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The Top 24 Best Hiking Dogs By Category


May 5, 2018

Pick the Best Hiking Dog For You

Are you considering getting a dog that can go hiking with you? We give you a rundown of the most active dogs that also make a good hiking buddies!

We grouped dogs into categories that should help you find the best type of hiking dog that matches your lifestyle and hiking preferences.

This guide should help you narrow down which hiking dog to get.

Have kids? Get a dog for active families. Do a lot of backcountry hiking? You’ll need a dog that is reliable off-leash and can adventure with you off the beaten path. Go on a lot of challenging, rough terrain, want a smaller companion, or live in a cold area? We have dog recommendations for you too.

Here is our list for the best hiking and trail dogs.

Choose a dog that matches your own hiking preferences. How long do you hike and at what level? In what weather and terrain conditions? With whom?



Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers love to be with a family and are great with kids. They will be happiest walking with the family and in an area where they can play near the water. Golden retrievers have strong retrieval instincts, so bring along a toy for them to fetch on your outing. These dogs are obedient and have great agility. Retrievers are prone to hip dysplasia when they get older which will severely limit how much they can hike.

Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dogs were bred as a farm dog in Switzerland. They are large and gentle dogs that need a lot of space to roam. As a mountain dog, they are comfortable on rough rocky terrain but hikes should be shorter. Otherwise, take frequent breaks as these dogs may not have high endurance. The Bernese Mountain Dog loves to be social and make friends so they are great in an area with a lot of families and smaller children. Lessen your load by giving them a pack to carry. They can carry a lot!

Brittany Spaniel

Brittany Spaniels are actually one of the smallest bred hunting dogs, so they are a great off-leash dog that love to work with humans. Socialized Brittany Spaniels are well mannered even with strangers, kids and other dogs. These dogs don’t need a commanding owner. Just guide them along and they’ll be eager to follow you wherever you go. Don’t confuse compliance with being mellow. Brittany Spaniels need exercise and are very athletic. Otherwise, they are prone to separation anxiety and hyperactivity. They can keep up with you and your active family easily, even on a run.


Dalmations have superb endurance. They used to protect horses that pulled stagecoaches, so they make great biking companions who can keep up with you for a long distance. You’ll need to take a Dalmation out pretty regularly, otherwise they will become destructive. This is probably not the dog for a first time owner as they need a firm hand. Dalmations can be stubborn without proper guidance and exercise. At the same time, these dogs can be very loving and playful to their family members.


Weimaraners are another affectionate dog who is great for the active family. They are a great companion dog for short or long walks in any type of terrain. A short coat makes them easy to care for on the trail. It’s easy to train these dogs, but they do need an owner that can be committed to training them and giving them attention. They also need constant exercise. Otherwise, Weimaraners can become stubborn and disobedient.



Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retrievers love to swim in water. They make a great companion for any family with young kids that likes to camp and hike. They will be anyone’s best pal since. Labs are friendly towards anyone, even strangers, and other dogs. It’s no wonder that these dogs are consistently rated one of America’s most popular dogs. Labradors do need constant exercise, or will become overweight. Like golden retrievers, they are prone to hip dysplasia so that may limit how much hiking they can do in senior years.

Portuguese Water Dog

The Portuguese Water Dog actually has webbed feet, so they make great swimmers that love to play in the water. They are tireless in any outdoor adventure and great off-leash on a long walk as they like to be near their owner. Portuguese Water Dogs need constant exercise or can become independent and strong-willed. Those with allergies should consider this dog as they are hypoallergenic with a curly to wavy coat.


Poodles are extremely smart, obedient dogs that can do well off-leash on a long hike. They are highly trainable, loyal, and just love to play. Being sociable, poodles are highly tolerant with kids. Compared to the Portuguese Water Dog, Poodles are leggier, graceful and have tight, curly hair. Poodles do need constant companionship or attention, otherwise become prone to separation anxiety. They also bark a lot to demand attention, so perhaps not the best dog for standard campsites or in the backcountry.



Pembroke Welsh Corgi

The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is a small to medium sized dog that just loves to play, a perfect fit for an active owner with kids. Corgis are natural herders and bark a lot. You will do well on a long, flat trail as these dogs have short leg but can keep up with you. Corgis can hike a 5-6 miles with you without a problem, but will have to build up their endurance for day-long hikes.

Jack Russell Terrier

Jack Russell Terriers are one of the most lively, high-strung dogs out there. Bred to hunt foxes, they are fast on a run and can tear it up on the trail. They are also jokesters and will always make you laugh. Jack Russells are highly trainable so they are good as a trick dog and will do well in sports such a flyball or agility. These dogs need constant activity and love to chew, bark, and chase so they need an owner who can keep up with that. These dogs are great for those that like to run or bike on the trail where they always need to keep up with you. Otherwise, they need to be on leash as they have high prey drive. Early socialization is key to reduce aggression towards other dogs.

Patterdale Terrier

Since Carmella is honorary pup of Pawtivity, we couldn’t help but not list the Patterdale Terrier! Patterdales are very active, smart, and strong willed dogs that are fiercely loyal and affectionate to their family. They love to smell and explore, so need an owner who loves the outdoors or has a large field to play in. Patterdales have high prey drive and were bred to hunt foxes, rabbits and rats. They are best kept hiking on leash. Unlike Jack Russells, Patterdales don’t bark much which make them a great companion camping or backcountry hiking. Early socialization and training is key as Patterdales can be intense and perceived as aggressive to other dogs.


