You’ve been planning your big backpack trip for weeks with your dog, and you’ve put a lot of work into preparation to make this the most memorable hike of the season. As you reach the peak, the stunning view makes all your worries melt away as you and your pup share a special moment of reflection and accomplishment.
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast who loves to go on adventures like hiking, climbing, camping, or running, what better way to share your love of nature than with a puppy that matches your active lifestyle? Going on a hike with your dog is an excellent active way to strengthen your bond while taking in the natural beauty of this world.
You may be looking for a list of the best hiking dogs to help you choose the right one for you. Here’s what to look for in the best outdoor dog breeds to get out there and enjoy nature with your canine companion.
What Characteristics Should Good Trail Dogs Have?
There are certain personality traits and characteristics that make a great hiking dog. A good dog breed suitable for the trail has been bred to work hard, traverse a variety of terrains, and be comfortable in all sorts of weather conditions and temperature changes. Some dogs have the instinct to hike, while others have to be taught. The best hiking, running, and camping dogs that thrive as trail dogs come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have the following personality traits in common:
The Best Outdoor Dogs Have Lots of Energy
When considering the best dogs for running and hiking, you have to know which breeds are up for the challenge with their naturally high levels of energy and endurance. Some dogs are happy to lounge around being couch potatoes and have a low-to-moderate need to be active. You wouldn’t want to drag along a dog who is clearly not cut out to venture along a trail. The best trail dogs will be able to keep up on a long hike and have fun while doing it!
Trail Dogs Love to Be Outdoors
Dogs who love being outside view the world as an exciting place to explore and will demonstrate signs of happiness by bounding around the dog park with glee. They’re not bothered by changes in weather and will happily go on a walk rain or shine. However, some dogs are better suited for indoor life, and for some breeds, too much activity and exercise outside can actually be detrimental to their health. For example, English Bulldogs should never exercise outdoors for over an hour a day due to their potential respiratory issues and other health problems. It’s important to know which dog breeds are best suited for the outdoors before lacing up your hiking boots.
Outdoor Dogs Follow Commands
Preparing your pup to be trail-ready builds on those foundational commands you’ve been working on, such as sit, stay, heel, and come. Hiking is a chance to use them in the real world beyond your living room or yard.
One of the most important commands a trail dog needs to follow is possessing a solid recall. After checking local trail guidelines, you may want to hike with your dog off-leash. A good recall can protect other hikers and dogs from unwanted encounters, as not every hiker or trail puppy out there is a fan of dogs approaching them to say hello. Coming when called can also keep your dog safe from poisonous plants and wildlife encounters (whether dead or alive)!
The best dog breeds for hiking also know how to walk on a leash and show excellent social skills with people and other dogs. They know how to be well-behaved even with distractions.
A Good Trail Puppy Stays Calm in New Environments
Immersing yourself in nature with all its sights and smells mentally stimulates your dog’s curiosity. However, a good trail dog breed won’t get overly excited and forget all his training with new surroundings. Training a puppy to be the best dog to hike with can be a fun experience! To ensure your puppy learns to stay calm in new environments, gradually expose your puppy to a variety of trial runs on local greenways, short trails, and frequent outdoor adventure sessions.
Our 12 Best Hiking Dog Breeds
1. Golden Retriever
Golden Retrievers love being outdoors and have a lot of energy, require a high amount of exercise, and will take to the trail like a pro. Their beautiful double coat is weather resistant and water repellent, so a sudden downpour or drizzly day is no problem for them. Golden Retrievers take great joy in pleasing their humans and are very sociable, and they will make plenty of friends out on the trail. They are one of the easiest breeds to train and are always so happy to be right by your side.
2. Australian Shepherd
A vigorous, athletic breed, the Australian Shepherd is highly energetic and thrives on being given something to do. The Aussie is a breed with a high degree of intensity and a "no-quit" attitude, making them the perfect trail dog breed to keep you motivated when the path gets steep. Their energy will often surpass an avid hiker in top shape. They are always ready to go and are up for any adventure. An Aussie is protective but not aggressive with other dogs, so they will be ready to encounter other pups that hike, too. Australian Shepherds require lots of social interaction as well, so a hike on a well-traveled trail will be a fulfilling day of fun for them.
3. Border Collie
One of the smartest dog breeds known for their intelligence, Border Collies are devoted to their humans and will be a breeze to hike with due to their work drive. While they require large amounts of exercise, they also need to be mentally stimulated, so a hike is a perfect activity to keep a Border Collie’s attention for long periods of time. They’re quick, nimble, and light on their feet. Their confidence and determination will keep you going as you reach the summit – and on the return hike back to the car.
4. German Shepherd
Muscular and agile, German Shepherds are one of the best hiking dogs to keep you company on a long venture through the woods. They are known for their loyalty, strength, vigor, and ability to stay calm in new environments. This working dog is highly intelligent and responds well to a variety of commands. As such, German Shepherds are extremely obedient, which is a crucial trait to have when out on a trail. A German Shepherd does best when given a job to do, so a rigorous hike keeps them feeling valued as part of the pack.
