GENERAL BREED INFO

Best Hiking Dogs: The Best Breeds for Hikers And Active People

Dog for hiking
John Walton
Written by John Walton

If you are the sort of person who loves exploring the great outdoors, sometimes, the best hiking partners are the ones who don’t talk. Dogs and outdoor activities are a natural combination. When your friends or family aren’t available they are the perfect companions. Nearly all dogs enjoy physical activities, but if you are really active and are planning to cover serious ground, you’ll find that the average canine might not be willing to go the distance with you.

The good news is there are a number of dog breeds that were built to enjoy certain physical pursuits. These four-legged friends are normally agile, highly energetic, fast and spunky. Here is our list of the best hiking dogs, in our opinion, for you to explore and enjoy the great outdoors with.

Bernese Mountain dog

Sturdy, easygoing and calm, the Bernese Mountain Dog is truly a hard worker and one of the best dogs for hiking. These giants were bred to haul carts and have a reputation of intense loyalty and devotion. An outdoors dog at heart, these good-looking Swiss farm dogs love staying active and the great outdoors. Berners are able to carry about 10 times their body weight, which means they can help to carry your gear, treats and water on your adventures.

Bernese Mountain dog

Berners are affectionate, intelligent and enjoy the challenges of learning new things. They also come with long silky weather resistant coats capable of withstanding cold temperatures — perfect for high altitude conditions. Berners are prone to heat stroke, so you shouldn’t take out your dog when it is extremely hot. They are a natural fit for mountain hiking, after all they even have “mountain” in their names. They love to play in the snow and enjoy being close to their family. Berners will also tag along with you on any excursion or activity.

Highlights of the breed

  • Need exercise and love outdoor activities, like hiking
  • Eager to please
  • Strong
  • Easygoing manner
  • Gentle with children

Doberman Pinscher

Compact and muscular, the Doberman Pinscher is an active and athletic breed of dogs. Bred to be warriors, these dogs were not developed to be a lazy couch-dweller. Instead, they are beautiful and elegant runners, capable of great speed.

Hiking Doberman Pinscher

Although they have an intimidating reputation, Dobermans are loyal and known to be excellent companions. They are quite good at agility and require a lot of exercise in order to be happy, healthy and to avoid destructive behavior. This means they will love being your hiking companion, as they are some of the best dogs for hiking and outdoor adventures.

Dobermans were bred to work alongside people and the breed is fearless in the face of danger, which could be a good thing, especially if you walk alone and want to feel safer. They are also as low-maintenance as dogs come and they do not like to be left alone for long periods. You should remember that although your Doberman may be sweet, don’t be surprised if your neighbors or others on the trail show signs of fear when they see your dog. So it is best if you keep your Dobie on a leash when you are going out.

Highlights of the breed

  • Energetic – Need regular exercise
  • Obedient
  • Fearless – Courageous guardian
  • Loyal

Australian Cattle dog

Known for its protective behavior and expert heeling skills, the Australian Cattle dog is a sturdy working dog. These tough dogs were bred to herd cattle in Australia from dusk ‘til dawn through the wilderness, so they are very energetic, smart and want to be active and busy most of the time. Since the Australian Cattle Dogs require a lot more activity than a simple walk around the block to keep them busy, they make great running and hiking companions.

Australian Cattle dog

Australian Cattle Dogs don’t mind harsh climates and they can handle rough terrains, and long distances. That being said, Australian Cattle Dogs have a strong sense of adventure and enjoy the company of its owners, which means they will happily accompany you anywhere. They love to play and are also suspicious of strangers, so you will be protected if necessary.

Highlights of the breed

  • Extremely intelligent
  • Alert
  • Very energetic – Love to run and play.
  • Protective

Siberian Husky

Light on their feet, Siberian Huskies are beautiful animals that have the perfect balance of power, speed and endurance. They are smart, brave, strong-willed and fun-loving animals. Huskies need a lot of exercise and high level of activity to keep them happy and healthy. They love the great outdoors, especially in cold weather, which adds to their appeal as some of the best hiking dogs.

Siberian Husky ready for hiking

Huskies were bred to pull heavy sleds tirelessly for countless miles, running at full-speed. This means your dog will love to carry your backpack during your hike. Although Huskies can live in any climate, you should not exercise this dog during the heat of day. For their own protection, you should use a leash any time you’re outside so your dog will be under control at all times, as their predatory instincts are strong. A great choice if you want a dog that is built for speed and endurance or if you love to hike in cold climates.

Highlights of the breed

  • Enjoy regular exercise – designed to run all day long
  • Friendly
  • Outgoing
  • Must not exercise in hot weather.
  • Very adaptable
  • Escape artists
  • Can be destructive

Vizsla

The Hungarian Vizsla is an energetic sporting dog and a wonderful companion. Prized for its intelligence, stamina and retrieving skills, the Vizsla is a very active breed with a strong desire to please. Vizslas are great companions for active people or families who can provide them with the exercise they crave and spend a lot of time outdoors. As such, they are some of the best hiking dogs around. These working dogs have a lot of stamina and energy that last all day.

