Let’s face it: many of us love the company of animals more than people, and for some, that love is specifically for dogs. While the old adage that “a dog is man’s best friend” might sound sexist today, we do agree that a dog could very well be their human’s dearest companion. Some folks love the outdoors - and indeed if you’re both looking to head to the great outdoors to get away from people for a while and also like dogs more than people - then it’s probably a good idea to find the ideal breed for your adventures with a four-legged companion. Wandering off into the mountains is just so much better when you’ve got a friend (or several) along who will follow you wherever and won’t bore you with needless conversations.
Dogs, of course, share a common ancestor with wolves, and therefore it is of little surprise that they would make ideal outdoor companions as such. If your dogs don’t get to roam freely on a regular basis, then it’s all the more important to take them with you into the great outdoors - and this is especially true of outdoor breeds. It might take a bit more planning to take your dog(s) along on your next adventure, but it’s well worth the additional effort. Some breeds can even help you carry the additional stuff you have to bring along, so don’t let this stop you.
What to look for when choosing a dog for hiking
Different dogs suit different people, and so we’ve come up with a list of the best breeds for different types of outdoor adventurers to take along with them. You might love your Pomeranian when it comes and sits on your lap, but the fact remains that it would probably be an impractical companion for a hiking trip. Furthermore, it also will depend on exactly what kind of outdoor activities that you’re seeking a companion for as to which breed is the most suitable for your needs and requirements. A Siberian Husky might be a great dog for harsh winters and mountaineering, but if you live in a warmer climate then you should choose another breed that’s more suitable. Assuming that you’re starting out with a pup, it’s probably best to train it so that you don’t have any problems when venturing into the wilderness.
There are also certain considerations that you should make if you’re taking your canine companion along on any outdoor adventure, especially if it’s the first time. Depending on your activity and where you’ll be going, you might want to think about special gear for your dog as well. You should seriously consider a first-aid kit intended for dogs if you’re taking your dog on any outdoor adventure, and also learn what to do in case of injuries. Certain other outdoor activities may require additional equipment - canine life jackets for whitewater kayaking and perhaps thermal protective gear for harsher conditions. You can also find specialised outdoor kits for your dog so that you have all of your needs in one handy bag.
Best Hiking Dog Breeds
1. Siberian Husky
Siberian Huskies need no introduction as outdoor dogs: they are, along with Alaskan Malamutes, one of the favorite sled dog breeds. Huskies might be useless as guard dogs because they have a habit of befriending anyone they meet, but they’re great companions and notable for how gentle and loving they can be.
Huskies can be prone to certain health issues, so you should check with the breeder to ensure that you don’t have to deal with this. You should also be cautious about the fact that being bred in a cold climate, they can overheat easily if they’re too active. This is due to their dual-layered coat, which of course is a boon in colder climates.
2. Bernese Mountain Dog
With their origins as working dogs in the Swiss Alps, Bernese mountain dogs are a particularly great choice if you like mountaineering but are suitable for other sorts of outdoor excursions as well. Since Bernese are both large and very active, you should ensure that they have plenty of room to run around and play - so if you head out on regular outdoor excursions, they’re an ideal choice. Bernese mountain dogs are also able to carry several times their own body weight, which means that they’ll happily take on the weight of all of your extra gear. They also have heavy coats, which are good for the harsh cold that one finds climbing mountains just as their name implies. In addition to being ready for any outdoor adventure due to their genetics, Bernese love learning new things and are both intelligent and loving pets. They’re always happy to please their owners and also are quite benign around children. Like Huskies, Bernese are prone to overheating and should not be kept in hot climates.
3. German Shepherd
German shepherds are popular, highly intelligent dogs and will be fiercely loyal to boot. They’re a large, sturdy breed that will do well on hiking expeditions - including rough terrain and cold climates. If you’re looking for a great guard dog and outdoor companion, this is the breed for you.
Vizslas are an active sporting breed and make great companions for anyone who’s active. Like other breeds on this list, they have the energy to keep going all day long. They’re also bred for hunting, and as such will love hiking and the great outdoors. They also have excellent vision.
Since Vizslas have a strong protective instinct, they make great guard dogs while remaining very affectionate with their owners. Some of the other breeds on this list have heavy coats which shed a lot, but you shouldn’t have this issue with a Vizsla.
5. Border Collie
Border collies are known for being energetic dogs who love to run and play, and who try to herd anything that moves. Indeed, you will have to train them if you want to manage their instincts, but their energy and loyalty make them great hiking companions. If you’re hiking with a group or with your kids, this herding instinct is also very useful in keeping everyone in line.
Border collies are generally strong and sturdy for their size and don’t have a lot of genetic issues. Since they don’t tire easily, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about taking them hiking. As they can be wary of strangers, they can be great guard dogs as well.
6. Australian Shepherd
Another high-energy herding breed, Australian shepherds require much exercise and stimulation - making them a great outdoor breed. Like border collies, these dogs won’t tire on all-day excursions and can handle harsh weather and steep trails without any problem at all.
Because Australian shepherds are alert and aware of their surroundings, they can be good for taking along on both hiking and camping trips.
7. German Shorthaired Pointer
German shorthaired pointers are energetic and intelligent dogs and make great hiking companions. While they can withstand running around all day, this breed needs a minimum of several hours of daily exercise. Since German shorthaired pointers are hunting dogs, they will chase after birds and other animals if not kept on a leash.
As they’re an active breed and need to run around, you should not keep them confined in a house or apartment all day. They also hate being left alone, and are much happier with company.
8. Alaskan Malamute
Malamutes are one of the oldest sled dog breeds in existence, so if you’re going hiking in rugged and cold terrain then they can be an ideal companion. They’re larger and stronger than huskies and can take temperatures as low as -70°F. If you’re a snow and ice enthusiast, you should consider this breed as a good choice.
Malamutes have a lot of endurance, which makes them great hiking dogs, but they will need to be kept on a leash when going for walks. Like Bernese mountain dogs, they can help carry your stuff while on a hike. They’re also a great family breed.
9. Labrador Retriever
Labs might be the lovable all-American family dog, but they’re also great outdoor dogs who are especially comfortable in the water. This is one breed that can accompany you not only on hiking trips but in the water as well. If you want a versatile family dog on land or on water, this is the breed for you.
Labs need a lot of exercise, and if you keep them cooped up all the time, they will become obese. Because of their friendly and outgoing nature, Labradors are the most popular dog breed in the United States.
10. Portuguese Water Dog
If you and your family love water sports as well as other outdoor activities, the Portuguese water dog will be a great choice as a companion on your adventures. Traditionally, this breed accompanied fishermen out to sea, but later became known as a working breed. Ultimately, they declined in popularity and almost became extinct until one breeder decided to try reviving them in the 1930s.
Portuguese water dogs are friendly and active, but they won’t shed all over your house either. They take well to training, and if you like kayaking and want an ideal companion then look no further.