5 Best Dogs For Hiking Companions

Hiker with backpack hiking with dog on trail

Hiking can be a rewarding solitary endeavor, but anyone who’s gone on an adventure with friends can appreciate the value of sharing the journey. A companion can offer confidence and feedback, enriching the exercise through shared experience.

However, you can’t plan every hiking trip around the availability of friends and family. When you want to hit the trails on your time, yet guarantee a friendly and helpful companion, it might be time to look into adopting a dog. Dogs can be fearless, protective, and encouraging, driving you onward with their guileless lust for life. A dog can help you hit the sweet spot between a meditative solo trek and a lively hiking party.

While almost any dog would love to accompany you on a wild path through rough terrain, not every breed is built for the physical and mental strain that comes with serious hiking. We’ve done the research to bring you a list of the 5 best dogs to bring along as hiking companions. While specific traits often make these breeds superior, keep in mind the fact that no two dogs are the same. Individual experience will vary!

1. Australian Shepards

australian shepard on a hillslope looking down at a lake

The Australian shepherd is a highly regarded herding dog. This breed demands physical exercise and mental stimulation, and has an innate desire to be with you at all times. With an often intense energy, they do quite well outdoors in a variety of settings.

Being bred for herding duties for centuries, these dogs are highly adaptable and will perform capably in steep or rough terrain. Aussies, whether possessing a hyperactive or relaxed personality (they can be either), will be agile and adventurous when venturing into the wild.

If your idea of hiking is more adventure than Sunday stroll, the Australian shepherd may be your best match.

2. Australian Cattle Dog

Australian cattle dog walking on the beach

This breed, like its Australian cousin above, is a born and bred herder. Two hundred years ago, Australia was a wide open scrubby land, and cattlemen needed a hardy and hardworking dog to move cattle over rough ground. The cattle dog was developed to master this demanding job.

Abundant energy, strong yet compact build, and an exceedingly intelligent mind are all traits at the forefront of what makes this a desirable breed. These dogs are rarely content to sit around, preferring action and direction at all times. The cattle dog needs a job to do, and hiking might be just the ticket. Requiring little maintenance beyond the opportunity to be active and instructed, the breed makes a great companion for lengthy outdoor adventures.

3. Portuguese Water dog

Portugese water dog running in a field of grass

True-to-form, as the breed name implies, the Portuguese water dog is more than at home in a watery environment. Playful and energetic, yet even tempered and polite, this dog is a fantastic family companion. However, if your predilections run toward water sports or hiking near lakes and rivers, the breed can truly shine.

This dog is a quick learner, demanding in-depth training and regular mental stimulation. Oddly enough, the breed was originally cultivated to herd fish into nets, which nods toward its dual instincts of herding and mastery of water activities. Preferring close proximity with its owner, the Portuguese water dog does particularly well unleashed.

4. Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese mountain dog pubby sitting on ground

As a close cousin to the venerable mountaintop search-and-rescue breed Saint Bernard, the Bernese is an intelligent, adaptable dog that is well suited to cold climate hikes. Along with affection­ to spare and a thoughtful demeanor, the breed sports a long silky coat, allowing it to withstand cold temperatures with ease.

If your idea of a perfect hiking expedition involves snow and ice, the Bernese mountain dog could be the canine companion you’re looking for. While its large frame doesn’t make for the best endurance levels, the sturdy body is capable of holding a surprising amount of weight. Possessing the ability to help carry your gear and a coat that practically ignores wintry weather makes this dog a great choice for hikers in Northern or mountainous climates.

5. Vizsla

Vizsla in the mountains

The Vizsla is known, first and foremost, for its extreme energy and athleticism. One of the most active breeds around, this sporting dog was originally bred as a bird dog. Possessing characteristics of both pointers and retrievers, the Vizsla is powerful and intelligent, making a great companion out in the wild.

The dog will seek out adventure and drive you forward, yet remain alert and nearby. Another breed that loves spending time in water, this dog will love treks along lake shores and river banks. While a doggie coat can help make up for its short coat during winter weather, the breed is better suited for adventurous owners in temperate climates. As long as you’re content to remain active, this dog will stick right by your side.

If you’re looking to break the monotony of hiking in solitude, but have a hard time negotiating the rough waters of scheduling conflicts with friends and family, a dog might be the perfect addition to your life. While they require dedication, care, and a considerable investment of time, a capable canine companion can be the most rewarding hiking partner of all. With a four legged friend always eager for another journey, your adventuring life can only improve with the right dog by your side.
(c) 2015

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