5. Bernese Mountain Dog
The Bernese Mountain Dog is a Swiss working breed that historically pulled carts up Alpine mountains and drove cattle on the steep mountainsides. Today, they still possess a large, hardy build that makes them an excellent choice for rugged conditions, especially for hiking and climbing. By nature, Bernese Mountain Dogs need a huge amount of daily exercise, interaction, and activity. Bernese Mountain Dogs’ calm, gentle personality and sensitive nature make them attuned to their human’s needs, a useful tool to have to assist humans on outdoor adventures.
6. Labrador Retriever
Labrador Retrievers require a great deal of exercise, so what better way to keep them active than lots of long hikes? This medium-sized athletic breed is strong yet gentle and good at following commands. Labrador Retrievers have great stamina and can go for long distances. They are friendly, outgoing, and possess an extremely sweet personality.
Beagles are another good hiking dog breed used to hunt small prey in England. As such, they need to maintain a high level of exercise due to their hunting and working instincts. Beagles are small, energetic, and have a keen sense of smell. Beagles are excellent at alerting you if something is amiss on the trail. Be careful to control them if they catch an interesting scent because they will want to track it.
8. Portuguese Water Dog
The Portuguese Water Dog is no stranger to working hard. Bred to help fishermen in Portugal by herding and catching fish, they also carried messages between ships, retrieved anything and everything that fell overboard, and guarded the catch and boats. The Portuguese Water Dog loves to stomp around in creeks, rivers, and lakes, so this breed is a really fun companion for your outdoor adventures. They’re very athletic, fun-loving, and enjoy the company of others. They’re protective and look out for their people without being aggressive. Portuguese Water Dogs are also hypoallergenic, making this breed a great choice for people with allergies.
9. Siberian Husky
Siberian Huskies are wonderful, versatile outdoor dogs. They are bred to pull sleds in harsh Arctic conditions and are easily recognized from the Itidarod race as mushing dogs. Their double coat shields them from unfavorable weather conditions. As such, they’re great cold weather dogs, so be careful in hotter climates not to overheat them. The Siberian Husky exhibits astonishing endurance, stamina, and strength, making them a fantastic choice as your trail buddy for those longer backpacking trips. This friendly companion is always willing to work. With their independent spirit, Siberian Huskies can be stubborn and opinionated, not hesitating to “tell” you all about it! They’re good for trail runs because they are extremely friendly and don’t carry much suspicion toward strangers.
10. Boston Terrier
Boston Terriers are a solid choice as a good hiking dog breed that you might not have considered. They are small, sturdy, obedient, and full of energy. Don’t let their size fool you because they’re not delicate. A Boston Terrier’s determination, strength, and high-spirited personality will bring a much-needed positive attitude to your hiking group when the trail becomes arduous. As the second smallest dog on our list at 10-25 pounds and 15-17 inches tall, Boston Terriers don’t take up much space next to all your camping gear.
11. German Shorthaired Pointer
Responsive, affectionate, and gentle, the German Shorthaired Pointer is a great breed for a person or family with an active lifestyle. This breed was bred to assist hunters in retrieving and scent work, so they’ll love being surrounded by new smells to investigate. Tireless and full of energy, a good, long hike will cure boredom and avoid tendencies to be destructive by not having anything to do. German Shorthaired Pointers need lots of space to roam, so due to their trainable nature and instinct to retrieve, they’d be a good candidate for those trails where off-leash roaming is permissible.
12. Jack Russell Terrier
A Jack Russell Terrier thinks he is a big dog trapped in a small, compact body! Their happy nature makes them great hiking companions. Regular hikes help Jack Russell Terriers channel all their high energy and have them feel like they have a job to do. This small but mighty dog was bred for hunting rodents. They can be headstrong and stubborn, so ongoing training is needed to satisfy their intelligent nature. Like the Beagle, Jack Russell Terriers are good watchdogs and will let you know if something isn’t quite right out on the trail. At 13-17 pounds and 12-14 inches, Jack Russell Terriers are the shortest dog on our list, but they hold their own as one of the best dog breeds for hiking and camping trips.
Tips for Hiking With the Best Outdoor Dog Breeds
Safety first! Don’t let safety be an afterthought when spending time outdoors with your canine trail partner. Here’s a list of things to consider when hiking with your dog:
- Stay up to date on vaccinations and flea, tick, and heartworm prevention
- Bring a collapsible water bowl and more than enough water and food
- Use a map
- Clean up after your puppy and leave no trace
- Have a small first aid kit made for dogs on hand
- Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return
- Follow all trail guidelines and rules
- Exercise campfire safety if camping with your puppy
- Bring a reflective leash, vest, and flashlight for high visibility in the dark
- Pay attention to the weight limit and fit if you use a dog backpack for hiking
It’s always fun to go hiking with a group of people who also have the best dogs for the trail. More experienced hikers with 4-legged buddies can offer camaraderie and share useful tips with other people who have trail dogs. Don’t forget to take pictures to capture your memories!
Pawrade Has the Best Dog Breeds For Hiking
At Pawrade, we’ll help you find the best hiking dog with an energy level and enthusiasm for the outdoors to match yours. If you want to find a dog breed great for hiking that loves the trail as much as you do, let us help you find a puppy for sale that would love to watch the sun dip below the horizon from the summit with you!
*paid partnership with our friends at Chewy