Daschunds are a little dog with big personality. They have high stamina and can go a long distance despite their short, muscular legs. This loyal dog loves to play with his family and do everything with them. If something is amiss they will alert you with a loud bark. Watch out if your Daschund is off-leash as they love to sniff around. It’s part of their breed instincts for sniffing out badgers. Just make sure they are not poking their noses in the wrong place! Daschunds are prone to disk problems so it may not do so well on stairs or steep climbs.

Norwegian Lundehund

The Norwegian Lundehund was bred to hunt puffin eggs and live puffins on cliffs, so they are a small dog that is nimble and surefooted on their paws. Having six toes on each paw helps! Take this dog on a mountain hike and they will be at ease navigating rocky terrain. They will also love swimming in a mountain stream. You may want to keep them on leash while on a hike as these dogs are curious by nature and love to explore small passageways. Early socialization will help reduce shyness.

Source: Lundtola – Rosa – Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.



German Shepherd

German Shepherds are known for being service dogs to the police and military. They are highly trainable and excel at obedience. A trained German Shepherd would be a great dog to take with you for some off leash hiking or backpacking. They are also protective when needed and can navigate through rough terrain. You’ll find a loyal sidekick with this dog, but without adequate exercise and attention you’ll have one destructive pup instead.

Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd is an extremely intelligent and easy to train dog. They are agile and make a great hiking partner for long hikes in tough terrain. You won’t ever find yourself having to carry or motivate an Australian Shepherd as these dogs are always ready to go. These dogs are devoted to their owner and you won’t have to worry about them straying too far. They will bark to alert you of any pending danger and protect their family. Bring a brush on your walk since debris is likely to get in their fur.

German Shorthaired Pointer

The German Shorthaired Pointer is known for having a great nose. They were trained to find and retrieve waterfowl. German Shorthaired Pointers are highly trainable and sure footed for rough terrain. They have a flat water-resistant coat that helps the regular temperature and repel dirt. Webbed feet make them great swimmers. Don’t worry about losing track of this dog. He will likely find you and hates being away from people. German Shorthaired Pointers can be reserved with strangers and will bark if they come across anyone or anything unfamiliar to them.



Rhodesian Ridgeback

The Rhodesian Ridgeback was bred to hunt lions in Africa, so they are naturally comfortable in hot temperatures and have high endurance to get through a lot. If you live in a hot area or a desert area, this dog will be comfortable adventuring by your side. Rhodesian Ridgebacks have very high prey drive, so probably not a dog to leave off-leash. They are affectionate with their family, but can be guarded with strangers. You’ll need to give them firm, consistent training and early socialization.


The Vizsla is known to be a fast dog that can run long distances. Their short, thin coat make them a great dog for hot weather. They never like to stray too far from their owner, so are a great off-leash companion as well. Vizslas are gentle and affectionate but always ready to go. Don’t get a Vizsla if you will be away a lot and can’t give them at least 2 hours of daily exercise. They are prone to separation anxiety and can become destructive.

Airedale Terrier

The Airedale Terrier is the largest of the terrier family. Their coats are wiry. When temperatures rise, just strip down their coats. These dogs are smart, easy to train and outgoing. They are also playful which make them such a fun dog to have around on any adventure, especially with kids. The Airedale Terrier is an independent dog, so you’ll have to provide consistent training and playtime.



Siberian Husky

Known for dog sled racing, Siberian Huskies were made to run and hike in the snow. Their warm double coat protects them from the cold. Combined with endurance, power, and speed these dogs will challenge you in any winter outing. Siberian Huskies are very friendly dogs with a pack mentality so make sure you include them in family gatherings. These dogs are not the easiest to train, so not a great candidate for a first time dog owner. You’ll want to keep your dog on leash.

Alaskan Malamute

The Alaskan Malamute also has a double coat that protects them from the cold. They are much larger and stronger than a Siberian Husky, but have the same friendly demeanor. Good training is a must with this dog as they can be stubborn, independent and hard to control due to their size. If you live in a cold area, this dog will feel right at home.



Border Collie

There is little wonder why you see Border Collie excel in so many dog sports, including agility and disc dog. They are one of the most intelligent dog breeds which make them very trainable. They also follow directions well and have a good tireless and positive temperament. Border Collies don’t have high prey drive so this makes them better for off leash outdoor activities. These dogs are active, so owners need to be able to commit to giving them enough exercise and mental stimulation to keep them happy.

Australian Cattle Dog

Another all-around adventurer is the Australian Cattle Dog, also known as the Queensland, Blue, or Red Heeler. These dogs are great for backpackers and 14er hikers as they can navigate through any terrain. They also are a loyal companions that will make you smile while on the trail. Being highly trainable, they are reliable off leash and will take direction from you easily.

Mixed Breed

You know your dog best. Mixed dogs often have the best traits from multiple breeds. Sometimes, shelter dogs become the most loyal and loving companion as they truly appreciate the bond they have with their owner.

Let us know what type of dog you end up choosing! What hiking adventures do you go on?


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.

Instagram @pawtivity

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