Best Dogs for Hiking and Climbing

The Most Adventurous Dogs for Your Lifestyle

dog hiking with owner

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If you are a dog owner who brings your dog with you wherever you go, then it helps if you have a dog with a similar disposition. For instance, if you're an ardent hiker or recreational climber, it is a good idea to have a dog with an equal energy level and physical abilities.

Most dogs love the great outdoors. But, in order to have a wonderful outing, you need to be sure that your dog can follow your commands and not run off. They need to be responsive in precarious situations like wildlife encounters or run-ins with toxic plants.

Tip

Make sure you talk to your vet about your active lifestyle and confirm your dog is up for the challenge of your physical demands. Also, double-check that you are providing it an adequate high-performance diet.

Though all dogs benefit from everyday exercise, some breeds are better suited to high-impact exercise like hiking and mountain climbing. If you’re an outdoor junkie looking for a loyal companion, these 10 breeds are your best bet for a tireless canine that can join you on the trails.

  • 01 of 09

    Border Collie

    border collie

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    No list of energetic dog breeds would be complete without including the ever-popular border collie. Known the world over for its intelligence, work drive, and energy level, the border collie is a no-brainer for anyone in search of an exercise buddy. Hikers and climbers alike can benefit from the border collie’s smarts and trainability—training it to hit the trails off-leash will be a breeze. As long as you can provide plenty of mental and physical exercise on days when you do not climb a mountain, the border collie could be a great fit for you. 

    Breed Overview

    Height: 18 to 22 inches

    Weight: 28 to 48 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Medium-sized; rough or smooth medium-length double coat; body is slightly longer than it is tall; long head that comes to a point at the nose with ears standing erect and tips curling over

  • 02 of 09

    Treeing Walker Coonhound

    treeing walker coonhound

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    If you do not mind a vocal dog while on a trail, the treeing walker coonhound is a strikingly agile climber that can easily navigate wild hiking terrain. Like its various siblings in the hound group, treeing walker coonhounds are lively dogs with a keen eye for prey. Because of its high hunting drive, this dog should be kept on a long leash until you are certain it can be trusted around squirrels, birds, and other critters.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 20 to 27 inches

    Weight: 45 to 80 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: White, black, and tan coloring; smooth, shiny coat; long floppy hound dog ears; upper lips hanging below the lower jaw; long, lean legs

  • 03 of 09

    Rhodesian Ridgeback

    rhodesian ridgeback

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    For the outdoorsman looking for a more rugged companion, the Rhodesian ridgeback could be a fantastic fit. The Rhodesian ridgeback was popularized by African lion hunters but is a popular house pet nowadays. The strength and agility they have translates well from lion hunting to hiking and mountain climbing. Those new to dog ownership should be aware that the Rhodesian ridgeback requires plenty of socialization and obedience training during puppyhood. Its independent and aloof nature can make this dog wary of strangers and its strength is nothing to bat an eye at. 

    Breed Overview

    Height: 25 to 26 inches

    Weight: 65 to 90 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Strong, muscular, athletic-bodied dog, colored light wheaten to red wheaten with a characteristic ridge of hair formed by the hair growing in the opposite direction of the rest of the coat

  • 04 of 09

    Australian Shepherd

    australian shepherd

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    Another must-have on high-energy dog lists, the Australian shepherd is an active and agile companion that loves an outdoor adventure. Like its border collie cousin, the Aussie is a herder with seemingly endless energy. The Aussie is work-oriented and loves a job, so coming up with games to play along the trail will give this dog a well-rounded and exhausting day of exercise. Much like the border collie, an Aussie needs plenty of everyday exercise—one hike a week will not cut it. But if it is kept well-exercised and trained, this dog will make a happy dog owner out of you.  

