Dogs are simply awesome. Man’s best friend they say and for a good reason. A dog could keep you company in almost any adventure you decide to go on and hitting the trails is no exception. Some dogs are fantastically built for hiking through the forest and some of them are even great climbers. Unfortunately some breeds aren’t that great at either one of these and are simply unfit to take a challenging task such as going on your next trip up a mountain, or following the Appalachian trail. The aftermath of men breeding dogs and creating breeds after their own needs and requirements has left some unfortunate tail-wagers incapable of keeping up with their owners.
That being said, in this article we’ve decided to focus more on the breeds that are more than capable to keep you company on your thru-hikes and following you along your outdoor experiences. There’s something really beautiful in bonding with your animal out there experiencing the wonders that nature has to offer together and dogs are notorious lovers of the outdoors.
I for one have a Beagle which is supposed to be terrible for hiking for a couple of reasons, such as the tendency of the breed to wander off following his nose and not really being that obedient such as other breeds like Golden Retrievers, but he’s fantastic when we get out there and seems to really appreciate the opportunity to enjoy beautiful places, new smells and to simply be with me under the sun.
In order not keep this article subjective, we decided to make things a little more scientific and did a research on some of the more popular breeds that are certified and exist in the K9 list of breeds. A breed that is good for hiking with you should possess the following characteristics:
- Dog must be obedient
- Dog must be easily trained
- Dog should have plenty of energy
- Dog should be quite strong
- Dog needs to be agile and confident
- They should not be aggressive
Obviously we can’t really rate each and every dog in the world and there are some really sweet Pit Bulls as well as really aggressive Chihuahuas, so we decided to use crowd-sourced information about the breeds from PetBreeds.com. Their website had a lot of the information necessary for us to put this article together and the rest of the information we gathered was from Forums and websites dedicated on the breeds that made it to the shortlist.
The breed is not the only thing that you should consider when taking your dog on a hiking trip or outdoor for that matter. Almost all dogs love nature and being outdoor, with some really small exceptions, but in some instances you should probably think about your dog a little and not take them if they aren’t fit or if they’re recovering from illness. Another instance in which you should probably leave your pup home is if it’s too old to go along with you. Dogs age just as we do and although it might not show that much when you walk them around the neighborhood, it will if you take them on a hiking trip where they’ll have to walk over 15 miles in one day.
Is the breed of the dog appropriate for the climate where you’re hiking? That’s also another question that should be answered before you tell your dog to hop in the car and come along. Siberian Huskies are obviously great if you’re doing winter hiking, or if you’ve taken them with you somewhere with moderate weather, but they’re surely going to suffer if you take them in the desert or to walk around the grand canyon with you. The opposite is true for smaller short-haired breeds such as Jack-Russell Terriers because they will certainly not enjoy walking around with you in a foot deep snow, so consider the size and the hair coat of your best friend before making a decision whether to take them or not.
We actually made a chart with the information used to rate the separate dog breeds along with pros and cons of each breed on the table.
|Breed||Energy Level||Trainability||Obedience||Versatility||Good for Camping||Load Level||Aggression||Distraction Levels||Final Score|
|Bernese Mountain Dog
|Portuguese Water Dog
|Australian Cattle Dog
|Jack Russell Terrier
Which is the best dog for hiking
The conclusion after making this research suggests that the best dog to have if you like outdoor living is the Border Collie. These dogs are really famous for their easy temper, their wits and for being easily trainable. The Border Collie is also not aggressive at all and will listen to most if not all of your commands throughout the whole day. They are also good for camping because of their smaller size. Border Collies are actually rated as mid-sized and they only get up to 30-45 lbs or about 15-20 kilograms, which makes them perfect to snuggle with in your tent at the end of the day. Border collies also have a low tendency to wander off and are also not known to try and go after wild animals of any sort. They are shepherd dogs and this has made the breed pleasant to other animals. Border Collies are also wonderful with other dogs and would much rather play with them than attack or get into a fight. They also aren’t really famous for howling or barking a lot, so you should be able to have a good night sleep.
We think that border collies are wonderful overall and the only downside that some people have pointed out about them is that they have lots of variations and sometimes people don’t know what the breed is. For some reason Border Collies aren’t as popular as Golden Retrievers although they are just as nice with your family, even more obedient and even shed less. May be the sweet looking puppies of Golden Retrievers simply can’t be matched, or there’s something else. Whatever it is, Border Collies are the better choice if you like hiking although Golden Retrievers still made it in the top 10 breeds for hiking and camping.
