Looking For The Best Hiking Dogs, To Accompany You On Your Trekking Adventures?
We’ve Got The Top Breeds, And How To Make The Right Choice.
Every year thousands of dog owners take to the trails with their pups.
Memories are made and adventure is had by all.
And you’ll need the best hiking dogs to share these special times with you.
Of course, you want to make sure that the memories you make and the adventures you have together are healthy and safe for you and your dog as well as for all those (people, pups, and wildlife) you share the trails with!
One essential aspect is choosing the right canine hiking buddy!
In this article, you will meet some of the best hiking dogs who will challenge you to bring your hiking “A-game!”
Tips for hiking with your dog
Hiking with your dog is one of those highlights in life – a time when you are both out in nature, fully in your element, enjoying the great outdoors and each other’s company with no distractions.
However, there are some important considerations to keep in mind before embarking on your first hike “with pup.”
The American Hiking Association offers a helpful list of canine-specific hiking gear you may want to consult when planning your hike.
It can also be a good idea to talk with your veterinarian about canine safety and first aid before you take your pup on his first hiking adventure.
Finally, be sure to research the rules and regulations at your destination in advance to make sure the trails and campsites are dog-friendly and safe.
In particular, always ask before letting your dog off a leash while on a hike – park rangers, nearby wildlife, other hikers’ dogs, and terrain may all recommend keeping your dog leashed!
Now read on to meet a selection of dog breeds that were born to live the hiking life!
Best hiking dogs: Bernese Mountain Dog
The Bernese Mountain Dog is one of those dream hiking dogs.
This dog was born and bred to work long hours in variable weather conditions with great stamina and poise.
While this dog’s name might suggest that the breed spent its formative decades running up and down cliffs, in actuality the Bernese Mountain Dog was bred to help farmers and ranchers with herding livestock.
As such, these dogs are strong and sturdy, and they can pack their own weight and then some if need be.
The Bernese Mountain Dog’s personality also lends itself to the hiking life.
These dogs are very bonded with their family and tend to be naturally reserved but well-mannered with strangers.
This dog is happy to work when it is time to work and rest when it is time to rest, making it a great tent-side partner as well.
Best of all, if you plan to bring along younger family members, your “Berner,” as some fans call this dog, will happily help keep the “herd” together.
The Bernese can struggle with bloat, an emergency situation where the stomach twists.
This is most common when the dog eats a large meal or drinks a lot of water after vigorous exercise, which means it can be a real threat while you are out hiking!
Happily, there is a minor preventative surgery you may want to consider if you plan to take your dog on hiking trips with you.
As well, your Berner dog’s large, floppy ears can easily become infected, so you will want to check them before and after each hike you take together.
Best hiking dogs: Siberian Husky
The Siberian Husky is such a popular canine companion!
Out of 192 American Kennel Club purebred dog breeds, the Siberian Husky ranks twelfth in popularity!
These dogs were born and bred by the Chukchi people of Siberia to work in high endurance settings: hauling sleds, helping with hunting, and even watching youngsters when their parents were occupied elsewhere!
While the Siberian Husky makes for a very focused work partner, these dogs are also known as gentle and loving companions when it comes time to rest.
Siberians are not good guard dogs, but they are really good companion dogs, and they tend to make friends wherever they go.
One word of caution if you hike with your Siberian – do not let this dog off the leash!
These dogs love to run and will not hesitate to do so if let off a lead.
Siberian Huskies can be prone to hip and eye issues, but purchasing a pup from a reputable breeder should ensure you choose a dog free from known genetic issues.
One issue to watch for while out hiking is overheating.
Siberians have a thick double-layer coat that helps them work well in extremely cold climates.
In warm climates, however, these dogs can overheat more quickly than dogs bred to live in temperate areas.
Best hiking dogs: Border Collie
For those who are very familiar with the Border Collie, it can sound like a slam-dunk to take this dog hiking with you!
These dogs live to work, possessing the energy of your average two-year-old and then some.
This is not a dog that likes to rest and lounge.
These dogs need to stay active and are absolutely programmed to do so in both mind and body.
Border Collies need ongoing reinforcement and training to manage their intense herding instincts.
Luckily, these dogs take to training like they take to all activity – quite well!
These herding instincts can actually work in your favor if you plan to take a group hiking or you want to bring the kids along.
However, you may want to use caution before letting your Collie off the leash while on the trail.
These dogs love to run and explore and you may find you have trouble enticing your pup back to your side.
Border Collies can be prone to hip joint issues, but if your pup comes from a reputable breeder, you shouldn’t have to worry about this on your hikes.
Overall, the Border Collie is a healthy, sturdy, and strong dog breed.
Best hiking dogs: Labrador Retriever
Who doesn’t love the Labrador Retriever, that ultimate all-American canine family companion?
The Lab has retained the number one most popular purebred dog breed spot on the American Kennel Club’s list for the last 26 years and counting.
The Labrador is very friendly and outgoing – a natural “new friend maker” around the campfire and out on the hiking trail.
These dogs not only love to run and romp, but they also love to swim, making a shared post-hike dip in the local river or lake pretty much a done deal.
Labradors can be slow to mature, depending on which line (show or working) they come from.
This may mean doing some extra training before you leave for your hike and keeping your pup on the leash both on the trail and off the trail.
