Whether you’re a recreational hiker who enjoys spending a leisurely day on the trails or an avid hiker seeking challenging terrain, you may want to bring your pup along for the adventure. But, before you reach for the leash, it’s important to know just how much your canine partner can safely handle. For instance, Brachycephalic pooches — such as Pugs, French Bulldogs, Shih Tzus, or Bosten Terriers, etc. — don’t make good hiking buddies. Their anatomy makes them prone to breathing problems, exercise intolerance, and heat intolerance. They’re much more suited to a leisurely walk in the park.
The list below spotlights 10 dog breeds that make great hiking buddies. But, wait: Don’t see your pup’s breed on the list? Most medium to large dogs (as long as they are in good health) can be conditioned to tag along with you on the trails.
1. Border Collie
The Border Collie is known as the most intelligent dog breed. They are smart, athletic, agile, and full of energy. Bred to be working dogs — herders, to be exact — they like to have a job and need to be kept busy. If you’re looking for a buddy to hit the trails with then the Border Collie may be your perfect partner.
2. Labrador Retriever
According to the AKC, the Labrador has been #1 in popularity for 28 years in a row. These dogs are loving, loyal, super-smart, and love adventure. They have oodles of energy, are solid hikers able to navigate tough terrain, and good swimmers. Labs are friendly pooches that can make the perfect companion for your next hike.
3. Bernese Mountain Dog
The Bernese Mountain dog is a great choice for a hiking buddy. These dogs were bred to be working dogs. They could often be found guarding property and herding cattle for farmers. Bernese are smart, muscular, have tons of energy, friendly, and faithful. If your kids will be joining you for the hike, don’t be surprised if the Bernese takes it upon himself to herd them too!
4. Siberian Husky
As their name implies, these pooches can be traced back to Siberia. They were bred to be hard workers. The Husky’s jobs included hunting, pulling sleds, and, at times, they even kept the kiddos in line. They are excellent companions and do well in cold weather (but are less tolerant of the heat). Because of their herding instinct, if you’re hiking with a Siberian Husky, it’s best to keep him on a leash where you’ll remain in full control.
5. Australian Shepherd (Aussie)
The Australian Shepherd, nicknamed the Aussie, was bred to herd livestock for farmers and ranchers. The Aussie is energetic and agile, which is especially helpful if you’ll be hiking on uneven or challenging territories. They acclimate easily to the heat and the cold, don’t like to be too far away from their human, and are mentally sharp and alert.
6. Standard Poodle
You may think of the Poodle as a fancy, poofy pooch that prances around the show ring. And you’d be right. But did you know that the poodle was first bred to be a hunter and retriever? Hunters still use the Poodle as hunting companions and partners even today. Poodles are completely at home doing outdoorsy things. They can tolerate variations in weather, are at home in the water, and crave to be with their humans.
The Beagle was originally bred to be a scenthound tracker. Beagles excel at hunting. This breed is the king of the hunt when it comes to nose work. They love the outdoors and exploring all it has to offer, are chock full of energy, and are super friendly. Put all those traits together and it adds up to one great hiking partner. Be sure to keep the Beagle on a leash though. With a smorgasbord of smells on a hiking trail, he may be unable to resist running off after something.
8. Portuguese Water Dog
The Portuguese Water Dog, nicknamed the Portie, has quite the history as a working dog. Porties are herders and retrievers, but not on land – as their name would imply – on the sea! Originating in Portugal, these dogs were bred to help fishermen. Known for their extreme swimming skills, they would herd fish into nets, retrieve nets, carry messages from ship to ship or ship to shore, and rescue drowning sailors from the sea. This energetic, smart, faithful, outdoor-loving pooch, would be the perfect pairing as a hiking buddy, especially if you like to hike near the water.
9. Australian Cattle Dog (ACD)
The ACD was bred to be a herding dog. They’re athletic, smart, energetic, and crave lots of exercise to release their energy. They are loyal. So loyal, in fact, that many call them velcro dogs since they hunger to be with their person or family and tend to stick right by their side. With the ACD at your side, your hiking adventure will be right on track.
The Weimaraner is a big pooch that was originally bred for hunting large game, like deer and bears. These dogs are chock full of energy, crave exercise, and love the outdoors. Their physical endurance and friendly nature make them a top pick to hike with.
As with any sport, just as you make sure that you are in proper condition to set out on your journey, make sure that Fido is in tip-top condition as well. For more on hiking check out my article, Hiking With Your Dogs: Tips, Rules, & Gear.