Other traits that makes the Vizsla an excellent hiking companion dog is the breed’s natural enthusiasm for the hunt, their high level of intelligence, protective nature and of course their good eyesight.

Vizsla dog hiking

The Vizsla also has a strong prey drive and their coat is one of the easiest to maintain. If you enjoy a leisurely lifestyle and are not prepared to meet their needs for exercise every day, this is not the dog for you.

Highlights of the breed

  • Low maintenance – need only weekly brushings
  • Affectionate
  • Needs daily exercise
  • Gentle – get along well with other dogs
  • Super companion
  • Loves to chew

Australian Shepherds

Commonly known as the Aussie, Australian Shepherds were bred to herd livestock. If you are looking for a loyal companion with an intense desire to please and the stamina to walk all day – this is a good place for you to start.

Australian Shepherds hiking

Another working breed, these high-energy dogs require a lot of exercise and stimulation and they love long excursions, which makes the breed one of the best dogs for hiking.

The Aussie is a worker at heart and can go from morning to night without being tired. These dogs loves a life of adventure and excel at the highest levels of competition. They can handle harsh weather and navigate tough terrains and steep inclines with ease. The breed is exceptionally versatile and alert and will let you know when anyone is approaching. A great choice for hikers and campers.

Highlights of the breed

  • True working dogs
  • Exuberant – has a habit of nipping and chasing
  • Smart
  • Requires daily vigorous exercise
  • Not good apartment dogs
  • Naturally standoffish with strangers

German Shorthaired Pointer

Highly energetic and intelligent, the German Shorthaired Pointer is another a wonderful choice for hikers and very active families. If you are someone who is always outdoors and wants your dog with you, you won’t find a better companion. Best suited for active individuals or families, these animals can handle the longest hike you can dream up and they will crush the trails. The German Shorthaired Pointers normally require a minimum of one to two hours of exercise per day as they have the stamina to last all day.

German Shorthaired Pointer on hiking

When outdoors, it is important for you to keep your dog on a leash because they are natural hunters and will chase after birds, cats or other small animals on the trail. These pups are also natural protectors and will help to keep you safe while you are out. This breed is not recommended if you live in an apartment.

Highlights of the breed

  • Smart
  • Highly energetic – Thrives on exercise
  • Willing to please
  • Independent thinkers
  • People-oriented and hates to be left alone
  • Bark at strangers and noises.

Rhodesian Ridgeback

The Rhodesian Ridgeback occasionally referred to as the Navy SEALS of dogs is an intelligent dog that loves to run and play. Native to South Africa, these sleek and powerful dogs were originally bred to hunt lions. Ridgebacks have thick foot pads and can handle the roughest terrains. Ridgies can run for miles and are reserved with strangers. They are also discriminating barkers and loyal guardians. Their South African origins and short and shiny wheaten coats means they can withstand high temperatures better than most of the other breeds.

You should also know that some male Ridgebacks are domineering and strong-willed. Due to their short coats, these pups are low maintenance and require occasional brushing and baths. Ridgebacks are adaptable and can live in a variety of homes settings, including apartments, as long as you will give them daily exercise.

Rhodesian Ridgeback on hiking

Ridgebacks gives lots of affection to those they love and trust. They also have a strong prey drive and will take off after a rabbit or another small animal or even cyclists.

Highlights of the breed

  • Energetic – Loves to run
  • Even tempered
  • Reserved with strangers

Alaskan Malamute

The Alaskan Malamute is one of the oldest sled-dog breeds. If tough, snowy terrain is a part of your hiking trail, the Alaskan Malamute is your best companion. Larger, stronger and more powerful than the Siberian Husky, these dogs can handle temperatures that are 70 degrees below 0. The rugged Malamutes require daily exercise and are extremely popular with outdoor winter enthusiasts who enjoy activities like sledding and skijoring. As sled dogs, their endurance is what people find appealing and this is why they are regarded among the best dogs for hiking.

Alaskan Malamute hiking

Malamutes are strong willed and a leash is not optional when you are outdoors with your dog, as they love to roam and will go for miles. Being a family-oriented breed, their playful and easy-going nature makes them affectionate and friendly companions. Since their jobs include hauling heavy loads for miles, your dog can help you with your bags and will require few stops for rest and food on your trail. Be careful when you are hiking in warm weather, don’t overdo it.

Highlights of the breed

  • Loves the great outdoors
  • Strong-willed
  • Affectionate
  • Thrives on vigorous activities

Border Collie

Known broadly for their high energy, athleticism, willingness to please and working dog status, Border Collies are the dogs for outdoor adventurers. The breed’s focus is legendary and they take direction extremely well. Don’t be surprised if sometimes you find it difficult to keep them challenged. Of course, Border Collies are an excellent fit for active types since they thrive on activity, need lots of space to run and they never seem to tire.

