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Man’s best friend descended from the gray wolf. It’s in your dog’s nature to love the great outdoors. Letting him blaze through trails in the mountains, forests and river banks is a great honor to him. Most dog breeds will enjoy accompanying you in the occasional sightseeing trips. When looking for the best dogs for hiking, there are some qualities that you should consider.
There are some breeds that are best suited for hiking or backpacking. What you need is a dog who is resilient, well trained and active. Your hiking buddy should be powerful and able to thrive in the outdoor conditions. Go for a dog who can keep his focus on the trail; not a fun-go-lucky fur baby who will be off chasing crawlies and rodents on the way. So how do you go about choosing a hiking dog?
Factors to Consider when Choosing a Hiking Dog
You need to go for a dog that is highly trainable. Avoid breeds which are independent and thrive on isolation. Your hiking buddy should have high recall which means he will be able to tap into his training throughout the trip. Some hiking trips would call for your dog to be on a leash the whole time. In such a situation trainability may not factor much. There is however the chance that your dog will break off his leash and your hike may be reduced to chasing him around.
Dogs are bred to serve specific purposes. It’s up to you to research on which strengths define your dog. Hiking calls for sporting or working dogs. These are breeds that can withstand long hours in rough terrain. Such breeds were bred to work in herding or farming communities. Others originated from fishing communities where they helped in herding fish to nets. These are medium to large build canines who have the physical stamina to spend long hours on the open country.
Coat and Weather
As man’s best friend, your fur baby will do anything to please. That includes accompanying you in harsh weather just for that close bonding. This quality can however work against them especially when they are not suited for specific weather conditions. Find out what your dog’s coat call for.
If your fur baby has long and thick hair, he is not suited for a summer hike. He will be more comfortable trekking in cold weather where he is well insulated by his coat. Hot weather will work against him and he may suffer heat strokes especially during long hikes. The hair will also get dirty more easily and this may interfere with ability to detect small injuries that may get infected. On the other hand, thick hair might actually make it harder for your dog to get injured.
If he has a short coat, it will be easier for you to do body checks but this may also mean that he can easily get injuries. His coat calls for warm weather trips. He will be well adapted to keeping himself cool during the trip. Consider buying him insulation gear for cold-weather hikes.
While no specific coat suits all- weather hiking, you can do the necessary adjustments to ensure that your worthy companion accompanies you regardless of the weather. You may even choose to trim the coat during the warm weather and grow it out when it is cold.
Size and Weight
A hiking dog needs to be strong and powerful. It’s however easy to confuse strength with body size. You need to access how your dog’s size fares in comparison to his resilience. It’s also good to consider the impact of his size and weight on the hiking situations that you are bound to encounter.
Ask yourself if it’s possible to carry him on your back if he is hurt. Will he fit well in the car together with your gear and your hiking party? If he can’t swim, will you be able to carry him across rivers and streams along the way?
The one thought that may cross your mind is that you might need your dog to be aggressive on the hike. The trait can be helpful if you are to hike in the wild or in complete isolation where it’s only you and your canine buddy. In such scenarios your dog will keep you safe and guard you fiercely against any would be attackers; both beast and man.
Hiking in popular trails and areas however calls for a cool dog. These are places where you will encounter other hiking parties. There will be people and other dogs along the way. If you take along an aggressive dog, you will spend most of your time breaking up fights.
Best Outdoor Dog Breeds for Hiking
#1 Rhodesian Ridgeback
When it comes to being tough, this dog leads the pack. They have been nicknamed the Navy Seals of dogs due to their resilience in tough terrains. The breed was developed in Southern Africa. Its ancestors were semi domesticated dogs who were kept to hold back lions during hunts.
These dogs can withstand rugged terrain and high temperatures. They are athletic and intelligent making them a worthy addition to a hike. These dogs are excellent at following orders and are able to maintain focus; you won’t have to worry about them leaving your trail to chase crawlies and rodents along the way.
#2 Bernese Mountain Dog
Are you planning to go on long hikes during the months of winter? If so, then you have a winner! The Bernese mountain dog or simply BMD, is a breed that does well in cold climates and can withstand long hours on the trek. It originated from the Swiss Alps where it was a favorite of dairymen and herders.
The dog is recognized as a Working Dog. As a hiking companion, your canine can carry supplies like food and water. He is also a strong and can pull up to 10 times his weight in gear. Caution should however be observed during summer or hot days since he will tire fast and not be at his best.
