Best Hiking Dogs: 13 Breeds Who Live for Outdoor Adventure
For most people, the best hiking dogs are the dogs they already know and love the best. Whether that’s a little Pomeranian or a big mutt, you can find out your best furry friend’s endurance levels by hitting the trail together.
If you’re in search of a new hiking partner, look for a dog who loves the trail as much as you do. Here's our list of the best hiking dog breeds who live for outdoor adventures!
Best Dogs for Hiking and Outdoor Adventures
There’s nothing quite like packing up your water bottle and a couple of snacks and hitting the nature trail with your best friend—especially when your best friend feels the same way! Hiking and spending time outdoors with your dog is more fun when both of you love fresh air and exercise.
Usually, you can pick out good dogs for hiking based on their breeding. Working dogs like shepherds and terriers are strong, energetic and usually happy to walk for miles in good weather. In general, the best dog for hiking several miles at a time is on the larger side, with excessive energy, strength and endurance.
1. Portuguese Water Dog
The Portuguese Water Dog is one of the best hiking dogs of all, thanks to its background as a working sea dog. Trained to work alongside sailors to retrieve items from the water, herd fish into nets, and carry messages between boats, this breed is a great running partner and companion for an active owner.
Able to run about five miles in one session, these dogs love spending time in the fresh air with someone they love. Adult Portuguese Water Dogs can potentially hike as many as 10 miles with you! Consider turning your hike into a weekend camping trip at the lake and your Water Dog will have a blast.
2. Australian Shepherd
The Australian Shepherd is one of the best hiking dogs for people who love to go the distance and push themselves. Armed with a keen intellect, great endurance and superior energy levels, the Australian Shepherd can easily be trained to take part in all kinds of off-leash, outdoor events.
Socialization is an important part of training the Australian Shepherd, since the breed is often shy with strangers. When these dogs are exercised regularly and have reached adulthood, you can expect a good 15-mile hike out of them. Alert and interested, the Australian Shepherd is a joyful and consistent companion to any type of hiker.
3. Border Collie
The Border Collie is a popular breed with farmers and ranchers as well as families as it is one of the most common modern working dogs. Border Collies are extremely intelligent and trainable, which is why these dogs are used to manage and protect herd animals like sheep and cows.
Practically bouncing with energy (and often literally bouncing with it), the Border Collie is a fun-loving and adventurous dog that makes a perfect hiking companion. If you’re hiking with family and friends, and especially children, you’ll see this dog’s natural instinct to protect the herd kick in! This dog won’t let anyone get separated from the group.
4. Australian Cattle Dog
The Australian Cattle Dog is another hard-working dog breed that has plenty of energy for outdoor family activities. Naturally inclined to keep your family “herd” together along the trail, the ACD is the perfect companion for many outdoor family adventures. Part of the Heeler group of dog breeds, Australian Cattle Dogs instinctively keep an eye out for potential hazards along the trail.
Packed with energy and intellect, the ACD loves to walk, hike, run, play and spend time in the fresh air with all the smells and sounds of nature. These dogs are happy to be with their loved ones all day long, which also makes them great for camping trips.
5. Siberian Husky
You’ve seen the Siberian Husky hard at work in snowy settings, pulling sleds and helping people get from place to place in the frozen Arctic—so you already know what these dogs are capable of! The Husky is a natural-born mountain hiker, and the breed is well suited to cold-weather activities that require determination and endurance.
Given the thick double-coat of these dogs and the fact that their body chemistry is suited to cooler climates, it’s best not to do too much exercise in the warm months. That said, the Siberian Husky needs two hours of exercise every day, so the more hiking trips in cool weather, the better! In the summer, don’t neglect playtime for fear of the heat; just schedule plenty of breaks and bring lots of water for your hiking partner.
6. Alaskan Malamute
A large working breed, the Alaskan Malamute was bred to pull sleds and carts in very cold climates, over long distances. That brute strength and endurance makes these dogs fantastic hiking partners, while their innate affection, playfulness and loyalty makes them great for families. Malamutes are pack animals, so this is a pet that enjoys the company of other dogs and people, as long as it knows who is in charge!