Labs are also prone to a condition called Exercise-Induced Collapse (EIC), which is most common in young adult dogs.
A contributing gene has now been identified, and you may want to talk with your vet about having your Lab tested for EIC before you take a long hike together.
Another issue to watch out for is bloat, a potentially life-threatening condition where a dog’s stomach twists.
Bloat often occurs after vigorous exercise, eating a larger meal or drinking a lot of water. There is a preventative surgery you can talk with your vet about.
Best hiking dogs: German Shorthaired Pointer
While the German Shorthaired Pointer is not precisely a household breed name, this dog actually ranks 11th on the American Kennel Club’s list of the 192 most popular dog breeds!
The German Shorthaired Pointer is one of those all-around good hiking dogs that some enthusiasts actually claim is “perfect!”
These dogs were born and bred to hunt and work when it was working time and to be a loving and loyal family companion when it was resting time.
Knowledgeable owners say the first three years of this dog’s life can be challenging, mostly because the German Shorthaired Pointer has so much energy and enthusiasm but hasn’t yet matured mentally.
If you do want to take your young German Shorthaired Pointer hiking with you, this may mean keeping your dog on the leash for your dog’s own safety.
German Shorthaired Pointers can struggle with hip and elbow issues, but this shouldn’t be an issue as long as your pup comes from a reputable breeder.
Bloat, however, is a serious condition that can affect any German Shorthaired Pointer, so you should ask your veterinarian about a preventative surgery before taking your dog hiking.
Best hiking dogs: Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler)
The Blue Heeler, or Australian Cattle Dog, actually has wild dingo (Australian wild dog) blood in their genetic heritage.
These dogs are working dogs to their core, born and bred for herding and hunting, and running and defending, for hours and days upon end.
This makes the Blue Heeler a perfect choice of hiking companion!
These dogs are very smart and take well to training, but they are also bred to be independent thinkers that can be wary of strange people, which means you will want to ensure your dog is well trained before venturing out onto the trail together.
Blue Heelers are generally healthy dogs in the hands of reputable breeders, who will know to test prospective parent dogs for genetic issues like hip dysplasia, deafness, and eye issues.
If you rescued your pup, be sure to have your veterinarian do an examination before taking your first hike as a team.
Best hiking dogs: Beagle
Ask any small dog enthusiast who is also a hiking enthusiast about whether the Beagle makes a good outdoor companion, and you are likely to hear an enthusiastic, “YES!”
The Beagle was born and bred to hunt and track, possibly making this dog the best small dog for hiking adventures.
These dogs are sturdy and strong hounds who live to explore, learn, and share life with their people – and they are also always keen to make new friends.
However, one thing worth remembering if you plan to hike with your Beagle is that this dog’s nose rules.
Your Beagle may find new scents literally irresistible, making your hike less like a hike and more like a dog calling contest where your Beagle is clearly winning.
It may be best not to let a Beagle off the leash while you are hiking!
The Beagle, like many small dog breeds, can struggle with patellar luxation (dislocated kneecap), which can end a hiking trip in short order.
Choosing a puppy from a reputable breeder can reduce the risk of your Beagle exhibiting this disorder, but if you rescued your pup and don’t know anything about the parent dogs, talk with your vet before taking your Beagle hiking.
Because the Beagle has long, floppy ears, ticks and infections can also be a concern on hikes.
Be sure to check your Beagle’s ears every day while you are out exploring the wilderness together.
Best hiking dogs: Jack Russell Terrier (Parson Russell Terrier)
While many people automatically think of larger dogs when considering a canine hiking buddy, the Jack Russell Terrier is another great example of small hiking dogs that love the outdoors!
The Jack Russell Terrier (also called the Parson Russell Terrier by the American Kennel Club) may weigh less than 20 pounds, but these little dogs were born and bred to hunt foxes, and they are really hard workers!
They also love the thrill of the outdoor life, with its many sounds, scents, and sights.
These Terriers can struggle with patellar luxation (dislocated kneecap), which can be hereditary.
If your Terrier has had this issue in the past, or if you don’t know anything about your dog’s health history or parents, be sure to have your veterinarian examine your dog before you take your first hike together!
Best hiking dogs
Have you ever gone hiking with dogs? Do you have a favorite hiking dog breed?
Drop us a line in the comments section below to share your favorite dog hiking adventure!
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Resources and Further Reading
Fox, C.L., et al, “History & Standard,” Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America, 2015.
Friedman, M., et al, “What Causes Bloat in Dogs?,” Animal Medical Center of New York, 2018.
Jessop, D., et al, “The Siberian Husky,” Siberian Husky Club of America, 2009.
Koeppel, B., et al, “Breed History,” Parson Russell Terrier Association of America, 2018.
Ward, E., DVM, “Luxating Patella or Kneecap in Dogs,” VCA Animal Hospital, 2009.
Stewart, D., et al, “About the Breed,” The National Beagle Club of America, 2018.
Maclennan, S., et al, “Working Standard for the Australian Cattle Dog,” Australian Cattle Dog Club of America, 1996.
Patterson, E., “A canine DNM1 mutation is highly associated with the syndrome of exercise-induced collapse.,” National Genetics Journal, 2008.
Titus, P., “All About GSPs,” German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America, 2018.
Gear for Hiking with a Dog. American Hiking Society
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