- What to Look for in a Hiking Dog
- Essentials You Need When Hiking with Your Dog
- Top 12 Dog Breeds Best for Hiking
- Final Thoughts
Hiking is a great way to get outside, breathe in the fresh air, and stretch your legs. Even just a leisurely stroll through the woods or along a well-manicured path can be an adventure if you have the right companion along for the fun.
Any dog can make a great walking buddy, but generally speaking, a great hiking companion is one with endurance and usually a medium to large breed. However, even smaller dogs that have a lot of energy can make a good hiking companion.
The best hiking dogs are those with high energy, but obedient, and willing to please. When searching for a companion for your hiking expeditions, take into consideration the type of hiking you do and what your expectations are for your dog while on the trail.
What to Look for in a Hiking Dog
There are several factors you will want to go over when looking for your next 4-legged hiking companion. Active dog breeds are your obvious first choice, but there are other factors to think about as well.
Small active dogs can be good hiking buddies, but if you are into long hiking treks through the woods and up the mountains, then a small breed may become overtaxed on long hikes.
While you can spend hours researching dog breeds and trying to find the absolute perfect dog to be your hiking companion, it all really boils down to the physical limitations of the dog, the dog’s temperament, and training put into the dog.
Giant dog breeds can be great hiking companions, but some giant breeds are not able to handle long hikes. They can quickly tire and not be able to climb rough terrain. Giant breed puppies should not be over-exercised; it can cause long-term health problems.
Essentials You Need When Hiking with Your Dog
Your essentials checklist will be different depending on the type of hike you are planning. If you are just taking a turn around the block or through the local city park, you will just need a collar, leash, and a few cleanup bags.
Longer hikes will require more planning and packing of some essential items and of course, if you are planning on overnight camping, your list will grow even longer. If you are an avid camper, you will want to look for the best dog for hiking and camping.
Before hitting the trails, be sure to do your research and find out the length and steepness of the trail. Trails over rough terrain that gain elevation quickly can be hard on dogs not used to hiking.
You will want to bring the basics with you on your hike but you do not want to carry unnecessary weight and make your hike a lot more work. If you happen to have one of the best backpacking dogs, they can help carry the weight of your equipment.
Check the items off your checklist as you pack for a more organized hike:
- Collapsible water bowl
- Bottled water
- First aid kit
- Antiseptic wipes
- Antibiotic ointment
- Benadryl (tabs or liquid)
- Name and number of emergency vets in the area
- Leash and collar or harness
- Backpack to carry essentials
- Backpack for your dog (if properly trained)
- Brush and towels for cleanup after the hike
- Camping gear (if necessary)
- Dog food (if overnight camping)
Top 12 Dog Breeds Best for Hiking
While trying to decide the best trail dogs, take a few minutes to research the breeds that interest you and determine which breed will fit your needs. The best dog breeds for hiking off-leash actually has nothing to do with the breed, but how well-trained you have trained your dog.
So what dogs do make the best choice for a hiking companion? Take a look at the 12 top 4-legged hiking companions that are great for hiking below:
1. Siberian Husky
Siberian Huskies are high energy and absolutely love getting out in nature. They can be the best camping dogs because of their love of nature and their never ending energy. Huskies were bred to run several miles a day pulling a sled.
Their stamina makes them a great choice for long hikes in the woods. They also make the best dog for hiking protection against predators. A well-trained Husky can keep you safe and offer great protection while on the trail.
Huskies are not all work and no play; they have a funny bone and love to play games. They are always ready for a game of fetch or searching out a great treat or prize.
|Height: Female: 20–22 inches, Male: 21–24 inches|
|Weight: Female: 35–51 lbs, Male: 44–60 lbs|
|Physical Characteristics: Double coat in white, silver-gray, black & white, sable & white, grey, grey & white, red & white|
|Temperament: Intelligent, athletic, alert, gentle, outgoing, friendly|
2. Border Collie
While the longer coat on a Border Collie can easily pick up sticks and burs, their coat is easy to brush and maintain, making them a great choice for a hiking partner. This high-energy herding dog loves having a job to do so keep them on their toes while hiking.
Being an agile dog, they can easily take on steep climbs and make one of the best adventure dogs for those who love to be outdoors. They do have a low prey drive so they will not be off chasing small game while you are out hiking.