#3 Australian Shepherd
The Aussies, as these dog breed is popularly known, are agile and energetic. They are obedient and easy to train. These are among the qualities that made them excellent herding companions in the early 19th century American ranches. They are medium sized and are classified as herding or working dogs.
As hiking companions they will do well for long hours in the open country, rough terrain and steep climbs. Aussies can tolerate cold and hot weather. That said extreme temperatures can be overwhelming for them. The breed features in most search and rescues missions; an intelligent and dependable addition to your hiking party.
#4 Alaskan Malamute
The breed shares similarities with the Siberian Husky and the Canadian Eskimo Dog. Alaskan Malamutes are however more heavily built and powerful. They are classified as working or utility dogs. They were bred to haul heavy language across snowy terrains. They will be good companions for hikes during heavy snow and extreme cold weather.
They can withstand temperatures 70 degrees below zero. If you have camping gear, strap some on a sledge and they will pull it across snow with ease. They are well adapted to walk on snow. Their paws are large and they have sharp claws that anchor firmly on to the cold surface.
The breed originated from Hungary and is classified as a sporting dog. They are of medium build are the smallest version of pointer-retriever breeds. When going for hikes during summer then they are your go to dog. They will endure the weather but their skin may need protection if the hike is going to take long.
Vislas enjoy hikes that involve a bit of hunting. They are fearless and are natural born hunters. They don’t walk away from a fight and will guard you fearlessly. They are also highly trainable and will function as a messenger in your camp; picking and passing things around.
#6 German Shorthaired Pointer
The breed was developed for hunting in the 19th century by Germans. The breed is powerful and very strong willed. They are all purpose gun dogs that are good for land and water excursions. They can be harder to train but with patience and determination you can make them good companions.
They have short coats and are well adapted to warm climates. Winter hikes will overwhelm them; extreme cold could be fatal for the breed. They are prone to hyperactivity hence they should be regularly exercised; the hike will do them much good. These dogs are athletic and you may have to pick up your pace just to keep up.
#7 Australian Cattle Dog
The Australian Cattle Dog was bred to herd cattle in the Australian outback. The dogs are medium sized with short coats. They are active in warm climates and are good additions for a summer hike. They are classified as working or herding dogs. Although the breed is headstrong and craves independence, with proper training the Cattle dog responds well to orders.
As hiking buddies, they enjoy long treks on the expansive outdoors. They are cautious and will be on guard to protect you from any danger. They are naturally used to nipping on heels, so you may need to introduce your hiking party to them for familiarity.
#8 Portuguese Water Dog
Here is a dog bred for everything that involves being in water. The breed originated from Portugal where it was a favorite animal for fishing parties. They are good at herding fish into nets and retrieving gear and supplies during fishing. They are good family companions and can be a cheerful addition to your hike.
The breed is known for its trainability. They can follow complex orders which mean they can be helpers around your camp. The breed is obedient and enjoys the company of strangers. They have a high need for exercise making hiking a welcome activity.
#9 Border Collie
Border Collies are sometimes said to be the most intelligent dog breed. They were bred in England and Scotland as sheepherding dogs. They are energetic, agile and can tolerate long hikes in mountain terrains. Without much herding to do nowadays, the breed has adapted to being a companion animal.
They need both physical and mental exercises than most breeds. While out in the open, you will notice that their herding instincts kick in; maintaining close proximity to groups and herding other dogs. Collies can run for long distances without tiring, so be ready to keep up!
#10 Labrador Retriever
Labrador Retrievers or simply Labs are one of the most popular dog breeds. Labs are classified as sporting dogs. Top on their personality is intelligence. They are the go to dog for law enforcement, assistance therapy and detection works. They are very energetic and playful in nature; being in the open outdoors will be good for them.
The breed is easy going and will be welcoming to any strangers along the way. They are however too trusting and may not be of much help guards. That said, they do ‘alarm back’ in the face of danger. They are also excellent swimmers and can tolerate long hours in the water so feel free to take a dip along the way.
Hiking is a good bonding exercise for you and your dog. It affords you the time to exercise and blow off some steam in the open trails. It also offers a chance for both of you to push your endurance limits and build on stamina. The outing can however turn out difficult if you end up bringing the wrong dog along. You need to choose a dog that is bred for long walks. Depending on the time of the year and your planned hiking activities, you may need to go for a canine who can swim, endure hot or cold weather, or one who can help in carrying gear and other supplies.