A little more about each breed
We’ve already gone over the winner of our top 10 dogs for hiking, which is the Border Collie. But there’s information about each one of these breeds that should be covered and we’ll try to explain why each of these breeds got the points we awarded them with.
Bernese Mountain Dog
The Bernese Mountain dog is a fantastic breed. These dogs are sweet with your family, nice to strangers, really strong so they can actually help with some of the load you’re taking on the trip, especially if you have the right gear for dogs. The Bernese mountain dog is as it’s name suggest a mountain dog, which means that it feels right at home if you take it trekking with you. These dogs feel fantastic when the weather is a bit colder or even in moderate temperatures around 50F or 15 C. They are pretty obedient and really easy to train according to most of their owners. The Bernese mountain dog is so trainable that most of their owners which take them hiking on remote places without that many people, could not even use leashes throughout the trip. It’s good to know that there are a few national parks that don’t require your dog to be wearing a leash, but in some instances you will be required to do so, unless you want to get a ticket.
The problem with Bernese Mountain Dogs is that they wouldn’t really feel nice if the weather is hot and anything over 70 F or 25 C will probably make them pretty miserable during the your hike.Even if the weather isn’t really hot, it’s important to bring plenty of water for your Bernese Mountain Dog as they will definitely need plenty of hydration.
These dogs might not be really aggressive and a lot of their owners describe them as sweet and lovable, but they do look intimidating because of their size and some people might not feel great if they have to pass you by on the hiking trail and they notice that the dog is not on a leash. Also if the Bernese Mountain Dog hasn’t been properly trained and socialized that could lead to problems with other dogs on the trail if you happen to meet such.
Golden retrievers are the 3rd most popular breed in America and it’s right up there in the top 10 worldwide. This is partially because of the easy going temperament of the breed and partially because the Golden Retriever puppies are pretty much the golden standard for cute puppies. I asked around the office and as it turns out no one has ever seen an aggressive Golden Retriever around here and we have 3 people and anyone of them could be described as a dog-person. That should speak a lot to you about the overall opinion of people about the breed. Golden Retrievers are incredibly popular not only because they are naturally nice, they are also eager to please their owners and are easily trained to do as their owners please. Goldens are reliable and almos no one would feel threatened by them even if they see them without their leash. Their reputation is simply that good, that only someone who is really afraid of dogs might have a problem with your dog not being on a leash.
A potential problem that you could have with the Golden is the dog getting overheated, as just like Bernese Mountain dogs, Goldens also feel much better in moderate to cold temperature. They definitely prefer the mountain or a trail near a lake to walking in the Grand Canyon or a different desert place.
Labrador Retrievers are THE MOST POPULAR breed of dogs in America. Labradors are so popular that they should probably be on the US flag. Retrievers are so popular that 5 US presidents have owned dogs that are either a Labrador or a Golden Retriever, or related in some way to them. For example, President Clinton owned a Chocolate-brown Labrador Retriever, which was the first dog of the United States for 4 years while he was in the White House. Labradors are really similar in structure to Golden Retrievers, but they are actually a bit different in terms of temperament and the way they feel about strangers.
Labradors are usually nice and are also pretty easy to train, but there are instances in which they could be aggressive, especially to other dogs. If you don’t feel like your dog is obedient enough to be hiking with you without a leash, it’s probably a good idea to have it on one. Labradors usually walk with a normal pace such as the one you would be moving with if you’re on a normal trail, so using a leash shouldn’t be a problem. They have a thick coat, but not as thick as the coat of Golden Retrievers, which makes them feel much better in hotter climate. That’s why the Labrador got a better score in the versatility section. They are also quite strong, so putting a dog-sack on them should not bother them. Dogs are known to be able to wear up to 25 percent of their body weight, without much problem, so you should be able to put a camping stove or a few water bottles on each side of your dog friend. After all dogs should share the burden with you, as they’re sharing the fun.
Portuguese Water Dog
Portuguese Water Dog often mistaken with the Labradoodle in the United States is a breed that has been gaining in popularity in the past few years, especially since president Obama got into the White House. President Obama’s Portuguese Water Dog called Bo is the first dog of the US, but as it seems the 44th president loves this breed so much, that he owns another one. The breed is now the 52nd most popular breed in the country. As we mentioned these dogs are often mistaken for Labradoodles, but in fact they are arguably the better dog. They are more capable on adjusting to the temperature outside and feel just as good in cold and in hot weather. Obviously we’re not talking about extreme temperature heights or lows, but Portuguese water dogs are much more capable of adjusting to the different temperatures overall. They are also really great around people, but just like Labradors, known to sometimes show aggression towards other breeds. This is only seen in rare cases, which is why we have rated the aggression of the dog as low.
