The Best Dog Breeds for Hiking

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Best Dog Breeds For HikingHiking with canine companions can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience for both you and your dog, but not all dog breeds were created for backcountry hiking. Some breeds will be better suited for long hauls due to their superior stamina and energy, making them a better choice for such a strenuous activity. In this article, we share the best dog breeds for hiking, while discussing what makes them such a good choice even on challenging hikes.  

Why Hike with a Dog? 

Whether you’re going for a short, long, or moderate hike, having a dog that can accompany you won’t just help to give you extra motivation, but they can also make the trek more fun! Different dogs will come with different energy levels, temperaments, and sizes. Larger dogs such as Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds will often do well with hiking because they come with plenty of strength and endurance. 

But believe it or not, you’ll be happy to know that smaller breeds such as Jack Russell Terriers can keep up just as well because they have so much stamina and energy for hiking. Moreover, hiking with an obedient, friendly, and well-trained dog will make your experience on the trail even more pleasant compared to dogs that have a high prey drive. With the right breed of dog that has been properly trained, hiking can be so much more fun and can be a rewarding experience for both you as an owner and your furry friend.      

Traits to Look for in Hiking Dogs 

Not all dogs will be suitable companions out in the wilderness, but there are key characteristics that you can look for to ensure that your fur baby can make your journey together enjoyable. 

High Stamina and Energy 

Hiking is a physically demanding activity, so it’s important that you pick a dog that comes with high stamina and energy levels. Great choices include the Border Collie, Siberian Husky, and Australian Shepherd all of which are known to have high endurance which makes them terrific hiking companions. 

Training and Obedience 

A dog that’s obedient and well-trained is a great addition for people who love hiking in the backcountry. Teaching your dog to respond to commands like “stay,” “sit,” and “come” can help to ensure your dog’s safety as well as your own. Obedience training should also include harness, collar, and leash manners, along with trail etiquette.  

Navigation and Sense of Smell

Your dog’s sense of smell along with its navigation skills are important factors to consider whenever hiking out in the wilderness. Breeds such as the Labrador Retriever and the German Shorthaired Pointer come with great navigational skills and have a good sense of smell, which makes them helpful in finding lost items. 

Best Dog Breeds for Hiking 

Below are some of the best hiking dogs that can be a wonderful companion during your outdoor adventures. 

Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain DogIf you’re looking to climb mountains, the Bernese Mountain Dog is the best hiking dog. As its name suggests, this gentle giant is able to handle the harsh terrain found on mountains and is strong enough to climb rocks thanks to its boundless endurance. These dogs were first bred in the Swiss Alps as cattle herders so they can handle all kinds of vigorous activities and are adaptable to all kinds of climate variations. 

Their large frame allows them to handle various obstacles and while they’re not the best athletes in short-burst activities, they can surprise you by how long they’ll last when it comes to hiking. When training Bernese mountain dogs, you’ll love the fact that they can walk without a leash and learn complex commands. Lastly, they don’t have a strong prey drive, so you won’t need to worry about your pooch running off at the sight of small animals. 

Border Collie

Border CollieThese highly energetic and intelligent dogs were initially bred for herding, and excel at tasks that require endurance and agility which makes them suitable for backcountry hiking. They come with thick coats that protect them from the cold and heat, while their trainability makes them a good companion on the trail. Just keep in mind that these dogs will need plenty of mental and physical exercise, so they’re best for active families. 

Rhodesian Ridgeback

Rhodesian RidgebackIf you plan on going on a trip somewhere with warmer weather or if you love hiking over long distances during summer, you’ll love going out with a Rhodesian ridgeback. Known to be easy to train, strong, and great at navigating rocky areas, these dogs can even do some steep climbing. Thanks to their background in chasing after lions in Africa, they can understand complex commands and can work without a leash. 

They love hot weather and won’t get tired walking for hours on a hiking trail but you should still give your dog access to water no matter how well it walks. However, they do come with a high prey drive, so this behavior should be managed if you want to bring them to an off-leash area.  

Labrador Retriever

Labrador RetrieverWhether you have a black Lab or a cream-colored pup with you on a long walk throughout national parks, you can be sure that you have a pet that shares your love of the outdoors. These dogs are highly adaptable and will do well in both warm and colder temperatures; they can even withstand extreme weather conditions for a short time. Moreover, these medium-sized dogs can climb over rocky terrain thanks to their long legs and muscular build. 

Labrador Retrievers also come with the strength and lung capacity it takes for long hours of work. In terms of training, they can learn a wide range of commands and are easy to train thanks to their desire to please people. Overall, they are great dogs that will thrive when given positive reinforcement and a few shorter hikes at first.  

Australian Shepherd

Australian ShepherdHere’s another option if you’re looking for excellent hiking partners that come in two sizes; a toy Aussie or full-size, which are both great for hiking but will specialize in different things. The larger Aussie is the perfect companion for climbing steep inclines, mountains, or stairs, while the smaller pups are better suited for flat trails that highlight the natural environment around them. Even so, both variants have the potential to become great hiking companions and it’s nice to have options to choose from. 

However, it’s their trainability that makes the Australian Shepherd such a good hiking partner. They’re very easy to train and are fiercely loyal to their chosen human — the only problem with these dogs is that they can become defensive when it comes to their humans. The best way to avoid issues is to give them behavioral training or to stick to trails with fewer hikers.  

Australian Cattle Dog

Australian Cattle DogAlso known as the Blue Heeler, the Australian Cattle Dog is a herding dog originally developed in Australia. These dogs are known for their intelligence, loyalty, and energy, making this four-legged friend a wonderful choice for backcountry hiking. They can also be easily trained and can excel in all kinds of activities including hiking. 