Border Collies need a lot of exercise to be happy and well-adjusted making them one of the best dogs for running and hiking.
|Height: Female: 18–21 inches, Male: 19–22 inches|
|Weight: Female: 27–42 lbs, Male: 30–45 lbs|
|Physical Characteristics: Coat is medium length in black/white, blue/wjite, blue merle, lilac, brindle, red merle, liver, sable merle, red/white|
|Temperament: Alert, tenacious, intelligent, energetic, responsive|
3. Jack Russell Terrier
Yes, even the Jack Russell Terrier can make a great hiking buddy. They are lively, happy, and tenacious and require a lot of exercise. The Jack Russell Terrier can become an aggressive dog if not properly socialized, so get them out early.
This small breed dog loves adventure and is always up for a trip around the block or a foray into the forest. Training is key in ensuring that your Jack Russell Terrier is able to become a fantastic hiking companion.
Bred to be a ratter and general vermin hunter, they do tend to forget all they have learned when they are on the trail of small game. It is best to keep them leashed when you are out hiking.
|Height: Females and Males: 9.8 – 15 in.|
|Weight: Females and Males: 14 – 18 lb|
|Physical Characteristics: Short or wiry coat in white, black & white, white & tan|
|Temperament: Tenacious, vocal, fearless, energetic, stubborn, athletic, intelligent|
4. Labrador Retriever
America’s favorite dog does make a great hiking buddy, and is one of the best backpacking dogs when out on the trail. They are large enough to carry a backpack without becoming overtaxed. Just remember to not overload their pack.
Loyal to a fault, the lab is the perfect breed to hike off-leash as they will always keep checking on you as you explore. They have a great sense of adventure and want see what is just around the bend.
|Height: Female: 22–24 inches, Male: 22–24 inches|
|Weight: Female: 55–71 lbs, Male: 64–79 lbs|
|Physical Characteristics: Short coat in yellow, black, or chocolate|
|Temperament: Kind, agile, outgoing, intelligent, even-tempered, trusting, gentle|
While not necessarily a well-known breed, the Vizsla is an intense breed and make some of the best outdoors dogs and hiking companions. This Hungarian hunting dog has great stamina and loves going on adventures.
The Vizsla is an extremely smart dog and easily trained. Once fully trained, they do fantastic hiking off leash and can be trusted to come when called. They will also keep predators at bay if needed.
The Vizsla has a lot of energy and requires a significant amount of daily exercise They do wonderful on long hiking and camping trips.
|Height: Female: 21–24 inches, Male: 22–25 inches|
|Weight: Female: 40–55 lbs, Male: 44–64 lbs|
|Physical Characteristics: Short, tight coat in golden rust, golden, red golden|
|Temperament: Affectionate, gentle, loyal, quiet, energetic|
6. Australian Shepherd
There are fewer breeds that are as hard-working as the Australian Shepherd, or Aussie to those who love the breed. Adventurous and spirited aptly describe the Aussie and gives them such an adorable personality.
They love hitting the trails with their person and spending time exploring nature. Aussies love cooler weather because of their double coat, but can also do well when the weather is hot.
The Aussie is agile and can easily move over rocky and uneven ground, making them great on rough hiking trails.
|Height: Female: 18–21 inches, Male: 20–23 inches|
|Weight: Female: 35–55 lbs , Male: 55–70 lbs|
|Physical Characteristics: Double coated in merle, red merle, black, red tri, black tri, blue merle, red|
|Temperament: Good-natured, active, affectionate, intelligent, protective|
7. Standard Poodle
While the Miniature and Toy Poodle are great on short hikes through the neighborhood and local parks, Standard Poodles make fantastic hiking companions on longer, more strenuous trails. They love being with their person and spending time exploring.
This breed is the second smartest dog breed and was bred to be a hunting dog. All that frou-frou coat aside, the Standard Poodle loves to get out in the dirt and water. Bring a towel along; if they find water, they are diving in!
|Height: Females and Males: over 15 inches|
|Weight: Females: 45-60 lbs; Males: 45-70 lbs|
|Physical Characteristics: Tight, curly coat in black, apricot, white, brown, café au lait, and parti (white with another color)|
|Temperament: Energetic, friendly, intelligent, bold|
8. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
From personal experience, I can tell you the Pembroke Corgi makes an excellent hiking companion. They are loyal, smart, and energetic making them one of the best small dogs for hiking.
