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10 Hiking Dogs That Make the Best Trail Companions


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Like many active families, we love getting out into nature and spending the day hiking the trails of Northern California. Naturally, that means we bring our pup along with us whenever possible. There are so many dog-friendly trails around our home that it would be a shame to leave him behind! Hiking with a dog is a great way to get all of their excess energy out. The movement provides physical exercise, while the changing scenery and different smells provide plenty of mental stimulation.

The best dog breeds for hiking are usually active pooches with enough strength and stamina to handle varying terrain and long distances. Medium and large dog breeds are usually better adapted for this type of activity, while some short-legged and brachycephalic dogs may find it difficult to walk very far or exercise in certain climates. No matter what kind of dog you have, you should always work your way up to longer hikes and be prepared for anything you may encounter on the trail.

Wondering which pups are best suited for outdoor adventures? There are plenty of options, but here's a look at 10 of the best dog breeds for hiking.

1. Australian Kelpie

A kelpie sits in a field

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Kelpies are devoted working dogs with seemingly unlimited energy, so they make excellent hiking buddies. While they may be too intense for a first-time dog owner, they are perfect for experienced pet parents who like to spend long hours hiking and doing other outdoor activities. Kelpies originally came from Scotland, but were used in Australia to care for sheep herds--so dry, warm conditions don't bother these pups. They do have a strong herding instinct, so if you aren't careful, it can extend to you or small children. Hiking will keep their minds entertained and drain some of their seemingly unlimited energy.

2. Border Collie

border collie

Border collies are one of the most energetic dog breeds. They can keep going for days, which is useful for herding cattle, sheep, and other farm animals. However, they're more than just working dogs. Border collies make great companions and love to go on adventures with their pack. They're known for their speed and stamina, so you should keep your pup leashed at all times if they don't have a strong recall.

3. Labrador Retriever

A Labrador retriever holds a stick in its mouth

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Labrador retrievers are the most popular dog breed year after year, and it's easy to see why. They are loyal, easy to train, and all around adorable. Labs make excellent trail buddies because they love to be outdoors--especially if water is involved. Most labs love to spend time in any body of water, and their water-repelling coats make swimming a fun and low-maintenance activity. Hiking (with a few stops at lakes or streams along the way) is a perfect way to get a lab's energy out.

4. Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese mountain dog sits on a hill

Their name says it all: Bernese mountain dogs were literally bred for life in the mountains. This Swiss working dog breed originally came from the Alps, where their main job was pulling carts. These pups are well adapted for hiking and can easily tackle any terrain. However, they prefer cooler weather to hot temperatures--so go out early in the day if you take a Bernese mountain dog on a hike. This breed is also known for having genetic issues with their hips and elbows, which is important to keep an eye on as they age.

5. Dalmatian

a Dalmatian walks on a path

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Dalmatians love to run. They were originally bred to run next to stagecoaches, horses, and fire trucks, so they can easily spend long periods of time exercising in various weather conditions. This breed is relatively easy to train and should be able to spend time off-leash with a lot of patience and practice. Hiking gives Dalmatians a productive way to burn off their energy and time spent on the trails is one of the best ways to get in some exercise.

6. Vizsla

vizsla splashes in the water

Vizslas are more than just a pretty face! With their athletic bodies and endless amounts of energy, this breed would pair well with a dog owner who has an active lifestyle. Vizslas like to have space to play and exercise, so if you love spending time on the trail, they'll be happy to run alongside you. These pooches will need a lot of attention as puppies but can become great pets with proper socialization, training, and consistency.

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7. German Shepherd

a German shepherd walks in the water

German shepherds are called velcro dogs for a reason. They love spending time with their families and have plenty of energy. However, because they have genetic issues with their hips and elbows, you may want to have your GSD cleared by your vet before you head out for a hike. German shepherds thrive on structured training and are eager to please, making it easy for you to train them for off-leash romps. Socialization and training will make these furry best friends great hiking companions.

8. Jack Russell Terriers

Jack Russell stands with a harness and leash on

While Jack Russell terriers may be on the smaller side, they are absolute firecrackers. Jack Russells have all the intelligence and energy of some of the larger breeds on this list--they just come in a smaller package. If you prefer small dogs but still want a hiking partner, the Jack Russell terrier is the perfect pup for you. They were bred for hunting rats and mice in the streets, so they have a lot of intelligence and drive. Just remember: a bored Jack Russell will destroy anything they can get their paws (and teeth!) on.

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9. Australian Shepherd

Australian shepherd sits on the ground

Australian shepherds are another herding dog who loves going on adventures. These pups require a lot of exercise and have an energy level that can withstand longer hikes. Aussies love brain games, agility, and having a job. Like the other dogs on this list, they are happiest when they have something purposeful to do and require plenty of mental stimulation.

10. German Shorthaired Pointer

German shorthair stands in a field

German shorthaired pointers are speedy, agile, high-energy dogs who love to roam. These sporting dogs make perfect hunting companions and excel at agility sports thanks to their endless endurance. GSPs need an abundance of physical exercise and mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy, so they'd certainly benefit from regular hikes.

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Do you take your pup hiking? Tell us on our Wide Open Pets Facebook page.

READ MORE: 17 Most Affectionate Dog Breeds That Love to Snuggle

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