They will, however, need regular exercise and mental stimulation to discourage destructive behavior and boredom.  

Siberian Husky

Siberian HuskyThe Siberian Husky is a good hiking dog that can handle long hikes in cold climates; they can be a great addition to hikes up the Stowe Pinnacle during winter months. While other breeds can handle cold temperatures, none can handle it as well as these energetic dogs. They’re strong enough to pull sleds over hundreds of miles in harsh, cold weather so there’s no need to worry that they’ll freeze or get too tired while making your way to the top of a mountain. 

When it comes to training, they’re not the easiest dogs to give commands to but they will respond well to positive reinforcement. Unless you’re an experienced owner, it can help to get a professional’s help to ensure they get proper training. Once you’re able to establish yourself as a pack leader, these pups will be able to hike without a leash, conquer more trails, and handle complex commands.    

Golden Retriever

Golden RetrieverThe Golden Retriever is among the most popular breeds in the world, and there are plenty of reasons for this. First of all, these gorgeous dogs come with high intelligence, loyalty, empathy, and a friendly personality that makes it so easy to fall in love with them. Originally bred to be a hunting dog, the Golden Retriever can keep up with physically demanding tasks, and when given the right training, they can be a good companion to take with you on demanding hikes. 

Their gentle temperament means that they won’t always want your attention and will be able to understand your emotions. This also means that they will be able to socialize well when given early socialization and training. Finally, they can be trained to do complex tasks, which is why they are the top choice for guide and therapy dogs. 

Jack Russell Terrier

Jack Russell TerrierWhen you want to see the great outdoors, going out with small dogs is a good idea, especially if it’s with a Jack Russell Terrier! These cute little pups are among the most recognizable dog breeds around, and chances are that you’ve already seen one at some point in your life. Originally bred during the first half of the 19th century in the south of England, these pooches were initially used to hunt foxes by a dog enthusiast named Jack Russell, hence their name. 

Because they can be a lot to handle for novice owners, they’re better suited for experienced dog lovers who can give these dogs the mental and physical stimulation they need. While these small dogs may look like they’ll tire out quickly, they were specifically bred to handle physically demanding tasks, and when given the right training, they can be great companions on hikes and long walks. 

German Shepherd

German ShepherdIf you’re looking for larger breeds, you can’t go wrong with a German Shepherd whether you want to go on a long hike over rocky and rough terrain, or somewhere through the woods. They were initially bred to serve as working dogs that specialize in tracking, hunting, and watching over property and their families. These dogs were so adept at hunting and tracking that police agencies would use German Shepherds to help find people since they could quickly cover so much ground. 

Another benefit that makes these dogs such a popular furry friend is their trainability; they’re among the easiest canines to train because they’re always eager to please. They can also hike without the need for a leash once you’re comfortable with these dogs. Yes, you will need to spend a lot of time training them but these pups catch on quickly and will be able to pick up plenty of commands.   

German Shorthaired Pointer

German Shorthaired PointerIf you’re looking for the best hiking dog breeds then the German Shorthaired pointer is it; these athletic dogs were built for tracking, hunting, and covering plenty of ground in a short amount of time. Years have passed since they were first developed for these purposes, but they are still hunting dogs at heart, always up for an adventure, and will tolerate all kinds of weather conditions. Whether you’re facing hot weather or high elevation on your next hike, you can be sure that this dog can handle it all! 

When it comes to training, these dogs are good learners when it comes to commands; they can even be taught how to walk and hike without a leash. They also have an advantage over many other dogs, which is their willingness to please their humans, which makes training them a breeze. 

Alaskan Malamute

Alaskan MalamuteThis sled dog was originally bred in Alaska, known for their endurance, loyalty, and strength, which makes it a great hiking dog for all kinds of environments. Alaskan Malamutes are also known to be playful and affectionate and can be terrific family pets. Just remember that this active dog will need a lot of mental stimulation and physical exercise and it’s up to you to ensure that these requirements are met. 

This large breed of dog comes with almond-shaped eyes with a chocolate brown color that contains an affectionate sparkle, which is a giveaway of how much they love to cuddle with their human at the end of a long day. However, these dogs are pack animals and you need to fill the role of pack leader; if your Mal doesn’t show you respect, they will end up running you instead of the other way around. To train these pups, you will need to lead with a firm but loving approach which will help them become gentle, playful, and friendly pups. 

Portuguese Water Dog

Portuguese Water DogThe Portuguese Water Dog was initially bred to have stamina to work all day and they won’t slow down until everything is done. These dogs are highly driven, so it’s important to observe them and make sure they aren’t overworking themselves since they’re unlikely to stop on their own. Despite being a smaller breed, these healthy and active dogs can run for over 5 miles, making them a partner while their owners ride on mountain bikes. 

What is Trail Etiquette? 

Apart from knowing about the best dogs to have during a hike, it’s also important for pet parents to understand good trail etiquette. This means that you should keep your pooch under control on a leash at all times and just as important is cleaning up after they do their business. Moreover, getting your dog a GPS dog locator can be useful should you get separated from your pet. 


Finding the right canine companion for your hiking activities is important since it can set the tone of your journey and will affect how much you enjoy your hike. Having a well-trained pup by your side can help to ensure that you both have a good time climbing and hiking no matter where you go. There are plenty of breeds to choose from but only the ones covered above are the best options for any dog owner, but it’s best to work with a professional trainer if you’re new to dogs.