Border Collie hiking

These medium-sized dogs are weary of strangers and often keep their distance, displaying a guarding instinct. They are great competitors and their natural herding instincts sometimes come into play when they are around other animals. Border Collies are also easy to take care of.

Highlights of the breed

  • Enjoys digging
  • Recreational barkers
  • Strong prey drive
  • Affectionate
  • Energetic – thrives on tons of exercise
  • Smart
  • Tireless workers

Jack Russell Terrier

If you want a dog that doesn’t tire and views life as a great adventure, consider a Jack Russell Terrier. Although they are small, what these dogs lack in size they make up for in boundless energy. Russell Terriers are amazingly athletic and they make great hiking dogs. These dogs hate a solitary or sedate lifestyle and do best with active, outdoorsy families or individuals.

Jack Russell Terrier

Russell Terriers are also playful, charming and loyal companions that will outrun you and keep you going. These dogs are incredibly intelligent and are capable of jumping higher than 5 feet. Because Russell Terriers have a natural instinct to hunt, you may want to use a leash when you are on your hike. This way, your dog won’t run off at the sight of squirrels or other small animals.

Jack Russell Terriers are absolutely fearless and the breed can be aggressive toward other dogs. Your Russell Terrier will explore and dig when he gets a chance and nothing gets by him. There are no limits to what your dog can learn and do.

Highlights of the breed

  • Inexhaustible supply of energy
  • Playful
  • Loving
  • Extremely alert

Weimaraner

Known for their ability to work with great speed, long legs, sleek grey coats and endurance when on the hunt, Weimaraners are suitable for long-distance runners and hikers who are looking for a four-legged pal that can keep up. These dogs are intelligent, love exercise and must have plenty of it.

A jog around the neighborhood will not be enough exercise to keep these dogs satisfied, as such they are suitable for those who can meet their demanding exercise needs by providing frequent opportunities to hike, run and play. Without the proper exercise they can be restless, over-excited and difficult to control.

Weimaraner on hiking

Weimaraners are graceful with speed, stamina and endurance and it is their fierce loyalty coupled with their unique personality that makes them one of the best dogs for hiking. Since the breed was developed as hunting dogs, their strong prey instincts are still intact, so they may be dangerous to birds and other small non-canine animals. They can be very strong-willed dogs, eager to please and fun-loving. The breed is also very protective of their loved ones and they make excellent guard dogs.

Highlights of the breed

  • Weimaraners have a lot of energy and stamina.
  • Don’t like living outdoors
  • Can be difficult to housetrain
  • Friendly
  • Obedient
  • Fearless

Hiking is more strenuous than walking, if you are looking for a dog who can keep pace, these dogs will prove to be some of the best ones out there and will be up to the task. With the right training, these dogs can do it all. Their intense need for exercise and adaptability means they will adjust to your routine and they are not good for less active people. If your dog is new to hiking or it is just a puppy, it is best for you to start with several short day-hikes before hitting longer trails.

Dog gear for hiking

In addition, regardless of how mountain-savvy you think your dog or the breed is, if the weather is too hot you should not go out on a long hike. Also if you find that you are having trouble controlling your dog on short hikes, you should hold off on longer trails until you are able to control your pup around other hikers or animals. It is also recommended for you to check your dog for burrs and ticks when you return home.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • Ruby Anderson

    No matter the breed, bad training could well be a dealbreaker. Terribly trained dogs could develop unsuitable habits for hiking and other focus-driven activities which would have to be rectified. It’s best to keep that in mind in choosing a hiking dog. Oh and that shorten, lighter fur is ideal when picking out ticks they may attract in proximity to wildlife. Sharing for other dogowners.

    • Training is essential, especially for hiking dogs. As you’ve mentioned, it is very important to choose the breed that fits your hiking requirements. The selection should not be based on just looks, but vigor, trainability, and temperament as well.

  • Winona Matthews

    My family is fairly active and we’re getting our dogs ready to accompany us in a hiking trip. One of them is a Siberian Husky. I’m thinking of getting an excellent GPS tracker just to be sure my dogs don’t get lost.
    Any pet owner here who have experiences with high end devices such as Garmin? I’d love a tracker that is app based so I won’t be lugging any more equipments. Thanks a lot everyone!

    • Getting a GPS tracker for a dog sounds like a nice investment. However, I’d recommend an independent GPS tracker, rather than something mobile-based because of reception or battery issues. However, if you are the type of person that prefers short hikes that are not too far away from the town, then this option will work perfectly fine.

  • Andrew Miller

    Such a wonderful dogs! It is noteworthy that all these breeds can adopt not only in the mountains but also to the different environment: village, apartment or a large house. But they definitely need a lot of space.

    • That is correct, Andrew. These dogs need the space and exercise in order to thrive really well. Space is a given considering how big most of these dogs can become.

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