At the end of the day, even this arctic giant loves to cuddle up and relax with its loved ones—especially after a few miles on the trail. In the summer months, keep hiking and outdoor activities casual so this dog’s winter-acclimatized system doesn’t overheat.
7. Rhodesian Ridgeback
Owners of this breed say the Rhodesian Ridgeback makes a fantastic hiking partner. Not only is this breed happy to help you explore the woods, mountains and fields of the world, the Ridgeback will instinctively protect you from any dangers you meet along the way. Strong and capable, these dogs can easily tackle a 10-mile walk and then some, so the breed is a great choice for anyone with a die-hard love of nature.
It’s also comforting to have a companion like the loyal Rhodesian Ridgeback by your side during a long night of camping under the stars—alongside the sometimes-eerie chirps and howls of the great outdoors.
A champion working dog, the Weimaraner was bred to hike, chase and hunt. Able to spend many hours outdoors without too many breaks, the breed loves hunting and exploring the great outdoors. Loyal and affectionate family-friendly dogs, Weimaraners make great hiking partners for both professional outdoor athletes and casual nature enthusiasts.
Blessed with high stamina, this strong and muscular breed can hike double the length of trail most of its dog cousins can handle. Commonly, the fit Weimaraner will happily trek 20 miles without tiring—which makes its ideal owner an avid hiker!
9. Cairn Terrier
Terriers, bred as working dogs for many centuries, are some of the dog world’s greatest marathon runners. Kept as hunting dogs by aristocratic families of the 18th and 19th centuries, terriers like the Cairn Terrier would keep pace with horses during fox hunts and dig for prey that lived underground. Though a little small to tackle rugged mountain peaks and unsteady terrain, the Cairn Terrier still makes a sturdy and excited hiking partner on most nature trails.
Once fully grown, healthy dogs of this breed should easily complete a 10-mile hike. Remember to start small and work your way up to longer outings, so that you and your dog both build up endurance! Cairn Terriers can be excitable when it comes to other animals, so make sure yours is perfectly trained for off-leash adventures. Otherwise, keep him or her on-leash to stay focused.
10. Jack Russell Terrier
The Jack Russell Terrier is famous for its incredible energy levels. Bred in England over 200 years ago as a foxhunting dog, this terrier is a bundle of spirit in a tiny package. Since Jack Russell terriers were custom bred for different aristocratic families, they actually tend to differ in size from about 13 to 18 pounds.
The Jack Russell Terrier is a single-minded and independent dog that needs a firm, experienced owner, and does best with someone who enjoys lots of playtime and clever games. A Jack Russell whose mind is occupied with new tricks and new trails is a happy one! Just keep in mind that a smaller dog like this one should stick to easier trails without a lot of uneven ground, so it won’t get stuck under an outcropping.
11. Bernese Mountain Dog
True to its name, the Bernese Mountain Dog does indeed come from the mountains of Switzerland, where it was trained to pull carts and sleds. Where smaller and less surefooted dogs falter on a rugged mountain trail, the Bernese Mountain Dog excels. That said, the BMD is famous for its desire to be a complete couch potato. The mileage you get from this breed depends completely on the individual dog.
These dogs are best suited to hiking and camping in the cooler months due to their body chemistry and thick coats. In mild and cool weather, this breed can hike up to 10 miles, but its endurance won’t last much longer. In summer months, keep those miles down and bring plenty of water along or your trail buddy could overheat.
Bernese Mountain Dogs are some of the best dogs for families with kids, which can make them a good fit for families who want to spend time outdoors with their kids.
