Best Dogs for Hiking: Top Breeds for the Trail

A woman hugging her dog while sitting at the top of a mountain

Bounding up the trail, tail wagging, and nose sniffing, hiking with the right dog is an invitation to remember that while the summit may be the goal, the joy is in the journey. But before you hit the trail with your pup, make sure they’re physically able to tackle the route. Ask yourself:

  1. Can your dog keep up? Does your dog tire out before you do when playing vigorously? If so, your dog might not have the endurance for a hike. 
  2. Is your dog obedient? Will your dog reliably obey you when distracted and is your dog well-socialized? Make sure you’ve got down the obedience basics before a big hike, especially in a popular area. 
  3. Does your dog have physical restrictions? Puppies and short-legged dogs might not be well-equipped to tackle difficult terrain. And short-nosed or brachycephalic dogs like boxers, pugs, and bulldogs are susceptible to respiratory issues that make long-distance hiking challenging or inadvisable.  
  4. Does your pup have a clean bill of health? Before you hit the trail, make sure your hiking dog has regular checkups and is up to date on vaccinations and flea and tick preventive medicines.  

Most healthy, physically fit dogs can handle a hike, just be mindful of any physical limitations and research the route before you go. But if you’re bagging peaks and hiking the backcountry, there are some standout breeds we love to hike with—plus a few honorable mentions.

A Rhodesian Ridgeback dog standing outside

The Rhodesian Ridgeback

Historically bred to track large game in southern Africa, this breed adapts better to heat than most. A fast runner with incredible endurance, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is equipped with low maintenance short hair and thick paw pads that tackle rough terrain. Loyal and hardworking, this breed has the energy to keep up when the going gets tough. 

A Vizsla dog standing on a road in the woods

The Vizsla

Natural runners who excel at speed, strength, endurance, navigating obstacles, and jumping, Vizslas are well-equipped for hiking. And thanks to their short coats, Vizslas adapt well to hikes in warm to temperate climates. Vizslas are high-energy dogs who need frequent exercise, so are a great choice for those who make hiking a regular activity. 

A Bernese Mountain Dog smiles from the shore with water and evergreen trees in the background

The Bernese Mountain Dog

It’s right there in the name—these hardy and affectionate gentle giants were bred to be working farm dogs in the Swiss Alps and life in the mountains is in their blood. The Bernese Mountain Dog can pull ten times their body weight, so they’ll even be able to carry their own pack on the trail. Plus, their heavy coats are ideal for cold-weather hikes.

A black puppy Labrador Retriever standing in a boat tied to a dock

The Labrador Retriever

A favorite for good reason, loyal Labs are a natural fit for a life outdoors. Strong, hardworking, and athletic, this breed is a versatile hiking partner. Labrador Retrievers are also known for their love of water, so will welcome crossing streams or taking a splash into a lake along the way. 

A Portuguese Water Dog splashing through the waves

The Portuguese Water Dog

Speaking of water-loving breeds, the Portuguese Water Dog was bred for life on the water, herding fish, retrieving lost tackle and nets, and swimming as a courier between ships and to shore. This adventurous dog makes a great companion on land, too, with the endurance to take on the trail and an affable attitude that makes for excellent company on the mountain.

A Siberian Husky sitting outside in the snow

The Siberian Husky & The Alaskan Malamute

While distinct breeds, we love the Siberian husky and Alaskan Malamute for their endurance and hardiness on cold weather hikes. The bigger and stronger of the two, the Malamute has massive feet that act like snowshoes while the more compact husky is happy to cover long distances—either of these dogs is a great choice if you don’t let a little snow keep you from the trail.

A brown and white Jack Russel Terrier sitting on a tree limb

Honorable Mentions

  • Agile and energetic, Australian shepherds will thrive on steep inclines and long hikes, making them great hiking partners. Just be mindful of temperature extremes with this otherwise hardy dog. 
  • Not just for hunting, German shorthaired pointers can run circles around us on the trail and thrive with appropriate exercise to burn off that energy. However, with their enthusiastic prey drive, make sure you’ve mastered a recall command before the hike.  
  • Small, but mighty, don’t let the Jack Russell terrier’s size fool you, this breed has boundless energy and does not tire easily with a spirit and determination that’ll inspire you to the next summit. 
  • Named for their pest control prowess, the rat terrier is a tenacious breed like the Jack Russell, a great choice for those without lots of space at home but who love to get outdoors with their dog. 
  • Last but certainly not least, and the most versatile of all, mixed-breed dogs often combine attributes of different breeds we love in unique ways. With unlimited combinations to choose from, it’s worth checking your local animal shelter or rescue for a one-of-a-kind breed to get outside with.
A black and white dog happily running through a field

Happy Trails

If you’re looking for good company on the trail, these breeds and guidelines are a great starting point. Consider your lifestyle, the climate you live in, and the hikes you tend to do to find the right pup. Whatever your choice, hiking with a dog is an experience to savor. Even on the most familiar trails, our dogs always get us to slow down and see a well-trodden path with fresh eyes and renewed enthusiasm—can’t ask for much more in a hiking partner. 

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