11 of the Best Hiking Dogs Ready for Outdoor Adventures
Sun's out, paws out! Hiking solo or with two-legged friends is fun. But taking on the great outdoors with your four-legged friend? Now, that's an absolute blast!
George Melillo, VMD, and co-founder and chief veterinary officer of Heart + Paw, says hiking with your dog can be a great year-round activity for both you and your canine companion. "In hiking with your dog, it is important to plan for the activity so that it is pleasurable and healthy for all participants. One key factor is to assess if your dog is up to the physical challenges of a hike," he notes.
The best hiking dogs, Melillo says, are breeds that would thrive with this activity and who tend to enjoy all the physical aspects of a good hike. They are natural athletes who enjoy running, sniffing, and traveling different terrains.
If you're looking for a furry pal to accompany you in an outdoor environment and get your exercise on, here are some of the best dog breeds for hiking.
German Shorthaired Pointer
Bred to be an all-purpose dog, you can expect German shorthaired pointers (GSPs) to be up for any adventure! Amongst one of the healthiest breeds, the German shorthaired pointer is known as a "canine triathlete" due to his love for hunting, pointing, and retrieving, according to the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America.
"This breed has a ton of energy and a strong prey drive, as they were bred to hunt," says Laura Robinson, DVM and veterinary advisor to Pawp. "They require daily, intense exercise to keep their body and mind happy and healthy and would do great with a person who enjoys the outdoors." Active families are sure to adore the GSP as their new hiking buddy.
Chesapeake Bay Retriever
The Chesapeake Bay retriever loves being outside and will accompany you to any activity of your choosing. However, considering her roots, she will especially love to go swimming even in cooler weather—all thanks to her waterproof coat!
Robinson says the Chesapeake Bay retriever, because she is a sporting dog, does well with a good amount of exercise each day. Naturally hardworking, loving, loyal, and intelligent, the Chesapeake Bay retriever makes for a great hiking pal.
If you're an outdoors junkie, just wait until you meet the mountain cur. Robinson considers mountain curs to be "the perfect hiking partner" for their working abilities and the fact they thrive on a lot of exercise.
These explorers are no strangers to nature and love to be active. According to the Original Mountain Cur Breeders Association, these dogs were once a necessity for the frontier family, guarding them from wild animals and catching animals for food. While today they make beloved pets and honorable hunting companions, no matter the activity, the mountain cur is sure to have fun as long as they're with you.
Known as "The King of Terriers" for being the largest of the breed, the Airedale terrier is equipped to withstand any kind of weather, which means you two can enjoy the trails during all four seasons if you'd like.
"This breed is extremely intelligent and energetic, making them great hiking partners," Robinson notes. There will never be a dull moment with an Airedale terrier, as they are not only energetic but also playful and clever. According to the Airedale Terrier Club of America, Airedales are not shy around strangers, so prepare to make some friends on the trails!
Don't let their size deceive you, cairn terriers are active, little adventurers. After all, Dorothy's sweet companion Toto in The Wizard of Oz was a cairn terrier!
"While this breed may not be best for super long hikes or steep inclines because of their small size, they are able to hike multiple miles and are very athletic little dogs," Robinson says.
Bred to hunt foxes, these furballs of energy remain active and playful even into their teen years, according to the Cairn Terrier Club of America.
If you love hiking, bike riding, swimming, or a good game of fetch, the golden retriever may just be your perfect match. "Golden retrievers are some of the best running and exercise partners out there," Robinson says. "They have a lot of energy and are athletic."
With such innate athleticism and friendliness, it's no wonder why Air Bud's "Buddy" was a golden retriever and became a beloved franchise.
For endless fun outdoors, an Australian shepherd will keep you on your feet the entire time. These natural herders love to work their mind and body and will wag their tails at any opportunity to be outside.
Robinson describes Australian shepherds as "very fast, athletic, and thrive on mental and physical stimulation on a daily basis."
Because they tend to be more shy around unfamiliar faces, expect them to stay close to you while hiking.
Say "outside" and watch your border collie's eyes light up in an instant. "Border collies are some of the most athletic breeds out there and were bred for herding animals all day long, meaning they have incredible stamina and are very fast runners," Robinson says.
Border collies have both a hot and cold weather tolerance, so they'll jump for joy no matter if it's sunny or snowing.
"Labradors are great for hiking as they are a very athletic breed used commonly for hunting," Robinson says. "They also have a great temperament and personality to be a good trail buddy." Labs require plenty of physical activity and are bound to enjoy anything from splashing in the water to romping on the trails.
It's important to note Labs can experience exercise-induced collapse (EIC) so keep your veterinarian informed about your plans to exercise your pup and don't overdo it with the mileage.
Jack Russell Terrier
The Jack Russell terrier makes for a small and mighty hiking partner. These energetic explorers love to run, dig, and play. Bred to hunt farm rodents and foxes, these pups fancy being entertained and are always up for an adventure. (Seriously.)
The Jack Russell Terrier Club of America says Jack Russells require plenty of attention, outdoor activity, and exercise, so if you think you're a match for his everlasting energy, lace up your hiking shoes and get ready for some fun with this little terrier!
Bernese Mountain Dog
The name of this breed says it all: the Bernese mountain dog thrives being outdoors, especially in colder temperatures. The Bernese mountain dog makes for an incredibly intelligent, calm, and loyal hiking partner.
"This breed can do well on hikes, as they were bred to haul carts and heavy loads," Robinson says. Considering their large size and thick coat, the Bernese mountain dog would be a great fit for someone who prefers cooler temperatures and easier hikes.
These working dogs require just half an hour of activity each day and are prone to developing elbow and hip dysplasia, so keep hikes short and sweet.
Dog Breeds Not So Well-Equipped for Hiking
While we wish we could take every dog hiking, the sad reality is that some breeds aren't best suited for the physical demands of a challenging hike. "[Brachycephalic] breeds such as bulldogs, pugs, and French bulldogs have shortened snouts, which impact their ability to handle the challenges of a hike and stay oxygenated," Melillo says. He adds that toy breeds, such as the Chihuahua, Maltese, and shih tzu, don't do well with long distances in difficult terrains.
"If you do choose to hike with your pet, it is important to plan accordingly," Melillo says. "Start small and gradually condition your dog for the weather. Be sure to keep your pet on a leash to avoid a dog from running off and chasing a wild animal or startling another camper. Have a pet first aid kit in case of an injury (an extra pair of socks and tape can be used as a quick bootie for an injured paw) and plenty of fresh water and food. If you are hungry or thirsty hiking, your dog will be too."