12. Poodles and Doodles
The Poodle is a classic all-around working dog that has been mixed with many other dog breeds to create a variety of mixed companion breeds. Poodles are a notoriously strong and healthy breed, which is why they have been favoured by breeders for so long. An adult Standard Poodle is likely to hike happily for up to 10 miles with you; however, Miniature Poodles—with their substantially shorter legs—should only be expected to hike up to 5 miles. The smallest iteration of this breed, the Toy Poodle, is not suited for hiking at all.
Poodle cross breeds, often known as Doodles or Doodle Dogs, differ from dog to dog. Toys and Miniatures won’t be able to accompany you on long hikes or over uneven terrain, but the Miniatures can potentially handle a short, easy trail at your side.
Bigger mixes like Goldendoodles (mixed from a Poodle and a Golden Retriever) are usually quite active and athletic, which makes them good dogs for hiking. The Labradoodle (bred from a Labrador Retriever and a Poodle) is another great option for a trail dog. The Bernedoodle (bred from a Bernese Mountain Dog and a Poodle) is an adorable and friendly companion, but perhaps not the best dog for hiking more than a couple of miles, given its notoriously lazy character. For short hikes with a good chum, however, he just might do the trick.
13. Mixed Breeds
Dogs in most shelters have mixed breeding, as do most puppies born on farms and in the countryside. Mixed breed dogs are wonderful companions, and they often have better health and genetics than other dogs with centuries of managed breeding behind them. On top of that, shelter dogs need good homes and loving families just as much as purebred puppies!
Though some specialist dog shelters focus on rescuing homeless and abandoned single breed animals, most shelters have a range of dogs. Mixed shelters tend to house many Labrador Retriever and Shepherd mixes, both of which have good genetic backgrounds to recommend them for a future with a hiking afficionado. In general, dogs that are on the larger size are better suited to long-distance hiking than their smaller cousins, though every dog enjoys a bit of a hike now and then!
The Worst Dogs for Hiking: Breeds and Traits to Avoid
Just as certain breeds make the best hiking dogs, plenty of other breeds make the worst hiking dogs. Toy breeds, as mentioned above, aren’t the best at tackling the ups and downs of an outdoor lifestyle. The same goes for any breeds with the word “Teacup” in the name. Little dogs like these were bred especially for a life spent in someone’s lap, with daily trips to the park. Yes, they need plenty of exercise, but they don’t have the same stamina and muscle strength as many bigger dogs.
Even tiny dogs with energy to spare—like the Chihuahua—probably shouldn’t be asked to tackle a long-haul hiking trail that’s anything but flat. There’s no doubt they’ll want to come along, but their undersized stature can make it very hard for them not to get stuck in hard-to-reach places. Have you ever seen a miniature dog try to jump up onto the couch? Exactly! Also, even Chihuahua-level energy won’t last more than a couple of miles. Short hikes with little dogs are fantastic, but the little guys won’t be able to keep up with a human who loves covering ground.
Here are a few of the worst hiking dogs, just for your information:
Choosing the Right Dog for Your Lifestyle
If you’re reading this list of what we consider the best hiking dogs, chances are pretty good that you’re a rather active human being. So, ask yourself just how active you are in terms of mileage, and you’ll know what sort of energy levels and athletic ability to look for in a doggy hiking companion.
Do you hike more casually, for about 1-5 miles per outing? That’s something that most medium and large dogs can handle without a problem, so you won’t need to focus too hard on finding your ideal trail companion. If you prefer to hike up to 10 miles per outing, that’s more of an exercise for a larger dog with the leg length and muscle strength to follow along. Of course, as we know from the Great Dane and the Saint Bernard, bigger dogs don’t always want to spend the day burning energy.
Dogs who hike over 10 miles at a time are pretty special, and they tend to need as much exercise as you can give them every day. Hook up with the Weimaraner if you really want to see what you can do as an outdoor athlete—and good luck keeping up with them!
For more insight about the types of dogs, and information on which breeds match your active lifestyle the best, take our Puppy Match Quiz. It just takes a minute or two to answer a few questions, then you’ll be matched with the best candidates. You’ll even get to see pictures of puppies on sale right now who match your criteria!
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