    Breed Overview

    Height: 18 to 23 inches

    Weight: 40 to 65 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Medium-sized sturdy body; medium to long coat in blue merle, red merle, black, or red with feathering on the back of the legs and a generous mane around the neck

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    German Shorthaired Pointer

    german shorthaired pointer

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    Another steadfast hunting companion, the German shorthaired pointer is an extremely high-energy dog perfect for bringing along on hiking trips. Like other hunters, pointers thrive when given plenty of exercise and are extremely friendly, loving companions. Best known for their agility and endurance, this dog needs plenty of daily exercise to prevent it from becoming anxious and destructive.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 21 to 25 inches

    Weight: 45 to 70 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Athletic build with a short back; tough, short coat, which is solid liver or a combination of liver and white in color

  • 06 of 09

    Jack Russell Terrier

    jack russell terrier

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    If big dogs are not your style but you still want an energetic hiking buddy, the Jack Russell terrier is the pup for you. High-energy, high-drive, and incredibly intelligent, the Jack Russell has the personality of a big dog in a compact, 15-pound body. The Jack Russell was bred for vermin hunting and has a high prey drive, so long stints of exercise like hiking trips are a dream come true for it. 

    Though small, it's also mighty; the Jack Russell terrier is no walk in the park to care for. Headstrong and incredibly intelligent, the Jack Russell can become destructive if not well-exercised both mentally and physically. But if you can dedicate the time to training and exercise every day, the Jack Russell is a great outdoorsy companion.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 10 to 15 inches

    Weight: 13 to 17 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Square compact build; the head is small and blocky with almond-shaped dark eyes; dropped ears, set high; and slim, erect tail

  • 07 of 09

    Miniature Pinscher

    miniature pinscher

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    Another little dog with a big personality, the miniature pinscher—or min pin—is a spunky companion for the dedicated, strong-willed owner. Min pins are fearless beasts condensed into a compact 10-pound body. The min pin’s fun-loving, adventurous personality makes it a fantastic exploration buddy. Though the min pin does not have the same endurance as the Jack Russell terrier, its much smaller stature makes it easy for you to pick this dog up and carry it if it eventually tires.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 10 to 12 inches

    Weight: 7 to 11 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Short, sleek coat; colors include red, black and rust, and chocolate and rust; looks a lot like a miniature Doberman pinscher

  • 08 of 09

    Bernese Mountain Dog

    bernese mountain dog

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    As the name implies, the Bernese mountain dog is an Alpine native that fares well in the outdoors. The Bernese mountain dog is a Swiss working breed. It was bred to pull carts through the Alps, so it is no surprise that the Berner makes a great climbing buddy. Owners new to the breed should know that this breed genetically has a number of health concerns including hip and elbow dysplasia and bloat. Before you bring this dog on a mountain hike, get it checked out by a veterinarian to make sure that strenuous activity is okay.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 23 to 28 inches

    Weight: 79 to 110 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Thick double coat with a longer outer coat and a wooly undercoat; colored black, rust, and white, the chest is usually white, as is the spot between its eyes and the tip of its tail

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Siberian Husky

    siberian husky

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    For the outdoors person who takes a laidback approach, the Siberian husky can be a great match. The husky’s personality is hilarious and unique—mischievous, independent, and deceptively smart. Bred in northeastern Asia, the husky is naturally cold-resistant and feels right at home on snowy mountain peaks. Its energy level makes it a tireless hiking buddy. A husky needs constant mental and physical challenges (preferably on a schedule), or else, your husky might get destructive or run away in protest. This breed's independent streak makes obedience training a big project. For example, you should not expect to have a husky hiking off-leash until you establish a deep connection with your dog, and it internalizes the recall command.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 20 to 24 inches

    Weight: 35 to 60 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Medium-sized, thick, double-coat, alert ears, multi-colored or blue eyes, wolf-like appearance, bushy tail

Breeds to Avoid

Though most dogs love the great outdoors, some dogs should be kept off the hiking trail. This decision is not breed-specific, but, instead depends on the dog's age, physical condition, and the weather conditions where you will be. Dogs of advanced age are more prone to older dog ailments like arthritis and kidney disease. Young puppies should avoid hiking when it involves high endurance and long distances, as this could damage their growing bones. If your dog has health problems, avoid taking it out on long hikes. In case anything goes wrong, you want to be close to medical care and not in the middle of the wilderness.

Brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs like pugs or bulldogs are usually not a good fit for strenuous exercise since their respiratory systems tend to overheat and endurance is not usually a strong point for these breeds.

In terms of climate, if you plan to be in colder temperatures, a double-coated dog can handle the cold better than a single-coated, short-haired dog. Dogs like greyhounds, whippets, and chihuahuas may not last long in colder temps. Also, if you expect very hot weather, it's best not to hike with your dog at all. Dogs are prone to heatstroke or heat exhaustion.