The Best Dogs for Hiking

Girl hiking with a dog.

There are a lot of breeds out there, but which dogs are the best to bring hiking?

As a dog owner, you want to have a dog that matches your personality. If you like to go on hikes a lot and take your dog with you, then you need a dog breed suited for hiking. Even though most dog breeds are suited to being outdoors, that doesn’t mean all of them are. You need to be sure your dog won’t run off and will instead listen to your commands.

If you want a little canine company on your outdoor adventures, then here are some great companions to have at your side.

Border Collie

Border collie dog.

It would be impossible to talk about excitable dogs and the best dog breeds for hiking off-leash without talking about the border collie. Also, these perennial favorites are known for their incredible intelligence, energy levels, and work drive. They are the perfect pet for hiking with a dog or anyone else who enjoys exercising. Hikers can benefit significantly from their intelligence and overall trainability.

Border collies are ready and willing to learn, so you shouldn’t have much of a problem teaching them how to behave off-leash. Just make sure that you can still give them plenty of physical and mental stimulation on the days where you don’t go hiking. If you can do that, then you’ve found one of the best breeds for hiking off-leash.

Treeing Walker Coonhound

A treeing walker coonhound dog.

The treeing walker coonhound won’t be for everyone because they tend to be vocal, but they still make for excellent hiking partners. They are agile enough to cross even the wildest hiking trails quickly. Like other kinds of hounds, the treeing walker coonhound is a lively and active dog that keeps an eye out for prey it can chase. They are hunting dogs, after all.

You should be careful of their instinct to hunt because it can be dangerous when hiking. Keep them held on to a long leash until you are sure that they won’t chase the birds, squirrels, and other critters you are likely to run into. You don’t want them running off and getting into a dangerous situation.

Rhodesian Ridgeback

Rhodesian Ridgeback sitting.

If you want a dog that’s more rugged and versatile, then look no further than the Rhodesian ridgeback. This breed has roots in African lion hunting, but it has since gone on to become a popular house pet in recent years. They have an incredible depth of agility and strength from their days as lion hunters that is sure to translate well to climbing mountains and hiking trails.

The only potential drawback to this breed is that they aren’t suited for new pet owners. People who are unaccustomed to taking care of a dog should understand – and accept – that the ridgeback requires a lot of training and socialization during the puppy stages. Also, they are more independent than other dog breeds so they can be wary of strangers. Also, never underestimate their strength. 

If you aren’t sure if you could train or handle a Rhodesian ridgeback, you may want to consider another breed.

Australian Shepherd

Aussie posing on a trail.

The Australian shepherd dog is another dog that belongs on any list of high-energy hiking dogs. They are agile and active companions that are always on the hunt for an excellent adventure. Like the border collie, this dog from Down Under is a herding dog will almost unlimited energy. Australian shepherds are work-oriented, and they like having a job to do. That’s why you must find ways to play games with them as you travel the trail. 

It’ll take their exercise to the next level and ensure everyone has a rounded and enjoyable day of fun and exercise. Also, like the border collie, they require lots of other everyday activity. You’ll need to do much more than take them out for a walk every so often. As a result, if you can keep them trained and exercised, they are one of the best and most loyal dogs around, period.

German Shorthaired Pointer

Shorthaired pointer dog.

German shorthaired pointers are another good hunting companion that makes a solid hiking dog too.  They have a lot of energy and are perfect walking partners on hiking trails. As a result, they’re at their best when they are given a lot of exercise.Look no further for a loving and friendly companion when treated well. This breed is known for having excellent endurance and agility. When it comes to energy, they have a ton and you’ll have to work it out with regular exercise. 

If you can’t give them enough stimulation, then they’ll find entertainment themselves. Typically in the form of being overly anxious and destroying everything around!

Jack Russel Terrier

A Jack Russel in a harness.

A dog doesn’t need to be big to be an excellent hiking companion. Not everyone wants a big dog either. If you’re looking for something small but still energetic, then the Jack Russel Terrier makes for a great companion. They have boundless energy and drive and are remarkably intelligent. Also, when it comes to energy and personality, it’s the same as a bigger dog in their small, 15-pound frame. 

