dogs, but they’re also super independent, meaning they’re less likely to obey commands willingly.
The Sheltie (Shetland Sheepdog)
How adorable are these little puppers?
These beautiful, long haired dogs may look like they belong perched on a cushion on Paris Hilton’s bed, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
In reality, they’re active, strong and lively herding dogs that thrive on time spent running around outdoors.
Shelties are highly intelligent, too, which makes them easy to train. They’re a particularly sensitive breed, though, so don’t be too rough on your sheltie. They respond much better to a calm voice than yelling.
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Here’s another somewhat unlikely candidate.
The Pembroke Welsh corgi can teach us all a lesson about not judging a book by its cover.
Despite having tiny little stumpy legs that look like they can barely hold up its body, the corgi holds its own on a hike with the best of them.
They’re cattle herding dogs, you see, so that explains it.
Start off slow with your corgi, though. Go on shorter hikes to begin with, and work your way up to more serious distances.
The Almighty Mutt
Anybody want to guess what breed my dog Bane (pictured above) is?
That’s right, I haven’t got a clue. I’d say he’s got some kind of terrier in him, but who knows how many other breeds could be in the mix.
I think that having a dog that’s a unique mix of who knows what is wonderful. There’s no other dog quite like him, and he’s absolutely perfect.
Visit your local shelter to meet some of the dogs there. You never know – maybe one of them will steal your heart.
Like I said, there are plenty of dogs we didn’t mention in this article that will make phenomenal hiking companions. Many different breeds possess the necessary qualities to accompany you on your outdoor adventures.
Basically, as long as your dog has got enough energy and stamina, and is in good physical shape, well trained, and not too young or old, they shouldn’t have any trouble hitting the trail.
The breeds we’ve talked about all have the right attributes, but they still need to be in shape if you’re going to be tackling serious hikes together.
So, if you’re considering getting a dog, consider adopting a dog from a shelter. You can almost always find a dog that’s a mix of the breed you’re interested in. There are so many doggos in need that could lighten up your world and bring you so much love and joy. #adoptdontshop