Why hike alone when you can bring along man’s (and woman’s) best friend?
I’ll admit, I’m a tad biased since I have a dog that joins me on every hike, but dogs make the best hiking pals by far. Their love for outdoor adventure is written into their DNA and they never complain about the miles or the lack of M&Ms in the trail mix!
With that being said, some dog breeds do better with the backcountry miles than others. If you’re looking to add a furry companion to your hiking crew, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the breeds that make the best hiking companions.
Use this fun and informative guide showcasing the 15 most hiking-compatible dogs to get you started!
Table of Contents
- 1. Siberian Husky
- 2. Dalmatian
- 3. Bernese Mountain Dog
- 4. English Springer Spaniel
- 5. Border Collie
- 6. Rhodesian Ridgeback
- 7. Harrier
- 8. Australian Shepherd
- 9. Jack Russell Terrier
- 10. Miniature Pinscher
- 11. German Shorthaired Pointer
- 12. Labrador Retriever
- 13. Alaskan Malamute
- 14. Golden Retriever
- 15. Poodle
- Dog Breeds You Should Avoid
- Best Dogs for Hiking: Which Breeds are Best?
1. Siberian Husky
Huskies are very social dogs. They love to be part of a pack! Known for their ability to pull sleds in some of the world’s harshest environments, it’s no wonder huskies have boundless energy and endurance! They’ll feel right at home accompanying you on any hike or mountain trek.
Huskies require lots of physical and mental stimulation. So, bringing them along on your hikes will prevent them from getting bored (and tearing up your house!). Since huskies tend to have an independent nature and stubborn temperament, you’ll need to make sure you’ve invested in consistent training before attempting any off-leash hikes.
If you’re planning on regularly hiking in cold conditions, there’s no better trail pal than a Siberian husky. Siberian Huskies have a double fur coat that protects them from the elements, so they’ll have no trouble tagging along during all your winter adventures.
Dalmatians have a long and rich history of working alongside humans. Although they were historically bred as hunting dogs, their strong and streamlined bodies make them natural athletes suited to a number of physical tasks. Some dalmatians were even used as carriage dogs to protect passengers during long stagecoach voyages, so they make great guard dogs!
These days, dalmatians make a popular and protective family pet. Their friendly and energetic nature also makes them the perfect trail-running dogs or hiking companions. Dalmatians are even known for having a low-prey drive. So, you won’t have to worry about them chasing after every sight and sound in the forest.
Just remember, dalmatians don’t do so well in cold climates, so they’ll need some extra protection if you’re hiking in the winter.
3. Bernese Mountain Dog
With “mountain” in their name, how could these canines not love hiking? Bernese mountain dogs are hearty, good-natured creatures that are always down for traipsing wherever you want to take them.
Like other alpine breeds, the Bernese mountain dog originated as a Swiss working dog. Originally bred to pull carts through the Alps, this energetic breed will have no problem scaling mountains by your side.
Just remember, Bernese mountain dogs do not tolerate the heat, largely in part to their wooly, thick coat. It’s normal for these pups to be less active in the summer, so you might want to save any long-distance hikes for the spring or fall.
Bernese also suffer from some genetic issues, especially surrounding their hips. Make sure you get the OK from a vet before setting off on your outdoor adventures together.
4. English Springer Spaniel
Crazily intelligent and full of feisty energy, English springer spaniels make great lap dogs and even better hiking dogs. Don’t let their long and luxurious coat fool you, though! Springer Spaniels are tough hunting dogs that are used to spending all day on the hunt, so they have enough endurance to leave you trailing in their wake.
As with most intelligent dog breeds, springer spaniels crave companionship and require lots of training and positive reinforcement to avoid boredom. Without adequate attention and exercise, Springer Spaniels can develop destructive habits or separation anxiety.
Thankfully, there’s no better way to let high-energy breeds like springer spaniels burn off some steam than taking them on a long hike or run!
5. Border Collie
Known for their insane energy levels and working dog status, Border collies make the ideal companion for dog owners that lead an active lifestyle.
Border collies are talented, energetic, and well-known for their high intelligence. Always eager to hit the trail or summit, just make sure you provide them with lots of daily exercise. This will let them burn off some of their seemingly endless stoke and steam.
Thanks to their history as herding dogs, Border collies are easy to train and love to please their humans. You’ll have no problem training your border collie to walk off-leash and stay close to you while on hiking trails.
6. Rhodesian Ridgeback
Originally bred as a South African hunting dog, the Rhodesian ridgeback makes a rugged and reliable outdoor companion.
The Rhodesian ridgeback was originally used to track lions and other large mammals in the wild. As such, no long hike or challenging ascent will faze this gentle giant.
Rhodesian ridgebacks are also used to working in high temperatures, making them good hiking dogs for people that live in hot climates.
While their strength, agility, and endurance make them fantastic trail pals, Rhodesian ridgebacks have an independent nature and aloof personality that requires proper obedience training to handle. Make sure you invest in the proper training before allowing them off-leash on the trail.
The harrier is often mistaken for a large beagle, but they’re actually their own distinct breed. Harriers were originally used as scent hounds to hunt foxes and hares. However, their love for the outdoors makes them faithful trail companions as well.
Harriers are extremely energetic dogs that need an outlet for all of their energy. They’re also quite vocal… they are hound dogs after all! If you live in an apartment or close proximity to your neighbors, you might want to choose a quieter dog.
8. Australian Shepherd
Herding dogs like Australian shepherds are known for making great outdoor companions. Agile, athletic, and highly intelligent, the only difficulty you’ll face on the trail with an Australian shepherd is keeping up with them!