Born and bred for hunting vermin, so they have a strong hunting instinct. A regular hike to explore and have fun ties into this sense for them. Don’t mistake their size for weakness, though! However, when it comes to care, it can be difficult and isn’t for the faint of heart.

They are very intelligent and headstrong, to the point that they can act out and be destructive if not given the mental and physical stimulation needed to occupy them. If you’re able to exercise and train them regularly and can keep up with it, they are a faithful walking companion.

Miniature Pinscher

Cute mini pin dog.

The terrier isn’t the only dog that could be considered the best small dog for hiking as the miniature pinscher is a strong contender. Also known as a “mini-pin,” this is one little dog with a huge personality. They are agile and quick companions for anyone with the willpower and dedication to temper them. Big things come in small packages, and the ten-pound mini-pin is proof of that!

They are fearless and fun-loving and have an adventurous side that makes them the ideal companion for hiking with a dog. While they don’t have the same endurance levels as the jack terrier, they are small enough for you to pick them up and carry them if they do get tired and need a hand (or paw).

Siberian Husky

Siberian husky in the snow.

The Siberian husky is a great travel companion for those who like to take things easy and be more laid back about things. They have a unique personality to them that combines being mischievous and independent with being deceptively smart. They are originally from Southeast Asia and they are naturally resistant to the cold. Born for the mountain peaks, so they make for one of the best dog breeds for hiking off-leash.

Given that they have such boundless energy, they are great for hiking and never stopping. Huskies do require a lot of physical and mental stimulation and challenge, though. They also work best when they stick to a schedule. So, as well as taking them out for regular walks and playing with them, aim to do it at the same time each day.As with other excitable breeds, things can get hairy if you don’t offer the stimulation they require.

Also, huskies are prone to being destructive if they feel they aren’t getting what they need. As you might expect, their personality is also going to make training them a bit of a challenge. You shouldn’t let them off the leash until you’ve established a real bond with them and they have mastered recall commands.

Labrador Retriever

Labrador retriever on a patio.

Labradors have earned a reputation for being one of the best all-around dogs. That’s a reputation well-deserved too, because there isn’t much that a Labrador can’t do – and be good at. So, it’s hardly a surprise that a Labrador retriever makes for a great companion. They are fierce dogs that have the physical strength and body necessary to manage tough terrains. Their personality is great and they are generally well behaved.

The breed is easy to train and should listen to you as you hike. A well-trained Labrador shouldn’t be a problem around other hikers, dogs, and animals either. On top of all that, they are just great pets anyway.

Breeds to Avoid 

While it’s true that most dogs enjoy being outdoors, not every dog is suited to hiking trails in particular. In terms of specific breeds to avoid for hiking, brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds such as bulldogs and pugs aren’t good fits for rigorous exercise. Additionally, they don’t have the best respiratory systems around and are prone to overheating. They generally don’t have the endurance required for long-distance walking on tough terrain.

When it comes to climate, you should consider having a double-coated dog with you for colder temperatures. They are better able to handle the cold compared to shorthaired and single-coated dogs. Breeds such as Chihuahuas and greyhounds aren’t suited for cold temperatures. On the other hand, you should avoid long-haired dogs for hot weather. 

General Tips for Taking Dogs on the Trails

The decision over whether a dog would be suitable for hiking or not is about more than just their breed. You also need to consider their physical condition and age, as well as the weather conditions for where you live. Older dogs are more likely to suffer from age-related ailments such as kidney disease or arthritis. That being said, young dogs present problems of their own. 

You’ll also want a great harness for them – I wrote a guide to the best dog harnesses for hiking here.

They haven’t developed enough to take on long-distance walking that requires a lot of endurance. Trying to push them too far could damage their little developing bodies. If you have a dog with a health condition, you shouldn’t take it out for long walks and hikes. If something goes wrong and they require medical attention, you want to be sure that you can get them the care they deserve. 

You might want to avoid taking a dog out with you on a hot day, as dogs are prone to heat exhaustion and heatstroke. They don’t sweat like we do, so they aren’t able to keep themselves cool. Make sure to take plenty of hydration – and maybe some snacks – for both yourself and your dog when you go hiking. If you are curious about other breeds or want to compare some on this list, I highly recommend checking out the American Kennel Club website.