If you lead a very active lifestyle, you need a suitable furry companion that you can frequently go for hikes with. So, what are the best dogs for hiking and backpacking?
Many dogs are not up to the challenge of hiking trails because they have not been trained properly or just don’t have the physical capability, which can affect your hiking experience.
Thus, you need dogs that have a high-energy level, longer endurance, can walk without a leash, and listen to your commands. For example, a Border Collie, Siberian Husky, German Shorthaired Pointer, Australian Shepherd, Golden Retriever, and more are some of the best dogs for hiking and backpacking.
Hiking and trailing are not easy experiences, and if you are someone who enjoys the thrill and exertion and likes to bring along your dog for everything, then you need to find a suitable companion. Dogs that don’t have the endurance for hiking and backpacking can slow down your progress, prolong the journey, and harm you and them by not knowing where to go and what commands to follow.
In this article, we will discuss the best dogs for hiking and backpacking but first, let’s look at the characteristics you need to look out for when choosing a hiking partner.
Ideal Characteristics Required for Best Dogs for Hiking and Backpacking
Every dog is perfect when it comes to showering you with love and loyalty, but there are a few characteristics necessary to take a dog on hiking and trailing.
If your dog is not good at listening to your basic commands like sit, come, stay, etc., then you are going to have problems. The best hiking dog is one that understands and follows your commands, no matter how distracting the track can be. Thus, before taking your dog on a hike, make sure he is properly trained, has a strong bond with you, and can understand basic and advanced commands to save them from injuring themselves.
High Endurance Level
The reason why we choose golden retrievers over pugs for hiking and backpacking is that they have the endurance and strength to go on hikes and exert energy. In contrast, some dogs can tire easily and do not have high energy levels to keep up with the track.
Age is also a factor you need to consider when taking your dog on a hike. Very young and old age dogs are not recommended as either they are not properly trained, or they are weak and prone to injuries.
You don’t need a dog that is excited around other animals, people, or things that they will see throughout the hike, nor do you want a dog that is not social and gets scared easily. You need a calm and composed dog personality that can handle experiences with ease and doesn’t get extremely curious about things that can potentially harm them. Here is where a well-trained dog comes into place. No matter the situation, if your dog listens to your commands, you are good to go.
An added bonus would be to take your dog hiking without a leash, but that is for experienced hiking dogs and not a newbie.
Right Fur Type
Where you live and the climate throughout the year can also affect your choice of dogs for hiking. For example, you can’t go with a furry dog on hikes if the weather is going to be hot. Similarly, you can’t take your Labrador for a hike during winters.
Now that you know the traits required for the best dogs for hiking and backpacking let’s look at the dogs themselves.
10 Best Dogs for Hiking and Backpacking
Australian Cattle Dog
If you are looking for a dog that has the strength and endurance to last long on hikes, then this is the dog for you. Australian cattle dogs are the best dogs for hiking and backpacking. Why? Because they are happy when they are being physically challenged. These dogs have super strength and agility and need to be exercised regularly to keep them physically and mentally sound.
Australian cattle dogs can withstand both hot and cold weather and will keep up with you during the hike, or it might be the other way around. Their owners also take part in agility and strength games and exercises as an outlet for their high-energy and endurance.
Siberian huskies are not only adorable; they are also extremely active and like to lead a busy lifestyle to match their high-energy level. If you live in an area where the weather is cold most of the year, a Siberian husky is the best choice. They can withstand extreme cold temperatures and do not tire out, even for days.
Siberian huskies have fun, loving, and talkative personalities, making sure that you are entertained during your long journeys. They also do well in packs, but not all types. Also, make sure the temperature isn’t too high for them.
Weimaraners are the best dogs for hiking and backpacking. Originally bred as hunting dogs, they are extremely smart, intelligent, loyal, and active. They are also suitable for a family that likes to go out on hikes, camping, and trails to keep the dog active and provide a positive outlet for their vigorous traits.
To keep them physically sound and mentally sane, their owners have to invest time in their daily exercise. Moreover, they are not suitable if you live in colder areas. They are built with speed and stamina in mind, and a hike is a perfect exercise for them.
German Shorthaired Pointer
Used as hunting dogs, the German shorthaired pointer is extremely athletic and versatile. Fun, loving, and loyal, these dogs thrive in an active environment. For example, families and owners that go on trails and hikes. They are built to perform long hours of hunting, running, and other exhausting activities. German shorthaired pointer dogs are very smart and need to burn their anxious energy by doing regular exercise.
They make the best hiking partner because of their curiosity and high-energy levels. They work well in all temperatures and need an environment that can keep them occupied; thus, locking them in a house won’t do.
Border collies are one of the most intelligent dog breeds available. They are extremely smart, agile, and exercise-loving, making them the perfect fit for hiking and backpacking. They are known for their high-energy level and their work drive, which means they need to be regularly physically challenged to maintain their positive attitude.
They are best for owners that head an active lifestyle. They are also very quick to train, and you can teach those basic/advanced commands and how to hike without a leash. Moreover, they need an attentive family that doesn’t leave them alone for long hours.
Originated from Hungary, Vizslas are hunting dogs that are loving, affectionate, and loyal. They have high endurance and strength and love to lead an active life. They are still used as hunting dogs but are perfect for a family that loves to camp, hike, or trail.