Originally bred to herd cattle, this little dog is bold and willing to try almost anything if socialized properly. Corgis can be snappy with other hikers and dogs so be sure to keep them leashed and move them away from others when on the trail.
With their elongated backs, they do need to be cautious on very rough terrain but are great on flatter treks.
|Height: Female: 10–12 inches, Male: 10–12 inches|
|Weight: Female: 22–29 lbs, Male: 22–31 lbs|
|Physical Characteristics: Short, double coat in fawn, black & tan, sable, and red with white markings|
|Temperament: Tenacious, bold, outgoing, playful, protective|
Bred to work outdoors for long hours, the Weimaraner is a very energetic dog that loves running and playing. Nicknamed “the Ghost” because of their silvery coat color, the Weimaraner can be intimidating to strangers.
Their intense personality and amazing stamina make them ideal hiking buddies, especially when you are hiking several miles. They need a lot of exercise each day so plan plenty of hiking expeditions when you have a Weimaraner in your home.
They do not do well in very cold climates, so if hiking during cold weather be sure to pack a jacket for your four-legged hiking partner to keep warm.
|Height: Female: 23–25 inches, Male: 24–26 inches|
|Weight: Female: 55–77 lbs, Male: 66–88 lbs|
|Physical Characteristics: Short, tight coat in mouse-gray,s-gray, silver; light colored eyes|
|Temperament: Stubborn, aloof, energetic, intelligent, steady, alert, powerful, fast|
10. Rhodesian Ridgeback
Originally from South Africa, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is an energetic and alert dog that was bred to hunt lions. They are reserved with strangers but loyal to their owners and can literally run for miles without stopping over rough, uneven terrain.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is muscled enough to carry a backpack while hiking and can easily be trained to the pack. Because they are such an intense breed, you will want to keep them leashed while hiking.
|Height: Female: 24–26 inches, Male: 25–27 inches|
|Weight: Female: 64–75 lbs, Male: 79–90 lbs|
|Physical Characteristics: Short, tight coat in red wheaten, light wheaten, wheaten|
|Temperament: Mischievous, strong-willed, intelligent, loyal, sensitive|
11. Bernese Mountain Dog
Probably one of the best mountain dogs, the Bernese Mountain Dog is a big, lovable Swiss working breed. They are powerful and used to pulling sleds and driving cattle through the Alps.
The Berner as they are affectionately called is considered a giant breed and can be susceptible to health issues if pushed too early to take strenuous hikes. Start slowly and take shorter hikes until they reach about two years old.
Because of their size, they can easily carry a backpack or even lighter camping equipment. Remember, with their thicker coats they do not do well in hot temperatures.
|Height: Female: 23–26 inches, Male: 25–28 inches|
|Weight: Female: 79–110 lbs. Male: 84–110 lbs|
|Physical Characteristics: Large, impressive black coat with white and tan markings|
|Temperament: Affectionate, intelligent, loyal, faithful|
12. Portuguese Water Dog
This breed burst onto the scene when it became the First Pet of the United States as President Obama’s choice dog. This smart, energetic, and loyal dog makes a great hiking buddy.
They do love water so be prepared to have them jump into a stream, river, or lake at a moment’s notice. The Portuguese Water Dog is easy to train and loves being with you. They will stay close while you hike through forests and up through hills and mountains.
|Height: Female: 17–20 inches, Male: 20–22 inches|
|Weight: Female: 35–50 lbs, Male: 42–60 lbs|
|Physical Characteristics: Curly coat in Black, White, Black & White, White & Chocolate, Brown|
|Temperament: Quarrelsome, impetuous, obedient, intelligent, brave|
No matter what breed of dog you choose to join your family, get out in the fresh air and enjoy spending time with your new companion. But if you are an avid hiker, you will want to do your research and pick a dog breed that fits your expectations.
One thing to remember is that brachycephalic, or flat-faced, dog breeds such as Bulldogs, pugs, and Pekingese are not ideal choices for a hiking companion. While they can take short walks, they do require a lot of breaks and cannot withstand extreme temperatures.