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How To Choose The Best Hiking Dog For You


May 5, 2018

Choose The Right Hiking Dog

So what makes a good trail dog? We broke these down into personality / traits, training, and physical / health requirements.

Choose the right hiking dog for you! Be sure to read our article The Top 24 Best Hiking Dogs next!

While there may be good traits for a hiking dog, it’s still important to socialize and train whatever dog you end up getting.

You also need to consider what kind of hiking you will be doing and what will be most suitable for your dog.





Short Hair – Bonus points go to short-haired dogs. Twigs and branches don’t get stuck in their fur so there is less maintenance involved on the trail. Short hair also dries faster and it’s much easier to spot ticks on your dog.

Agile – The more agile your dog is, the more likely he is able to navigate across rough or challenging terrain. Your dog will be able to bound more easily across large boulders or uneven terrain without fear. They may even take on jumping and climbing up small surfaces and be as nimble as a mountain goat.

Reliability Off Leash – Love the thought of having a dog off leash while on a hike off? First off, it’s important to follow area leash policies for dogs. They are up for a reason and there to protect the general population. Some dogs are more reliable off leash and will come back to you when called or have a natural disposition to go back to their owner. Others may have high prey drive, an independent streak, or prone to run away. Some may not be able to navigate their way back to you by sight and smell as well as others. If you do have your dog off leash, it’s always good practice to have your dog within your sight and hearing at all times. You must have command of your dog and excellent recall.

Working Dog – This isn’t the only criteria of a great hiking partner, but working dogs are always looking for something to do. They were bred to do a job and assist humans. Give your dog a backpack to carry! Most working dogs are highly intelligent and love the bond they have with their humans.

Endurance & Strength – In itself, hiking builds endurance and strength. Some dogs, however, are naturally very strong and bred to carry large loads or run long distances for a purpose. These dogs are great if you want to go on a longer hike, without the need to carry them back home or stop for breaks all the time. They can hold their own!

Barking – Barking can sometimes annoy bears, so it’s best to have a dog that you can train to stay quiet if needed. A dog that barks too much may also bother many people or frighten them. They may not be the best dog to take out on certain trails deep in the backcountry or trails that are too crowded.



No matter what type of breed of dog you have, you need to give him basic training to be trail ready. Skills such as sit, stay, come / touch, and leave it can go as far as saving you and your dog’s life. Recall is absolutely essential for an off leash dog.

You need to commit the time early on to teach and socialize your dog while they are young. You’ll only make it easier to go on more adventures later and negate aggressive or fearful tendencies. Smart dogs are generally easy to train, but it’s also important to get a dog that is eager to please and not too independent. Otherwise, more training may be required.

Good trail etiquette involved passing people on the right with your dog at your right side. If a horse or bike go by, or you are on a single-track trail, step to the side with your dog and have him sit until the other party passes by.

Not all dogs may be friendly, so don’t assume that another dog is. Always stay calm on the trail so your dog is calm. Dogs can pick up on your senses fast. Keep control of your dog at all times.

You should also carry poop bags or bring a trowel with you to clean up after your dog and dispose properly. Many trails follow a leave no trace policy.



Please consult your vet prior to hiking with your dog. Dogs should be fully mature before their first real hike. Puppies need time to develop a mature, strong skeletal system before heading out.

Your dog should have current vaccinations, rabies, and licenses. Most dogs also take preventative medicine for fleas, ticks, and heartworm. Consult your vet if you need special vaccinations or your dog requires special care while on the trail.



Need more information about hiking with your dog? We have a few articles that will get you started.

Top 24 Best Hiking Dogs

The Beginner’s Guide To Hiking

Winter Paw Care and Treatment For The Outdoor Dog

Tips For Hiking In The Rain: Staying Dry to Paw / Foot Care

Top 10 Safety Tips: Winter Hiking With Your Dog – Comprehensive Guide

Is there a great dog-friendly activity or event missing from our list? Contact us so we can share it with the community!

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Related Pawtivity / Event: Hiking
Activities: Hiking, Walking, Backpacking, Biking, Running

About the Author

Life is an endless journey with a dog at your side. Find your next dog friendly adventure on Pawtivity!  We are a community that inspires and captures the stories of our dogs.

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