Vizsla is a highly energetic and athletic dog that needs to be trained, exercised, and challenged physically daily to avoid destructive behavior. But don’t take their athletic behavior as an indicator they love to spend time alone; it’s quite the opposite. They love to be surrounded by their family and are sociable with other pets.
Bernese Mountain Dog
Bernese mountain dog is a working dog breed that originated in Switzerland. They were first used to pull around carts and thus have a high-energy level and endurance, making them one of the best dogs for hiking and backpacking.
They are energetic, athletic, and extremely loving. They love to be around children and adults alike and enjoy an active environment. They are great for colder climates due to their thick fur coat. These gentle creatures are fun-loving and love to spend time with their families. They also need daily walks or agility exercises to keep themselves entertained.
One of the best dogs for hiking and backpacking are golden retrievers. They are perfect for a big family with lots of kids. They are extremely loving dogs and are good at following commands and taking part in outdoor activities. They are the perfect companion for camping, swimming, hiking, and more.
Although golden retrievers would want nothing more than cuddling up with you on the couch, they do lead an active lifestyle and need space to run around. They are also gentle, smart, and have a stable temperament which is ideal for outdoor activities.
Another dog breed that needs physical attention to remain mentally strong is the Australian shepherd. These dogs are natural herders and love outdoor activities. These loyal, affectionate, and good-looking dogs also belong to the working family and have boundless energy and endurance to last long on hikes and trails.
They require obedience training and daily exercise to maintain their positive attitudes. They make great hiking partners and are extremely protective of their owners, so beware before introducing them to strangers and other pets.
Jack Russell Terrier
Jack Russell terriers might seem small, but they are one of the best dogs for hiking and backpacking. Don’t be deceived by their small frame; these highly energetic dogs were trained to hunt rodents and foxes, thus perfect for hiking and outdoor activities.
Moreover, Russell terriers are very intelligent and need a family or owner that can give them ample time and attention to avoid destructive behavior. You need to train these dogs from a very early age, but they will follow your commands and be a perfect hiking companion once they are trained.
Essentials for a Dog Hiking Trip
Since you are taking your furry friend along for the hike, you must pack the essentials to ensure the journey is smooth and you have all the necessities if anything goes wrong.
Besides your own backpack, your dog needs a backpack too, to carry their stuff. There are many hiking backpack options available in the market nowadays, but how to choose and what to pack? When buying a dog hiking backpack, make sure to measure your dog chest and find a fit that is neither too tight nor loose. You need to give your dog breathing space but make it snug enough, so it doesn’t fall off.
When it comes to packing, don’t overload the backpack. Ideally, it should only be 10% of your dog’s weight. This can vary depending on the breed, age, size, and strength.
Food and Treats
If you are going on a long hike, hours or days, it’s best to be prepared in the food department. Dogs and humans eat more than usual when out on a hike or any outdoor activity. You need to ensure that you pack enough food for yourself and your dog to last the whole trip.
Moreover, it's best to pack your dog’s favorite treats as well. This helps in keeping the dogs in line, rewarding them for being excellent hiking partners, or grabbing their attention if they wander off during the journey.
If you have a dog that doesn’t do well in colder temperatures or rain, then it's best to keep a dog coat in your backpack. The dog coat is ideal if you know the hike will get higher and colder. It will be comfortable for your dog, can act as extra soft padding during sleep, and keep them warm and dry.
Make sure to buy a dog coat that is soft, washable, and a comfortable fit for your dog.
You don’t want your furry baby’s paws to get injured during hiking. And with rough terrain filled with rocks, cracks, and snow, there isn’t much you can do about it until now. There are paw protection booties available for dogs of all ages and sizes. These booties cover up your dog’s feet, protect them from hot rocks or snow, and prevent sharp objects from harming your dog’s paws.
They are ideal for hiking, but dogs do need time to get used to it. So make sure you prepare your dog ahead of the hiking day by practicing with paw booties and backpacks.
First Aid Kit
Anything can happen, and you need to be prepared for it. As calling a vet is not an option, you need to pack a hefty first aid kit that can assist you and your dog in case of any injuries. For example, pack antiseptic wipes, medicines for you and your dog, bandages, ice pack, and anything important and essential for your dog you can think of.
There are many other things you can pack on your dog’s first hiking trip, such as appropriate water and food bowls, dog leash and collar, sleeping bed, shampoo, and more.
Before planning your hiking journey, preparing your dog is another thing to keep in mind. No matter how energetic your dog is, it is important that they are trained properly before you trust them on such dangerous heights. Create a checklist and see if your dog is physically fit, follows basic commands, and has all their vaccinations done.
Also, beware of trail hazards like extreme temperatures, feral animals, strangers, and other dogs. If your hiking companion is not prepared for these challenges, they might not be the best fit for the job. We hope this list of the best dogs for hiking and backpacking is helpful and aids in making a well-informed decision.
About THE AUTHOR
I have had dogs my whole life and have always trained my own dogs with patience and positive reinforcement. My dogs are my life. My family always had dogs growing up. I've trained dogs for clients while working at a local dog daycare. I hope that my research and experiences are helpful to you as I share them here.Read More About Russell Wright