Herding cattle is a tough job, especially in the unforgiving climate of the Australian outback. A few mountain climbs or long treks in hot weather, therefore, will be no match for this working dog!
While Australian shepherds enjoy hiking, they need regular daily exercise too. Before you choose this energetic and loyal breed, make sure you can commit to an hour of vigorous exercise each day.
9. Jack Russell Terrier
If you’re looking for a hiking partner but aren’t ready to commit to a large breed, a Jack Russell terrier could be a great fit for you!
While they may not seem like an obvious choice, Jack Russell terriers were originally trained for vermin hunting. That stamina translates well to running, hiking, and camping. Despite their short stature, Jack Russell terriers are athletic and full of energy and thrive with a mix of outdoor activities and regular exercise.
Jack Russell terriers also love being close to their human companions and will happily follow you down any hiking trail. Just remember that they do have a strong prey drive, so don’t let them hike off-leash unless you want them chasing after every critter in the forest.
10. Miniature Pinscher
Don’t let the size of this small dog fool you – miniature pinschers are feisty and active dogs that make great hiking companions.
Miniature pinschers originated in Germany and only reach a size of 8–10 lbs as fully grown adults. Their small size doesn’t faze them and these fearless canines will welcome any hike as a challenge! Despite their boundless energy, you should always carry a dog carrier or dog backpack in case their short legs get tired.
Like other small breeds, miniature pinschers suffer from a condition called luxating patella where their kneecaps pop out of place. Regular hikes are a great way to keep them lean and help prevent this condition.
11. German Shorthaired Pointer
The German shorthaired pointer’s history as a hunting dog lends itself well to outdoor adventure. Known for their speed, endurance, and insane sense of smell, pointers thrive on lots of off-leash exercise.
Just like some retrievers, pointers have webbed feet and a water-resistant coat that make them talented swimmers. But be careful, unlike golden retrievers that have a long coat, Pointers can easily get too cold.
Due to their razor-sharp instincts and high prey drive, pointers can become destructive if they don’t have an outlet for their energy. Thankfully, they’re highly intelligent and eager to please, so your German shorthaired pointer will be well-trained in no time!
12. Labrador Retriever
Labrador retrievers are arguably the most beloved breed out there and they love to spend time outdoors. Active, friendly, and water-loving, a Labrador retriever will make the perfect companion for a long trek or a dip in the lake.
Labradors originated as gun dogs to help retrieve waterfowl for hunters. Their webbed feet make them excellent swimmers while their water-repellent coats allow them to thrive in cold climates.
Labradors are prone to gaining weight if they are not regularly exercised – all the more reason to make a Labrador your next hiking partner!
13. Alaskan Malamute
If you regularly hike or climb in snowy, rough terrain, then a malamute will make your perfect hiking buddy!
Alaskan malamutes are one of the oldest Arctic sled breeds and were born and bred to thrive in cold climates. Due to their thick, double fur coat, malamutes can only handle temperatures 70 degrees or below. Their huge paws act like snowshoes, allowing them to walk on soft snow with ease, while their sharp claws grip onto ice like ice picks.
Like many other dogs on our list, malamutes have a stubborn and independent nature. You’ll need to invest in lots of training and positive enforcement before allowing them off-leash on hiking trails.
14. Golden Retriever
If you’re looking for a smart and friendly dog to accompany you on all your adventures in the great outdoors, goldens are for you!
Golden retrievers have been loyal companions to families all over the world since the 1800s. They originated in the Scottish Highlands, where they were revered for their hunting abilities both on land and in the water. Their hardworking nature lends itself well to outdoor sports and they’ll have no problem accompanying you on long hikes.
Although golden retrievers are active dogs that will happily join you on any trek, they do suffer from a genetic predisposition to hip problems. Make sure you get the OK from your vet before undertaking any vigorous physical activity or hiking long distances with your golden in tow.
The poodle is one the oldest breeds of dog in the world and was originally bred for hunting waterfowl. These highly-intelligent, athletic canines love to please their humans making them easy to train both on and off-leash.
Despite their high-maintenance coat, poodles are tough dogs that make both a loyal trail companion and a great running buddy. During the winter, you can keep their curls long to help them manage low temperatures. In the summer, their coats can be shaved to help keep them cool.
Hiking is an activity that you can do with any poodle, but you’ll want to limit your trek to 1 mile or less for toy poodles and under 5 miles for miniatures (and make sure to bring along a dog carrier too).
Dog Breeds You Should Avoid
While all canines appreciate regular exercise, some breeds aren’t suitable for taking on strenuous hikes or long-distance treks.
Due to their very short muzzles, breeds like pugs, Shih Tzus, bulldogs, and boxers have respiratory issues that can lead to difficulties running and hiking. Since dogs use breathing and panting to cool themselves down, these breeds can also struggle in the heat and are prone to heat exhaustion.
While these breeds still make wonderful companions, they are not the most suitable for covering long distances or hiking.
Regardless of the breed, you should always be wary about hiking with dogs with a high prey drive. These dogs want to follow their natural instinct to chase down prey and can quickly become overwhelmed in a natural environment that’s full of wildlife.
Always make sure your dog is properly trained to walk on a leash and come when called before heading off on a hike together.
Best Dogs for Hiking: Which Breeds are Best?
While all pups love to exercise, some breeds just thrive on outdoor adventures, and the 15 we have listed above are the most trail-ready of the bunch.
We hope our guide on the best dogs for hiking has inspired you to find your own four-legged friend to accompany you during all your treks!
Did we forget your favorite outdoor-loving breed? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to share our list with all your dog-loving friends!