Portuguese water dogs will feel great if you take them on a hike through a river bed or something similar, but be careful as sharp rocks could injure their feet. The breed is usually really smart and they wouldn’t do anything to put themselves in danger, but with water blocking their sight, they could step on a sharper rock and cut their paws, so keep this in mind if you’re taking them on such a hiking trip.
Australian Cattle Dog
Although this dog is also not as popular as a Lab a Golden or a Border Collie for that matter, Australian Cattle Dogs are also in the top 100 breeds, taking the 58th place, only 4 positions below the Portuguese Water Dog. This breed is so energetic that the only rival it has on the list in terms of amount of energy that it has is the Border collie, may be the Jack Russell, but with some reservations. The Australian Cattle Dog could cover tens of miles a day without even catching their breath. The breed is tremendously popular with people that live actively outdoors and are often referred to as one of the dogs with the highest endurance levels. They are similar to Border Collies in terms of size and that’s just where similarities begin. They are just as intelligent and almost as easy to train. The Australian Cattle dog is actually so intelligent and energetic that if it doesn’t exercise enough or enough time isn’t spent with it to satisfy it’s hunger for playtime, it could get distracted and get itself into trouble. People that go hiking with their dogs shouldn’t have such a problem as their dogs should be preoccupied with the hiking trip itself, but you might want to try and make some sort of a game for the dog to stay interested and not get distracted while you go.
This breed is not really aggressive and it’s smaller size should allow for the dog to stay with you in your tent at night if the weather gets cold.
Now this is one breed that we weren’t really sure about in the beginning. Weimaraners are ranked 34th in popularity in the United States and are just below Pugs on that list. We weren’t really sure about Weimaraners because the breed has a pretty solid reputation of being a little crazy (in a good sense obviously) but they aren’t exactly the most obedient dogs. Although Weimaraners are usually quite sweet to both people and other dogs, they are much harder to train then the other breeds mentioned earlier in the list. These silky smooth silver bullets are really energetic, so you don’t have to worry about them being exhausted. They are also one of the most agile breeds in the list so the different types of landscapes shouldn’t be a problem for them. They aren’t really ideal for hiking in cold weather though. Their fur coat is not the thickest which allows them to feel great in hot weather, but colder places aren’t going to feel nice for longer periods of time, unless you dress the dogs accordingly. Weimaraners don’t really like carrying stuff and although they are capable of doing so, in most cases it wouldn’t work, unless you have really trained them well to carry bags since they were young.
German Shepherds are fantastic dogs. They love your family, they’re fantastic with kids, they would risk their lives if they need to just to protect their owner or anyone from the family. German Shepherds are also really easy to train and are one of the best dogs in terms of obedience. The breed is actually so obedient that many of these dogs are used in K-9 police forces throughout the world. These dogs are also really agile and they have just the right amount of fur to keep them warm in the colder weather, but not too much that they would overhead in hotter locations. There are a few flaws that could be a problem with German Shepherds and all of them are related to poor training by their owners. Remember that we mentioned that they are used in K-9 police forces. Well they are used there mostly as attack dogs, because they are easily trained to show aggression. The breed has this aggression embedded in them, but in almost all cases it needs to be unlocked by some special circumstances such as an attack of their family or being beaten by their owners etc.
This reputation is known throughout the world because of series back in the 80’s such as Rin-Tin-Tin and Officer Rex, two movies about German Shepherds that were in the police force and often attacked people while on duty. That reputation follows the breed along and only people that have owned and trained German Shepherds know how sweet they could be to people and how rare they show their aggressive side.
That being said, it’s probably better to keep your German Shepherd on a leash while you’re hiking. The people using the trail aside of you and your group if you are in such a group will definitely feel much more relaxed. You won’t have a problem with the dog as German Shepherds usually move with a normal human pace and everyone will enjoy their time outside (including the dog).
Jack Russell Terrier
Jack Russell Terriers are one of the breeds that has an unlimited amount of energy. For some reason this breed has become so energetic that you need to be on a horse, an ATV or a motocross bike to be able to get the dog tired. That of course is true if the Jack Russell is in good physical shape and not the shape of a potato. Jack Russells are great for hiking exactly because of this tremendous amount of energy, combined with their tremendous agility. We actually have a Jack Russell owner in our office and his dog can basically climb trees, so that’s one dog that doesn’t understand or follow the laws of physics. If you’re going on some sort of an extreme terrain hiking trail, the Jack Russell Terrier is probably the dog that would make it through with the least amount of effort.
Jack Russell Terriers do have a few problems though and we’ll start with their versatility. They would pretty much struggle if you take them hiking in the winter and not only because of the low temperatures, but because their short legs won’t really allow them to move freely in snow deeper than 1 feet. Although they could probably make up for it with the vast amount of energy, it won’t be as pleasant as it could be for your Jack Russell if you take them with you in the winter.
Another thing that might be a problem for a Jack Russell is that all other things aside, they are a hunting breed. Jack Russell Terriers are used throughout the world to catch all sorts of rodents, small birds, foxes and other type of wild animals. They could easily get distracted if they see such animals, especially if they haven’t seem them before. Their curiosity is the main problem and it is the source of their undoing.
The Vizsla also known as Hungarian Pointer is a fantastic breed, that will be a great companion to take on your hiking trip. These dogs might be a little hard to get along and train, but once the Vizsla accepts you as their leader and alpha, they are definitely going to follow every command. These dogs are well suited to hot weather and are probably one of if not the best breed for hiking in hotter places without much shade. The Vizsla is strong, agile and flexible dog that can climb rocks with ease and will suite the more extreme hiking enthusiasts better.
A few honorable mentions
There are only 10 breeds that got into this list of best dog breeds for hiking, but there are a few more that we simply didn’t have the space to include. Some of them are also great for hiking and we decided to add them to the list down here. Although these breeds aren’t rated like the other ones above, they are also going to make good companions on your hiking trip, especially if trained and prepared well before the actual hiking trip takes place.
Beagles love the outdoor life, but are not the most order-following dogs in the world. If you could teach your beagle to follow your commands in the park, it is still impressive, but making them listen to you when you’re out in the wilderness it’s pretty hard. By nature Beagles are hounds, which means that they will follow their nose, because that’s their purpose and that’s what they’ve been breed for. They’ll get distracted easily and if you do not have them on leash and your own beagle tends to wonder off, the forest or the mountain is the worst place to lose them.
Dalmatians are fast runners, but they are also not the greatest when it comes to obedience and following their owners’ commands. They are also agile and could probably accompany you almost anywhere, as long as the weather isn’t too cold and you don’t put any additional weight on them. Dalmatians would not really like wearing gear which would impare their ability to move freely. As for distractions, even a butterfly which flies by could cause your dalmatian to run away.
The worst dogs for hiking
Well we haven’t made such a long and research on the worst breeds of dogs for hiking, but if there are a few that come to mind they are the following:
The English Bulldog
The English Bulldog is notoriously … not that smart. Bulldogs are also really lazy and would get exhausted in just a few miles. They are often chosen by people that have less time on their hands to walk their dogs and that’s perfectly fine, but if you like going outdoors and need a hiking companion, that’s definitely not your breed.
The Afghan Hound
We wouldn’t like to offend the owners of Afghan Hounds as these are some of the most majestic dogs there are, but they are simply not that clever. As one of the oldest dog breeds in the world they should have learned to listen to commands and follow them, but unfortunately they simply won’t do it. Afghan Hounds are really beautiful when cared for, but unfortunately they are not the best hiking companion you could get.
Just like with Bulldogs, Pugs are easily worn out and their energy levels are dried out in a matter of minutes rather than hours. They might be a bit smarter than Afghan Hounds and may be as smart as Beagles, but their low energy level puts them in the list for the worst dogs for hiking.
As we concluded the research we decided to see which were the most popular brands of dogs in America and in the world. We stumbled upon this list and found out that 5 out of the 10 breeds we’ve got on this list, were also featured in the most popular dogs in America list. As it seems a lot of americans already own a breed that is great for hiking, which begs for the question, what are you waiting for and why haven’t you taken your dog out. Hop in your car or simply take your tail wagging friend to the nearest hiking trail to start preparing him for longer outdoor adventures. It’s important to start them young too so if you’re wondering if your Golden Retriever pup is ready to come along with you in his 6th month, it is. By this time, puppies are already quite obedient, especially Golden Retrievers, so teaching them to walk next to you is something you’d want to start doing as early as possible. Once they learn doing it on a leash, it’s going to be easy to take the leash off, if the hiking trail or national park you’re going in allows that.